Those of us ancient enough to remember Dr Edith Summerskill will recall her as a feisty feminist MP who packed a punch – one that was aimed at delivering a KO for boxing, a sport she detested. In the Fifties and Sixties she waged a vigorous but unsuccessful campaign for it to be banned on medical grounds.
The good doctor, who died in 1980, must be turning in her proverbial now that boxing is not only still alive and punching but actively promoted in Parliament as a PC pursuit, lauded as a means of getting discipline back into schools and keeping kids off the streets – girls as well as boys. And boxing's new political champion is a young woman. Unlike Summerskill, 31-year-old Charlotte Leslie is a Tory, freshly elected as the MP for Bristol North-west and the new chair of the reformed All Party Parliamentary Boxing Group. She not only knows a left hook from a coat hook but has done a bit herself, teaching wayward teenage kids how to box in a local community centre. "She's really good news," says the sports minister Hugh Robertson of Leslie, who will fight boxing's corner. A welcome addition to the ladies-who-punch club, next week she hosts the official launch of boxing's parliamentary lobby group, for which 30 other MPs have already signed up. Robertson and the former world featherweight champion Barry McGuigan will be among the speakers and the occasion will highlight the progress women's boxing is making in Britain. The British Amateur Boxing Association are assisting with the organisation of the event, which ironically takes place in the Atlee Suite: would-be abolitionist Summerskill was a minister in Clement Atlee's government.
Olympic role for Steele?
He may have been ruthlessly kicked into touch as rugby supremo, but John Steele is unlikely to be unemployed for long. The axed Rugby Football Union chief executive made many friends in his previous, and more successful, five-year tenure in the same capacity with UK Sport. Lord Coe is among his admirers, as is the sports minister, and it will be no surprise if Steele resurfaces within the Locog organisation in the run-up to 2012. It is doubtful that Sir Clive Woodward, whose decision to withdraw his application for the performance director's post at Twickenham probably cost Steele his job, will renew his interest. Locog's chairman Colin Moynihan has moved quickly to enhance Woodward's £300,000-a-year role with the British Olympic Association. I understand the former England rugby coach is delighted to be appointed chef de mission for Team GB at the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck in January and is now even keener to remain involved with preparations for 2012.
Not elite but special
They won't have any trouble getting tickets for their own summer Olympics, which start in Athens next weekend, but some 200 British athletes are having to pay their own way there. Unlike Paralympians, who received £50m in funding for 2012, Special Olympians, mainly youngsters with learning difficulties, have no financial support from either the Lottery or the Exchequer. So the British team have to pay their own way, at about £2,000 a head, to be among 7,000 athletes from 185 nations taking part in 22 Olympic-style sports.There is no cash because they aren't considered "elite" But shouldn't they be a special case?
Cashing in on Wembley
How curious that Wembley is to stage the Champions' League final in 2013, just a couple of years after the last one. Is the 150th anniversary of the Football Association the real reason, or is it that Uefa believe Wembley is now the biggest cash cow in football?