Inside Lines: Mills the right choice to give football Olympic makeover


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The Independent Online

Football acknowledges it must take image lessons from the Olympics, and the man best equipped to start the learning process is now handily placed to take over as chairman of the Premier League.

Sir Keith Mills, Lord Coe's No 2 in both winning the bid and running the Games, is as much in demand as Seb himself to take the helm of a major sports body – particularly apt in Mills's case as a renowned yachtsman. There are now powerful voices within Government and football who want the Spurs director to restore some gravitas to the leadership of the game as Premier League supremo when Sir Dave Richards steps down at the end of the season.

Unlike the gaffe-prone Richards, the urbane Mills, 62, is a serious player, well respected on the international sports stage. He has the perfect profile for the job, though other sits-vac options include the soon-to-be-vacated chair of the British Olympic Association and heading up a merged UK Sport/Sport England whose unification he was asked to effect.

I understand the football role interests Mills most, though he would be torn between this and helping Ben Ainslie challenge for the Americas Cup in 2015.

Lady to Lord it?

Whoever takes over from Lord Moynihan at the BOA, it is unlikely to be Lord Coe, whose appointment as the Government's Sports Legacy Ambassador, though nominal, could be seen as a conflict of interests.

Coe wants to concentrate on becoming the president of World Athletics, a stepping stone to the International Olympic Committee. Fellow Tory peer Moynihan may not have been everyone's cup of Earl Grey, but the one-time sports minister injected enthusiasm and professionalism into rejuvenating the organisation that had a brilliant Olympics. He bows out "to fight sport's corner" in the House of Lords, with the message: "I really hope those athletes who have won gold medals will use their voice to influence politicians".

Sir Steve Redgrave is a runner for the BOA chair, as are fellow former gold medallists Sir Matthew Pinsent, David Hemery and hockey's Richard Leman. But with women rising to the top and the Paralympics looking to be a big success, Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson could emerge as a surprise choice.

No one has done more to promote disability sport and surely she has to be the one to light the flame at the opening ceremony on Wednesday week.

Sweet smell of science

Five years ago Terry Edwards, then national boxing coach, predicted that Britain would become the new Cuba of the amateur ring. The prophecy came true in London and has been achieved with funding of only £9.5 million over four years, well below that of several less successful sports.

Rob McCracken, the coach who succeeded Edwards, has done a terrific job in organising the appliance of the sweet science to hi-tech resources at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield that are the envy of the boxing world. How ridiculous, though, that McCracken remains barred from the corner under AIBA rules because of his work with pro boxers.

Yet the international governing body are blatantly professionalising the sport in an attempt to retain gold-medal winners such as Anthony Joshua and Luke Campbell. For the next Games, in Rio, vests and headguards will be discarded from the men's tournament and a pro-style 10-point scoring system will replace questionable computer assessments. They are even discussing allowing young pros, who have had up to half-a-dozen bouts, to compete and there is already substantial prize money in their World Series.

So banning pro coaches is hypocritical nonsense, and the sooner AIBA recognise this the better. It demeans the sport.