Our exes-vexed MPs no doubt will welcome the diversion tomorrow when the parliamentary spotlight is turned on to the possible exposure
of sport's own financial scandal. The shadow sports minister, Hugh Robertson, is to put down questions on the bizarre business at Sport England, where an investigation has been ordered into a secret account through which some £20 million earmarked as funding for minor sports has mysteriously disappeared. Robertson describes the revelations as "extremely serious" and it is another embarrassment for the Government as the quango is under the aegis of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Sport England have themselves instituted the independent inquiry, to be led by QC Tim Dutton, and several luminaries who have served on the funding body will be asked about their knowledge of the existence of the unaudited account called the "World Class Payments Bureau" which operated between 1999 and 2007. The last fiscal probe of this nature some years ago resulted in Peter Lawson, then the chief executive of another sports organisation, the CCPR, going to jail for fraudulent misuse of funds. Could this turn out to be another Sportgate?
Eurosporty Emma touches down
Sport is about to acquire a much-needed voice in Europe's parliament. Newly-elected Tory MEP Emma McClarkin, a lively blonde who is into canoeing, plays touch rugby and has worked for the RFU, was one of the star turns at the CCPR's timely debate on the political future of sport in Europe last week. "People are always asking 'What's a young blonde like you doing in European politics?" says McClarkin, 30. "But I feel I can make a difference particularly in flagging up sporting issues which are sometimes neglected. Sport is not seen as political in Brussels (where she has previously worked as a political adviser) but it needs a firm voice with all the legislation that is going on. We predict Eurosceptic McClarkin will bash ears as effectively as she turns heads.
Such a pity, Paula
Followers of our popular "Going for Gold" series on young Olympic aspirants will note that for the first time in three years there is no "Message from an icon" accompanying today's interview on page 22 with distance runner Emily Pidgeon. Her nominated mentor figure was her friend Paula Radcliffe but the star's managerial minders, Octagon, felt unable to co-operate in helping us obtain a few words of encouragement and advice. Radcliffe, they say, is not undertaking "any new media activity" because of training, travelling and family commitments. Whether she was even made aware of the request is unclear but it is a pity Octagon put the block on as no doubt Radcliffe would have been as supportive of Pidgeon as she has been in the past. It makes us yearn for the days of great pros like Muhammad Ali, who never needed over-protective agents and happily gave unpaid-for interviews to all-comers, even from his sick bed.
Shock from a dodgy plug
More double takes than double faults during Andy Murray's final at Queen's. Prominent around the court were placards writ large with the letters BNP. Closer inspection revealed it wasn't Nasty Nick's mob, but an ad for a French bank. Sacre bleu!