Inside Lines: Walker shows way to hurdle the boardroom's race barrier

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The Independent Online

Black bosses in British sport are as uncommon as a smile on Arsène Wenger's face, which makes Nigel Walker one of a rare breed. The former Olympic hurdler who changed lanes from one sport to another has now graduated to senior management as the newly appointed national director of the English Institute of Sport, the organisation which helps ensure elite performers can get to their marks in peak condition by providing the best possible back-up facilities including medical, psychological and coaching expertise. Of those currently in sport's corridors of power there are only two black chairmen – and one is ironically named White: Densign White, hubby of Tessa Sanderson and chair of the British Judo Association. Then there is Geoff Thompson, who runs the Youth Charter, while Zara Hyde Peters is chief executive at British Triathlon. And, er, that's it. So why is it that there are so few black faces in the boardrooms of sport? Cardiff-born Walker, 47, who represented Great Britain in the 1984 Olympics, switched to rugby in 1992, winning 17 caps for Wales as a flying wing before becoming head of sport for BBC Wales, says: "It's disappointing. Black players in all sports have to feel that they are given a chance, that it's going to be an even playing field. It's a slow burner and won't change overnight. Black people have to be persuaded that administration is a worthwhile career and one that is open to them. There are now a number of women in prominent positions, rightly so, and there has to be some way of ensuring that those from the ethnic communities are equally represented in future." He reckons that despite recent funding cuts British sport is in "a pretty good position" as 2012 approaches. A few more Nigel Walkers might make it an even better one.

Putin on the style

The decision of Vladimir Putin to join David Cameron and the political powerhouses of the four other nations lobbying Fifa members in Zurich this week suggests Russia are supremely confident that their bid for the 2018 World Cup is in the bag. Bid watchers believe it is unlikely that he would attend if there was a real risk of failure. It was the Russian premier's presence in Guatemala three years ago which clinched the 2014 Winter Olympics for Sochi. There he addressed the meeting in English, and is expected to do the same on Thursday when glad-handing by Prince William and Spain's King Juan Carlos will bring a royal flush to the cheeks of the increasingly grandiose Sepp Blatter.

Now you see it...

The fall-out from Audley Harrison's knock-out continues. The British Boxing Board of Control now want both him and David Haye to appear before them on Wednesday week when their stewards will discuss the controversial ending of the fight and Haye's original statement that he had bet on himself to win in round three. Their attention has been drawn to a video of the heavyweight bout which seems to show Haye nod towards Harrison and mouth the word "now" as he launches his conclusive third-round attack. Conspiracy theorists may suggest this was a pre-arranged signal for his opponent to go down but Haye will probably argue he was warning Harrison that he was "about to get it". Board rules state that purse money can be withheld if it is felt a fighter has not given of his best but Harrison, on holiday in Hawaii, says he will take legal action should his anticipated £1.5m earnings not be paid in full. The Board's annual awards lunch is held in London today and Haye is, so to speak, worth a bet to be named Boxer of the Year.

Gagging for it

Now here's a funny thing. Lee Taylor, for five years a popular communications officer at UK Sport, has quit – to take up comedy scriptwriting. He hopes to produce gags for stand-up comics and pen a satirical TV sit-com. "I love sport but this is a dream I want to follow," says Taylor, 31. Recently he has been working with the UK anti-doping unit so he should be used to taking the pee. Boom boom!