Inside Lines: What's the big idea? Political heavies square up over sport

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The Independent Online

Never mind that spiteful spat across the pond between the Pacman and Pretty Boy (which the cynics among us believe isn't a bad ploy to sell ever more pay-per-view when they do eventually meet), the tastiest big fight here over the coming months is likely to be a political punch-up between Labour and Conservative with sport as a pre-election battleground.

Both parties will be launching headline-grabbing schemes to get more of us involved in sport, and it may get quite heated, with sporting nobility squaring up to each other. In the red corner there's a major Olympics-inspired Government initiative, still under wraps, which doubtless will feature the PM's very own sporting champion, Sir Steve Redgrave, punching his weight alongside chief architect Tessa Jowell. What we do know is the working title was "The Big Idea", but that's been dropped.

In the blue corner is Dame Kelly Holmes, who has been working with the Tories and a group of other Olympic gold medallists on a mass participation legacy plan. The thing is, will the Government get their retaliation in first, as they did when hastily announcing Sir Steve's appointment as an apparent "spoiler" to Dame Kelly linking up with the Tories during their party conference.

Says shadow Olympics minister Hugh Robertson: "After taking four and a half years since we won the bid to get nowhere, they should be concentrating on producing a report that commands universal confidence rather than rushing out something for party-political advantage that will be junked if we win the election." Ding ding!

Bert, the forgotten hero

There were a lot of disappointed folk in Wolverhampton when a local legend was again overlooked in the Honours List.

Bert Williams, who kept goal 420 times for Wolves, winning the League Championship, FA Cup and 28 England caps, will be 90 this month and outside of former Liverpool player Peter Taylor (92) he is the oldest surviving English international, playing behind greats such as football knights Stanley Matthews and Tom Finney. He works tirelessly for charity and even donated the proceeds of his biography to the Alzheimer's Society.

Despite 1,200 supportive letters to Downing Street, including one from Gordon Banks, Williams is still gong-less. Maybe it is time someone had a word with the sports minister, Gerry Sutcliffe. As he does a bit of goalkeeping himself for the Parliamentary XI, he might be sympathetic.

Paying the Price

With costs, the already cash-strapped Amateur Boxing Association of England are likely to have shelled out over £150,000 in lawsuits recently. Having settled with the former national coach Terry Edwards for £80,000, they have agreed to pay Olympians James DeGale and Tony Jeffries the promised medal bonuses which it was claimed had been withdrawn before the Games. DeGale gets £20,000 for his gold, and Jeffries £5,000 for bronze.

Unfortunately for the ABA there is more to come. Having seen his podium pals suitably enriched, bronze winner David Price is now seeking his own pay-out. The giant Liverpool heavyweight, 25, now a four-fight professional with Frank Maloney, has instructed his solicitor accordingly and tells us: "Now that James and Tony have got their money I'm not going to let five grand pass me by." So it looks as if the ABA, already having paid a price, are now going to have to pay yet another Price.