Silent knight for the big night?

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Will Sir Alex Ferguson extend his curmudgeonly boycott of the BBC by snubbing next month's Sports Personality of the Year awards? Not that he is likely to win it, of course (the soon-to-be-sir Steve Redgrave is a shoe-in) but the Manchester United manager and his players have been invited as last year's Coach and Team of the Year respectively. But there are now doubts as to whether he will turn up because of the ongoing spat which sees the silent knight brushing aside all BBC microphones (even that held by former United manager Garth Crooks and his old chum John Motson) despite a contractual obligation with the Premier League that all managers make themselves available for the cameras after televised matches.The root cause of the dispute is an unflattering article in Match of the Day magazine which suggested he might be a bit of a bully. This has been compounded by criticism of him in a recent book by the BBC Five Live commentator Alan Green. Even the personal intervention of the BBC Director General Greg

Will Sir Alex Ferguson extend his curmudgeonly boycott of the BBC by snubbing next month's Sports Personality of the Year awards? Not that he is likely to win it, of course (the soon-to-be-sir Steve Redgrave is a shoe-in) but the Manchester United manager and his players have been invited as last year's Coach and Team of the Year respectively. But there are now doubts as to whether he will turn up because of the ongoing spat which sees the silent knight brushing aside all BBC microphones (even that held by former United manager Garth Crooks and his old chum John Motson) despite a contractual obligation with the Premier League that all managers make themselves available for the cameras after televised matches.The root cause of the dispute is an unflattering article in Match of the Day magazine which suggested he might be a bit of a bully. This has been compounded by criticism of him in a recent book by the BBC Five Live commentator Alan Green. Even the personal intervention of the BBC Director General Greg Dyke, an old friend and a former Uniteddirector, has failed to mollify the furious Fergie though renewed overtures are being made to avoid the embarrassment of his absence at the 10 December bash. But it may take a legal apology to get him into the Beeb studio and back on talking terms.

Audley has a trainer to catch

Fergie may not be in conversation with the BBC but another sporting heavyweight certainly is. Significantly, the Olympic boxing champion Audley Harrison has been conducting his own negotations for a possible deal that would see his early fights screened exclusively at peak time on BBC1 when he turns professional in the New Year. No promoters, managers or agents have been involved which suggests the 29-year-old Londoner intends to take care of his own boxing business, leaving only out-of-the-ring commercial matters to bne handled by the same international marketing company which looks after tennis star Anna Kournikova, among others. A degree in business administration is handy when it comes to talking contracts and Harrison is not inclined to sell his initial services for less than £1m. There is no shortage of willing promoters,either here or in the US, where Harrison has been using anexpenses-paid trip to Las Vegas for last night's Lewis-Tua fight to discuss his future. The most important item on his agenda is a trainer. There is a distinct lack of top-quality conditioners in Britain and Harrison knows he may have to employ an American. "The person who works with me has to be technically on top of the job," he says. "I know I have the talent to get to the top but I want to make sure I am brought along the right way." The perfect trainer for Harrison would have been the superb Eddie Futch, who tended to the likes of Joe Louis and Joe Frazier, but alas he is now 89. Lewis's main cornerman Emanuel Steward looks the most likely, but at $500,000 a fight he doesn't come cheap.

Boys and girls come out to bike

One of the better investments this government has made is the £750m commitment to schools sport and it would be nice to think that some of it will be apportioned to teaching kids how to swim. A report published by OFSTED (the Office for Standards inEducation) identifies serious shortcomings in school swimming programmes for primary pupils and the Amateur SwimmingAssociation say they are c oncerned by the "significant reduction" in time allocated to swimming, especially as water safety is part of the national curriculum. Indeed, might this be the moment for the newly-announced School Sports Alliance, to review exactly what sports are played in schools and how they are taught (if at all). We make the point because it comes to our attention that, apparently in response to popular demand, something is taking place this week which eventually could change the face of sport in schools. The BMX bike professional Dave Mirra is visiting Hampstead School in London to demonstrate the skills and thrills of adventure sport activities to pupils who might well come to consider those like BMX, mountain biking and skateboarding as alternatives to some of the more orthodox pursuits. Moreover, it would solve the playing fields problem.

Rugby negative on positive

There is a nasty smell emanating from the closed ranks of rugby union. According to the anual report of UK Sport,which lists all drugs findings, a leading player tested positive last season for the sporting junkie's friend, nandrolone, but no word of his identity has come from the four home unions. Indeed, they deny any knowledge of such a finding despite UK Sport's notation that it is "currently being investigated by the governing body". Curiouser still, the Dublin-based International Rugby Board also deny awareness of a positive test but admit that doping analysis has been switched from the London laboratory used by UK Sport to Madrid, which they say is more central. UK Sport are only obliged to include tests conducted under their supervision in this county in their reports. A cover-up, chaps? Perish the thought, or any notion that there's one law for rugby and another for those more openly-governed sports who name and shame.

Seeing again is believing

It is not the usual practice of this column to give free plugs for Christmas prezzies, but we are pleased to make an exception for astocking-filler which should provide a warm glow even in deepest mid-winter. Although rapidly-assembled, the official video of Sydney 2000 provides a spectacular record of the most exhilarating of the nine summer Games I have attended. It includes, for the first time, a special segment covering a review of the medals won by the British Olympic team, 28 in all beginning on the first day with the cyclist Jason Queally and ending on the last with the modern pentathle Stephanie Cook and the boxer Audley Harrison, our greatest Olympic haul for 80 years. It costs £9.99 and is available from all good High Street video stockists. Press play, sit back and enjoy.

insidelines@independent.co.uk

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