Brian Viner: Clarke's refusal to resign insults English cricket lovers

The Last Word
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When Max Mosley's fondness for sado-masochistic sex with prostitutes was revealed around this time last year by the News of the World, who among us really thought that he would emerge from the subsequent media feeding frenzy still clinging on to his job, as president of the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile?

I didn't, for one, especially when the emperor of Formula One, Bernie Ecclestone, seemed to wave a downturned thumb in his old mate's direction. Yet three months later Mosley received a robust vote of confidence from the national motoring bodies that form the FIA. At an extraordinary general meeting, 103 votes were cast in his support, with 55 against. He will now step down as FIA president at a time of his choosing, and quite right too, because it is widely if not universally acknowledged in motor-racing circles that he has served the sport not just competently but shrewdly. When push came to shove, or even when slap came to thrash, the FIA members didn't really care about his sexual predilections.

All of which brings me to Giles Clarke, re-elected this week as chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board in a demonstration of support – only two of the 18 county chairmen spoke out against him – even more emphatic than that enjoyed by Mosley last summer. Clarke, according to those who know him, is a man, not wholly unlike Mosley, of huge arrogance and considerable personal charm. He has certainly been on a charm offensive this week in the West Indies, energetically wooing the media, and some reporters seem to have been rather impressed by his airy dismissal as "hysterical", "irrational" and "immensely rude" of much of the criticism he has received for getting into bed with the alleged fraudster Allen Stanford. Clarke says he did not begin to entertain thoughts of resignation, and will not, even should the massive fraud allegations against Stanford be proven. Mea Culpa, to men like the ECB chairman, is an Italian film starlet.

But I should swiftly add that these references to film starlets and getting into bed are whimsical and metaphorical. There have never been any hints of sexual impropriety in the sorry Stanford affair, although it is fair to draw one more comparison with Mosley and his sado-masochistic romps. It was with Clarke's enthusiastic consent and encouragement that the moustachioed Texan ended up getting a tight hold of English cricket by the short and curlies. I don't care how much he has persuaded Sky to cough up for its exclusive TV rights, or how much has filtered down to the counties. His refusal to resign, compounded by his re-election, insults everyone who truly holds English cricket dear.

Swaggering Bendtner puts the great into Dane – in his own mind, at least

On Tuesday evening I was at the Emirates Stadium for the Champions League tie in which Arsenal made mincemeat, and at times even a tasty ragu, of Roma. The result, 1-0 to the Arsenal, did not even begin to reflect the flowing attacking football played by Arsène Wenger's team, for which much of the blame cascaded down from the stands on to the head of Nicklas Bendtner, profligate in front of goal and largely ineffectual in the wide positions he kept taking up.

I am normally minded, when I am a relatively neutral observer at a football match, to feel a twinge of sympathy for players harangued by their own team's supporters. But the lanky Dane so plainly has a higher opinion of his talents than his achievements warrant that on Tuesday I fully endorsed the general exasperation.

What I could not endorse was the assertion from one or two of my Gooner friends before the game that Wenger himself has "lost the plot". On the other hand, the great man does seem to share Bendtner's lofty opinion of himself, and that is a genuine mystery.

Who might follow Sloane ranger from BBC to ITV?

A mole at White City informs me that Niall Sloane, the BBC's highly respected head of football who yesterday left the corporation, was far from happy in being overlooked in the search for a new director of sport – the job awarded this week to the former Olympic gymnast Barbara Slater.

As a result, there are whispers that Sloane might now take his production skills to ITV, which, in the wake of Tic Tac-gate, could do worse than employ a man of Sloane's unflappability. And one other thought occurs. If Sloane does change channels, might he take some old and trusted colleagues with him? John Motson, the voice of ITV football?

Knowing the BBC's ability to score own goals, it could yet happen.

Calzaghe feels at home for his final fight

Of Joe Calzaghe's 46 fights (and 46 wins) as a professional boxer, almost half of them took place in his native South Wales. He knew the benefit of fighting on home turf, where the old southpaw jab always seemed to carry a little extra ferocity. Calzaghe's latest bout, against his former promoter Frank Warren, is currently unfolding on irreproachably neutral ground, in the High Court. The presiding judge is irreproachably neutral too, of course. But one can only imagine what went through the minds of the two protagonists when they first heard the rolling vowels of Mr Justice Wyn Williams, an alumnus of Rhondda County School for Boys.

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