Brian Viner: Jockeys stand up for little man (literally) in battle over whip use

The Last Word

Share
Related Topics

A pet theory of mine, one with which I will cheerfully bore anyone after – or, on occasion, even before – two or three glasses of red, is that a disproportionate percentage of business tycoons are either very big men, such as the late Robert Maxwell, or very small men, like Bernie Ecclestone.

Now obviously there are also lots of medium-sized tycoons, but, percentage-wise, far more business barons than, say, postmen or GPs or chartered accountants, are either unusually large or unusually titchy. One reason for this, in my opinion, is that the big bloke, the first man you notice in a crowded room, uses his physical dominance over the people around him to make his fortune, whereas the small bloke compensates for being all-too literally overlooked in a crowded room by making himself dominant in other ways. There you have my cod psychoanalysis of how 5ft 2in Bernie came to rule motorsport.

And so to the world's most disgruntled sportsmen, NBA basketball players and British jockeys. I'm not sure that my tycoon theory really applies, but in the actual and potential strike action currently disrupting both sports maybe there's something of the little man's determination not to be pushed around, and the big man's anger at being powerless, despite his enormous size. Or maybe that's rubbish, but at the very least, it is irresistible to think of them forming a kind of sporting solidarity movement, marching into battle behind LeBron James and Frankie Dettori. After all, the feeling that you're being diddled by the men in suits is enough to bridge a 13-inch height gap.

Both disputes, of course, are principally about money. Pound notes and dollar bills are what make the sporting world go round, and also what cause it to career off its axis. More than 80 years ago, the historian E N Gardiner noted glumly that "when money enters into sport, corruption is sure to follow".

But cheating and corruption are only the most extreme manifestations of the way in which money taints sport and sportspeople. Greed, envy and complacency also help to warp the values that Tommy Trinder thought he was reinforcing, not undermining, when 50 years ago he declared, as chairman of Fulham FC, that since Johnny Haynes was a top entertainer he would henceforth be paid like one, and receive £100 a week.

Trinder was right, and practically at the stroke of a fountain pen, football emerged from its feudal past. Yet keeping players' salaries commensurate with those of top entertainers would lead to a scenario that Trinder could never have envisaged: fatal subsidence in the common ground between footballers and the working man. Certainly, the old comedian would have found nothing to laugh at when the wretched Ashley Cole notoriously admitted five years ago that he had nearly swerved off the road in disgust and dismay on learning from his agent that Arsenal were offering him a mere 55 grand a week.

All that said, there are times when aggrieved sportsmen are on the side of the angels, and so it still is with the jockeys. If any of them had handled their mounts as incompetently as the British Horseracing Authority initially handled the changes to the whip regulations, then they would deserve to be stripped of their earnings. But so far, none of them have. Moreover, despite the welcome compromises made yesterday by the BHA, serious misuse of the whip can still propel a horse to victory, yielding prize money for the owner that he will keep, even as a ban, and forfeiture of a share of the winnings, is slapped on the jockey.

As for the basketball players, they are in dispute in essence because they don't like having to split the sport's vast revenues 50:50 with the team owners. Before, it was weighted 57:43 in favour of the players, who, my friends in the United States assure me, do actually have a case. Either way, it is on the back of one of the more enthralling NBA seasons that the start of the new season has been postponed. Football and rugby union are not the only sports governed by ditherers, fools and craven self-interest; that's the long and the short of it.

Lewis must be allowed to make a name for himself

Is it just me who winces on being presented with the statistic, as we repeatedly have been these last few days, that it took Tiger Woods five attempts, and Rory McIlroy 38, to win their first professional golf titles, whereas Tom Lewis, by winning the Portugal Masters last Sunday, did it at only the third time of asking? Without the slightest doubt, Lewis is a young man loaded with talent, and those of us who crossed his path at this year's Open can also testify to his excellent temperament. But, for our own sakes as much as his, let's not anoint him the new Rory. He's no more the new Rory than Rory is the new Tiger, though I grant you that it looked for quite a while as if Tiger was the new Jack.

Underdogs can enjoy awaydays

Hands up if you think France will beat New Zealand, in New Zealand, tomorrow. Thought not. But then, hands up if you thought Greece would beat Portugal, in Portugal, in the final of the 2004 European Championship. There isn't such a phrase as "away advantage", but maybe there should be.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: When is a baroness not a baroness? Titles still cause confusion

Guy Keleny
 

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower