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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BC2

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Linux Systems Administrator

£33000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly successfu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A still from the BBC's new rap about the outbreak of WW1  

Why give the young such a bad rap?

David Lister
Israeli army soldiers take their positions  

Errors and Omissions: Some news reports don’t quite hit the right target

Guy Keleny
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice