2016 sporting predictions: My 10 hopes for next year... but I won’t be holding my breath

A look ahead to what I'd like to see happen in the next 12 months

Ian Herbert
Chief Sports Writer
Sunday 27 December 2015 18:53 GMT
Doubts over Alberto Salazar (left) make Mo Farah’s presence at his Oregon base deeply unsettling
Doubts over Alberto Salazar (left) make Mo Farah’s presence at his Oregon base deeply unsettling (Getty Images)

Help for football’s lost boys

Will football’s fear of missing the next big talent continue to leave a legion of young boys devastated next year? Yes, quite probably. Of the 10,000 boys in the academy system, only 1 to 2 per cent make it and the rest find themselves trying to rebuild their lives from the scrap heap. Manchester City have guaranteed a secondary education at the £13,000-per-year St Bede’s College to their academy scholars, even if such a boy is released midway through his teens. The £5.1bn Premier League TV deal makes it indefensible for all clubs not to offer the same. These boys are the collateral damage in football’s voracious and often inhumane pursuit of talent.

Humility from Ched Evans

The Evans story will burn brightly when the Court of Appeal’s re-examination of his conviction for rape takes place – probably in the first half of next year. The Appeal Court judges may well overturn the conviction. It has done so in 70 per cent of cases which, likes Evans’, are referred to it by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. The potential for spite and ugliness will be there if the footballer is cleared because there has been precious little dignity or maturity in the way he and his supporters have referred to the young woman at the centre of this case question. Evans should know that he will remain a pariah for as long as he fails to understand the value of dignity and humility.

 Ched Evans' appeal case will be heard in 2016

Peace for the Hillsborough families

We can expect the outcomes of the reconvened inquests into the 96 lost supporters in the next few months. Then those families who have led the fight for transparency for so long will return to their everyday lives. There will be a sense of anticlimax. It will be incredibly hard for them.

Courage to help the Alberto Salazar investigation

The US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) is looking to secure key testimony to conclude its investigations into the Panorama/Pro Publica findings that Mo Farah’s coach presided over a culture of doping. Salazar’s defence of himself has included a foul personal attack on one of his accusers, Steve Magness. Such can be the consequences of speaking out, for or against a high-profile individual. The credibility of athletics requires co-operation with Usada. The doubts hanging over Salazar make the presence of Mo Farah at his Oregon base feel deeply unsettling.

A place at the 2016 Masters for caddie Jackson

With his understated, quite brilliant, golfing intelligence, caddie Carl Jackson partnered Ben Crenshaw every step of the way from 1976 until the pair took their final bow together at Augusta last April. Jackson injected multiculturalism to a tournament lacking it, though there is no natural way back to the Augusta National club or this spring’s tournament for Jackson now. His emblematic part in the tournament warrants a life membership of the club, yet when I asked chairman Bill Payne if this might be possible, he replied: “We don’t have any lifetime membership.” I reworded the question. Same answer. Augusta should know how the act of excluding Jackson would look to the outside world.

Carl Jackson with Ben Crenshaw on the first hole during last year's Masters Par 3 contest (EPA)

Justice for the Bradford families

Such was the haste to conclude investigations into the disaster, which killed 56 people in 1985, that police did not even consider the possibility of criminal failings by the club, those who ran it, or the authorities, in the compass of their inquiry. New investigations into the event have led lawyers Leigh Day to ask the Home Secretary, Theresa May, for a re-examination of the way the inquiry was conducted. The suggestion is not a full-blown, Hillsborough-style investigation but perhaps a three-month assessment of the evidence by two or three experts. Perhaps apologies or clarifications may flow from it. This seems necessary and appropriate in what we would like to believe is an age of greater transparency.

Answers on England’s Rugby World Cup

The evidence before us so far is that England’s new rugby coach, Eddie Jones, enjoys behind-the-scenes talk more than publication. If the most powerful man in the English game proffers the idea of Dylan Hartley as future captain, he cannot complain if that is published. What hasn’t been published is the full unexpurgated analysis of why England’s last campaign under Stuart Lancaster failed. The deafening silence where that particular investigation is concerned leads to the suspicion that rugby union will do what sport often does: forget the failings of the past and invest everything in the new leader, until he fails too. So what was most lacking: fitness, clarity, selection, captaincy? There is a need to know.

Eddie Jones, the new England Rugby head coach, poses at Twickenham Stadium (Getty)

Coe will get rid of the yes men

The deeply unpleasant story of how Nick Davies, the director of Lord Coe’s IAAF office, sent emails suggesting that the identification of Russian drugs cheats be delayed and that the marketing company chaired by Coe lead “an unofficial PR campaign” to “avoid international media scandals” of such a type was deeply damaging to Coe’s incredibly fragile credibility. Davies then had the temerity to claim that he had done no wrong. “I have become the story,” he said, resigning only temporarily. Coe’s tenure at the helm of athletics has been desperately disappointing. He needs to put individuals like Davies out of the picture for good and appoint people intelligent enough to tell him what he doesn’t want to hear about how the outside world views him.

Let Irish cricket join the party

The exclusion of the excellently managed Cricket Ireland from the game’s top table belongs to the depressing narrative of the International Cricket Council (ICC) presiding over England, Australian and India gobbling up all the money. A little-noticed press release entitled Outcomes from the ICC Board and Committee meetings, issued a few months ago, outlined the new funding regime for smaller nations like Ireland. The shared $55m (£37m) rise will be mostly eaten up by inflation. Ireland’s excellent displays in a tightly fought autumn ODI series in Zimbabwe suggested they deserve better.

Salvation for Bolton Wanderers

No football club stands on such a precipice as this one. Bolton speculated to accumulate in their Premier League years and are left with devastating running costs of £900,000 a month and needing an investor who will require an estimated £15m-£20m working capital to fund the club for the next nine months. Bolton’s historic name belongs to the fabric of the game within these shores, though there is no the Class of ’92 with rich Singaporean friends of the kind which Salford City has found so transformative. You hope against hope there is a financial saviour out there. This club, with fans who have suffered, is run at an operational level by brilliant people.

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