Inside Lines: England get up for the cup but face hard labour without Coe

Alan Hubbard
Sunday 08 February 2009 01:00

The increasingly impressive shadow sports minister, Hugh Robertson, is not alone in questioning whether England have picked the right team and are deploying the right tactics to secure the 2018 World Cup. The attempt began in earnest last week as Fifa confirmed the bidding nations, but are the Football Association playing the wrong game of political football? Robertson is rightly concerned that the bid board is politically imbalanced, overloaded with diplomats and deficient in football people. It is also astonishing that the FA have not co-opted Seb Coe, who knows as much about bidding as Sotheby's chief auctioneer. Not only did he mastermind London's 2012 Olympic coup but he is passionate about football, and as chairman of Fifa's ethics commission has the vital ear of Sepp Blatter, the world governing body's president. There are worries, too, that the autocratic FA chairman, Lord Triesman, one of two Labour peers on a board that has past and present Labour sports ministers, lacks the clout and charisma to win over Fifa, no Anglophiles and predisposed to favour England's likely chief rivals, Russia.

No more prawn sarnies?

The sound of bursting bubbles in football is not confined to the office of West Ham's financial director. Other Premier League clubs are feeling the crunch. We hear those plush VIP suites sold on a match-by-match basis at the Emirates can be had for a third of the usual £9,000, and many clubs are seeing clients cutting down on entertainment, offering snacks rather than slap-up meals and champers. How long will it be before prawn sandwiches are replaced by Marmite butties?

Power for the people

Darts king Phil "The Power" Taylor – did you catch his throw-on part in Coronation Street on Monday? – also had a nice little earner in winning the Players' Championship, collecting around half a million quid in prize money and sponsorship. His manager, Barry Hearn, reckons he could pick up £10m before he hangs up his arrers. Not bad for a former panel beater on £74 a week. "I don't know how much I'm worth, I just put the money in the bank and I'll look at it when I retire," Taylor, 48, told a sports journalists' lunch. He can't see the recession hitting what he calls "the people's game": "The world's a serious place right now and darts is something you can watch quite cheaply, enjoy yourself and forget about things."

Blast from the past-master

Don King may be 76 but he hasn't lost his marbles – or his voice. The stentorian tones wafted loudly across the Atlantic last week, warning Bolton's Amir Khan that King's man Marco Antonio Barrera is in it to win it. The Mexican legend sustained a cut in a warm-up fight at the weekend and was coy about how many stitches he had had, but it's all systems go and 15,000 tickets have been sold for the lightweight bout at Man-chester's MEN Arena on 14 March. Soundbites from the Don suggest that Khan is more in danger of getting his ears bashed by him than Barrera. King warns us he will be heading this way soon. No need for the gritters; he'll generate enough hot air to clear all the snow.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments