By Nick Harris
22 April 2010
The Minister for Sport, Gerry Sutcliffe, and his counterparts in the Liberal Democrats and the Conservative Party, Don Foster and Hugh Robertson, have revealed key ideological differences in their approach to the governance and organisation of sport in Britain in an exclusive series of interviews for sportingintelligence, but they all agree on at least one thing: Roger Federer will win the 2010 Wimbledon men’s singles title.
This website, in association with The Independent newspaper, has asked Sutcliffe, Foster and Robertson a series of questions on important, topical sporting issues as the election campaign hots up ahead of the second televised leaders’ debate this evening (Thursday 22 April).
As The Independent and sportingintelligence report today, Foster is advocating the return of standing areas at football matches. The issue of ‘safe standing’ is contentious but is of wide interest to many supporters who believe grounds in England lack atmosphere and cost too much to attend.
Sutcliffe and the government oppose the return of standing for now; Robertson and the Tories stands somewhere in between the Liberals and Labour (pun unavoidable).
Football, being the national sport of Britain, naturally provokes passionate debate, and the politicians differ over how the game should be run and in numerous other areas, as a special election feature published today by sportingintelligence shows.
All parties are united in threatening government intervention unless the game’s authorities get their house in order, but they differ when Foster says Labour’s plans for fan-owned clubs could be a “pipe dream”.
They also differ on the issue of the ‘Crown Jewels’ of TV sport: Robertson accuses the Labour Party of electioneering when seeking to protect more events for free-to-air TV. Labour and the Lib Dems both apparently feel government should have a role in dictating how some rights are sold.
On the subject of the 2012 Olympics, Foster and Robertson both accuse Labour of having no “legacy” plans for the Games. “Oh yes we do,” Sutcliffe says, or rather he says something approximating that, only in more detail, in our full Q&A.
We also asked the three MPs to tell us who their hearts predict will win the 2010 Wimbledon men’s singles final, the 2010 (British) Open golf and the World Cup in South Africa.
And then we asked what their heads said.
And then we asked them to decide which of those options they would actually want money riding on, and said we will place a charity bet on their “head” or “heart” treble.
Rather than toe the politically safe line of saying Murray, Brit golfer and England, all three politicians said their head would opt for Roger Federer to win Wimbledon. (All three said Andy Murray for their “heart” option).
In an interesting twist (entirely coincidental, because there was no conferring), both Robertson and Foster picked Tiger Woods and Spain as their “head” choices for the golf and the World Cup. Sutcliffe picked Lee Westwood and England for “heart” and “head”.
Robertson’s “heart” choices were Murray, Justin Rose and England, and his “head” choices were Federer, Tiger and Spain. He said: “ As I want a charity to benefit, I would have to say go with my head [for the bet]!”.
Foster’s “head” choices were also Federer, Woods and Spain. His heart said Murray, Ian Poulter and England. His charity money has gone with his head, as has Sutcliffe’s on Federer, Westwood and England.