Archive for the ‘Olympics’ Category

Tyler Hamilton: ‘Pat McQuaid has no place in cycling’

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

By Sportingintelligence

23 October 2012

Tyler Hamilton, the former team-mate of Lance Armstrong who prominently blew the whistle on drug taking in his sport and who has written a book about his sporting life, ‘The Secret Race’, has responded to accusations by UCI head Pat McQuaid that he is a ‘scumbag’.

Hamilton has released the following statement:



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Openly gay Olympians won six times as many golds as their peers. Why?

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

By Nick Harris

SJA Internet Sports Writer of the Year

22 August 2012

There were 23 openly gay athletes across all sports at the London 2012 Olympic Games according to observers who monitor such trends closely, notably

Ten of them won medals (43 per cent) and seven of them won gold medals (30.4 per cent), including the British equestrian rider Carl Hester, in the team dressage. Hester was the only openly gay athlete among the 451 men and women in Team GB.

By definition, 23 people is a small sample size, but the fact that it’s so small is part of the story. The success rates of those athletes puts the success rates of London Olympians overall in the shade.

Of the 10,820 athletes across all sports, Sportingintelligence has calculated that 595 separate individuals won a gold medal.

There were 302 gold medal events but in many of those events multiple people helped to win the gold, for example in all the team sports, in the non-solo rowing crews and in all the relay squads in athletics and swimming.

With 595 people going home with gold, that means one in 18 of London’s Olympians went home with gold (or 5.5 per cent).

Among the openly gay athletes – 20 of who were women and three were men – one in three went home with gold (or 30.43 per cent).

Openly gay Olympians in London therefore won six times as many gold medals per head as the total athletic population at the Games.

They also won more than twice as many medals per head of all colours than average. Around 1,800 individuals won medals of one colour or another (or 16.6 per cent of all athletes), whereas 43.4 per cent of the openly gay athletes won medals.

Are gay athletes better at sport? Almost certainly not, but we’ll come back to that shortly.

“It’s an absurdly low number,” said Jim Buzinski, the co-founder of Outsports, of the 23 openly gay Olympians. He was quoted in an Associated Press report carried by ESPN and the Huffington Post among others.

Estimates of the percentage of gay people vary widely but even at the low end of those estimates (1.5 per cent of people), one might expect around 160 gay athletes among the 10,820 participating at London 2012, or seven times as many as the 23 known to be gay.

Buzinski points out that considering the small ratio of openly gay sports people when set against, say, the ratio of openly gay people in the arts, politics or business, then “sports is still the final closet in society.”

What is staggering, statistically speaking, is the success of those 23 openly gay Olympians in London.

It is notable that the three men appeared in two sports – dressage and diving – that are anecdotally “gay friendly”. A spokeswoman for British Dressage, for example, said having gay riders “is the norm. Don’t get me wrong, there are straight riders too, but whether someone is gay or not in our sport is simply not an issue.”

In alphabetical order, the 23 openly gay London 2012 Olympians:

  • Marilyn Agliotti, Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel, Kim Lammers and Maartje Paumen, all members of the Dutch women’s hockey team who won gold.
  • Judith Arndt, a German cyclist who won silver in London in the time trial.
  • Seimone Augustus, an American who won basketball gold.
  • Natalie Cook, an Australian beach volleyball player.
  • Lisa Dahlkvist, Jessica Landström and Hedvig Lindahl, all Swedish football players who reached the quarter-finals.
  • Imke Duplitzer, a German fencer who was part of a team coming fifth in the women’s team epee.
  • Edward Gal, a Dutchman who won bronze in the team dressage.
  • Jessica Harrison and Carole Péon, French triathletes who finished ninth and 29th respectively in London.
  • Carl Hester, a Briton who won dressage team gold.
  • Karen Hultzer, a South African archer.
  • Alexandra Lacrabére, a French handball player who reached the quarter-finals.
  • Matthew Mitcham, an Australian 10m platform diver who was the only openly gay male Olympian in Beijing, where he won gold. In London he reached the semi-final.
  • Mayssa Pessoa, a Brazilian handball player.
  • Megan Rapinoe, an American who won football gold.
  • Lisa Raymond, American tennis player who won bronze in the mixed doubles.
  • Rikke Skov, a Danish handball player.
  • Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, a German cyclist who missed bronze in the road race by 0.25seconds.

A person’s sexuality is, of course, of no relevance in terms of how they do their job, or live their life. Or rather it shouldn’t be.

Yet while being openly gay in many areas of public life (be it politics, the police, the arts, the clergy, banking, whatever) in many countries is no issue, gay people – at least openly gay – remain hugely under-represented in many professional sports, and that’s even in ‘liberal’ countries across Europe and North America.

Whether you think this matters or not possibly depends on whether you think there is a wider social significance of societies being open and free. In large parts of the world, same-sex sexual activity is an offence punishable by years in prison, and in seven countries the death penalty remains in force for active homosexuality. See country by country laws for details.

In sport, particularly in football, openly gay professional players are rare. In British football they are non-existent in the men’s game since Justin Fashanu.

The Football Association’s only openly gay councillor, Peter Clayton, has said gay players have been told to stay in the closet or risk damaging their clubs’ commercial interests. Publicist Max Clifford has admitted that he has advised gay Premier League clients to keep their sexuality secret.

Evidently this is one area where sport, particularly football, needs to evolve.

One of a very small number of experts who have studied and researched sexuality in sport in any detail is Professor Eric Anderson, an American who is a professor of sports studies at the University of Winchester in England. In his work as a sociologist he has studied why gay men and women pursue professional sport (or not) and cites a large-scale study of tens of thousands of college students in the USA that found “gay men are more likely [than straight men] to drop out of competitive sport, and follow other pursuits instead.”

Those that don’t drop out, Anderson says, often find themselves in an environment that does not encourage them to come out. “Cultural homophobia is dropping at a rapid rate, so this isn’t an issue with the fans,” he says, citing a study of British football supporters where 93 per cent (of 3,500 surveyed) said they would have no problem with a player coming out.

Neither, he says, is a player being gay an issue with team-mates, although gay players might fear coming out because a coach or manager, who will often holds a player’s career in their hands, may react adversely.

Rather, Anderson contests, it is the “gate keepers” of sport, or “alpha males” who hold key roles in governing bodies and commercial entities around sport, that create an atmosphere not conducive to coming out. “Homophobic men like Sepp Blatter,” he says, a reference to Blatter’s infamous statement that gay fans daunted at going to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar (where homosexuality is illegal) might refrain from sex while there.

As to why the openly gay Olympians won proportionately so many medals, Anderson is in no doubt that “openly” is the operative word, and that many times as many gay athletes took part, quite possibly winning no more or less than the overall London 2012 population.

His reseach has also shown, he says, that “gay male athletes are more likely to come out of the closet when they are good” and that “they have the sporting capital to negate the problems they encounter.”

Or in other words, a gay sportsman is much more likely be open about it when they know they’re got a great chance of winning – leaving little room for questions – from homophobes - over whether they should be involved in the first place.

So 10 medals, seven of them gold, among 23 gay Olympians in 2012 isn’t so anomalous – or rather it wouldn’t seem so if only one could see the whole picture.


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London 2012: Better for Great Britain than 1908 despite fewer gold medals

Monday, August 13th, 2012

By Nick Harris

SJA Internet Sports Writer of the Year

13 August 2012

The past few days we’ve heard that Great Britain has enjoyed its best Olympic medal haul since 1908 but in relative terms London 2012 was much better for the hosts.

In 1908, there were only 2,008 competitors from 22 nations competing, and Britain provided a third of those by herself.

So one might reasonably have expected Britain to win a lot of the 110 gold medals on offer, on home turf and in home water, in events as varied as tug of war and motorboat racing.

Britain did indeed win lots of golds, 56 of them, or just more than half on offer. So that’s 51 per cent of golds with 34 per cent of the athletes, so Britain did 151 per cent as well as she should have done.

Here’s another way of thinking about it. If the 110 medals had been split fairly between all the 2,008 competitors, then each nation should have won 5.48 golds for each 100 athletes. Which means Britain, with 676 athletes, should have won 37 gold medals. Instead GB won 51 medals – again, that’s 151 per cent of what would be expected.

At London 2012, when the size of the competition is factored in, Great Britain thrashed that performance by doing 192 per cent as well as should be expected.

Sportingintelligence has analysed the host nations’ performances at all 27 Summer Games to date.

We consider:

1: the number of golds on offer.

2: the amount of athletes at the Games from all nations.

3: how many golds each nation should have won per 100 athletes if divided equally. Golds available per athlete have got harder and harder to win. There were 18 golds per 100 people in Athens in 1896 and now that figure is fewer than three golds per 100 competitiors.

4: how many competitors the host nation had, and how many golds they won.

5: the percentage performance rating.

The graphic below – click to enlarge – includes every host at every Games since the first modern Olympic in Greece in 1896 and allows us to see at a glance how times have changed.

The key columns are the amount of golds the host should expect (given the size of their teams) against the amount they got, and the ratio.

(Article continues below)


Great Britain’s performance at London 2012 rates as the sixth best host nation performance at any Summer Games by these measures (see blue column on the right-hand side above for rankings 1-27 of the 27 Games).

The five better performers were the USA (1984), Soviet Union (1980), Germany (1936), China (2008) and the USA (1996) and the first four of those can arguably be seen as political and / or propaganda Games, where huge tallies for the host were influenced by one or more of boycotts, state backing for political reasons or other interference.

At the other end of the scale, Canada in 1976 remain the only hosts never to win a gold medal at their own Games, while London in 1948 saw Britain perform 23 per cent as well as she should have done if the medals had been dished out fairly.

There is a twist in this tale of Britain at the Games, however.

London 2012 was much better than the first-glance glory of 1908 but has not been Britain’s most successful Games to date, relatively. That was in 2008, when GB performed 221 per cent as well as expected.

This was because Team GB had ‘only’ 311 competitors in Beijing, against the army of 541 in London, an increase of 230 in four years.

The graphic below shows how Britain has performed in the 27 Games to date, ranking those performances.

Only eight times has Britain done as well as should be expected, and 19 times has failed to hit 100 per cent of a ‘fair share’ gold.

It is no accident that the last four Games, since Sydney in 2000, all fall within Britain’s six best Games by relative performance.

Money talks, and Lottery cash investment in British sport came on line ahead of Sydney 2000.

Home advantage – a well documented effect of hosting a Games – also helped to boost Britain this past fortnight.


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London 2012: Beware billions bollocks. Ceremony to be huge TV hit, but not that huge

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

By Nick Harris

SJA Internet Sports Writer of the Year

26 July 2012

Over the next day or so it is almost certain that you will see or hear somebody claim that the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics will be watched by a global audience of billions.

That’s bollocks. It won’t be.

Even the official website of London 2012 claims that the ceremonies of the Games and the Paralympics “will be spectacular celebrations of British culture watched by an estimated global audience of four billion people.”

I don’t doubt they’ll be spectacular and celebratory – but that number is more bollocks.

Britain deserves a gold medal for bollocks of this kind and Jeremy ‘Porkies’ Hunt, the Culture Secretary of the government, is perhaps an ideal man to collect it.

As Sportingintelligence detailed last year, Hunt was infamously the person who told a meeting of the Cabinet that 2 billion people would watch the wedding of William and Kate. He over-egged the real number by about 10 times. More about that here, and here.

Hunt’s silly – and never substantiated – claim has continued to be repeated as fact, because that’s the way these things work.

None of this is to disparage London’s opening showpiece, because it will be – with no shadow of doubt whatseover – the most watched event in the world this year, by a huge margin.

In Britain, if things go astonishingly well and it truly captures the public imagination, it may get close to the number of people who watched the 1986 Christmas Day episode of soap opera EastEnders when Den left Angie (30.15m), or the number of people who watched character Hilda Ogden leave soap opera Coronation Street on Christmas Day 1987 (26.65m).

Genuinely, if the opening ceremony tops those UK TV moments, it will be a massive coup for host broadcaster, the BBC.

Overall, the ceremony is likely to have a live global TV audience of many hundreds of millions, perhaps even half a billion or more.

The ‘average’ figure of people around the globe who will sit and watch it all as it happens will be hundreds of million – and perhaps 700m will watch at least a part of it. But it won’t reach a billion.

The world has 7 billion people, and they live in 1.9bn households, which on average have 3.68 people in them each.

Of those 1.9bn households, only 1.4bn households have a TV, let alone the internet. And it is the poorer households that tend not to have TV, and they also happen to be the bigger households. So around 2.5bn people don’t even have access to TV.

Let’s also consider the time that the London ceremony will take place: between 8pm and midnight UK time.

Asia will be asleep because it will be the middle of their night. Asia has 4.1bn of the world’s population. The very vast majority of them won’t be watching.

The verifiably most-watched event in human history – and the only “genuine 1bn” event to date – was the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

The “average” audience (those watching the four-hour event whole) was 593m people, many of them within host nation China, the world’s most populous country. China’s 1.3bn population was why the event was so popular. Only 5m people, for example, watched the same event in Britain.

In all, 984m people around the world tuned in for part of that opening 2008 Games ceremony via TV in their own homes, and the 16m balance needed to get to 1bn was almost certainly achieved by people watching around the world in public places.

The 1bn who watched the Beijing ceremony was uniquely big because it was such an enormous deal in the host country, which has a uniquely big population.

The 2012 opener will be huge in Britain (as many as half the population could watch), big in Europe (in the right time zone and with key interested nations like Germany, Italy, France and Spain), relatively small in Asia (because most people will be asleep), so-so across Africa (because relatively few people will have access) and a mixed bag in the Americas.

In the USA, great swathes of the population will be at work (especially on the west coast) or commuting when the ceremony is on, although it is better timed for the east coast. The ceremony won’t be anywhere near as important in America as its most popular event, SuperBowl, which now routinely attracts a USA TV audience of more than 100m people, or something less than a third of all Americans.

An exceptionally massive Olympic ceremony audience in America would be something like half the SuperBowl figure; and probably it will be fewer than 50m people.

In South America, big numbers are expected in Brazil because Brazil will host the 2016 Games and as such has a special interest in London this time. But big numbers will still only be tens of millions at most, not hundreds of millions.

Exaggeration is the norm for viewing figures for major events as vested interests – broadcasters, governing bodies, organisers – make inflated pre-event claims to make themselves look good, and in some cases, try to make money off the back of those claims.

On of my favourite exagerrations was when it was claimed that a Premier League ‘clash of the titans’ match between Manchester United and Arsenal in November 2007 would draw an audience of 1bn globally. The true figure was that 8m people watched the whole match live around the world (1.477m of them in the UK), and 27m people watched at least part of the game. Or in other words, one 37th of the reported audience actually tuned in.

How do we know how many people really watch these things? Because there are authoritative and respected measurement bodies who collate this data. They include BARB in the UK and Nielsen in the USA, and TAM in India and equivalent bodies elsewhere.

Kevin Alavy is now the boss at Future Sports + Entertainment, an arm of leading international analysts Initiative, and has spent years compiling accurate, verifiable data about major events from all the world’s major TV markets.

As I’ve written before, in an industry awash with hype, Alavy’s work has been refreshingly bullshit-free.

I spoke to him this morning and he is certain that Beijing 2008 won’t be topped by London, or come anywhere close to 1bn, let alone 2bn or 3bn or 4bn.

He thinks a figure of 600m to 700m is a credible prediction for the total number of people who might tune in for part, if not all, of the London ceremony, and a lot of those people will be in Europe and a select bunch of large other nations like Brazil and the USA.

‘If your aim was to maximise the live global TV audience, then you’d have the London ceremony in the middle of day, European time,’ Alavy tells me. ‘Then you’d catch a wider share of Asia, which is huge, and Europe, and still get some interested from America.

‘But this isn’t scheduled to get the maximum audience. Even within Britain the audience will be smaller than it could be because it’s going to be on between 9pm and midnight, as opposed to between 7pm and 10pm, for example, which would get a higher figure.’

Alavy doesn’t doubt the ceremony will be the most-watched event of the year in global terms in any genre of viewing.

The Olympic Games are massive and the global interest reflects that. Only the football World Cup and the Olympics truthfully fall into the bracket of events of global interest.

Less certain is what will be the next most watched event of 2012. It might be the closing ceremony. It won’t necessarily be the men’s 100m final, which many people would expect.

‘In China, the biggest audience for actual sport was a women’s volleyball preliminary between China and Cuba,’ Alavy says.

That match drew a global audience of  184m who watched the whole thing, and 450m people who watched part of it. The vast, vast majority of those people were in China, and many of those who weren’t were in Cuba.

And that’s not bollocks.


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Olympic medals: the nations who make the most of their population and cash

Monday, July 23rd, 2012


By Nick Harris

SJA Internet Sports Writer of the Year

23 July 2012

There is typically a strong relationship between the size of a nation’s population, its financial resources and the amount of medals it wins at an Olympic Games.

A variety of studies has shown this to be the case, and predictions for London 2012 abound, from Dan Johnson in Colorado (link to article), (and link to his data) to Goldman Sachs (link to article), (and to their data), and umpteen others in between.

Goldman think Britain will win 30 golds to finish third in the medals table, which looks optimistic, although as written in our own January predictions for sport in 2012, we reckon that Team GB will win 24 golds (and 55-60 medals altogether) to pip Russia for third place in the final medals table, behind the USA and China.

Trying to guess medal tallies, based on science or a hunch, is part and parcel of the Olympic build-up. What actually happens tells us much about the sporting world we live in, and how different nations treat sport.

In the article linked here from March, we looked at which nations won the most gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics per 1m people. Jamaica came out on top, followed by Estonia, with Mongolia, New Zealand, Georgia and Australia all doing very well too.

To explore this in much greater detail for Sportingintelligence, Ben Jones of the DataRemixed blog has now used population and GDP data to produce the brilliant interactive graphic below to allow you to explore which nations punched above or below their weight at the 2008 Games when numbers of people and cash are taken into account.

NB: the graphic, driven by Tableau software, will take a few moments to load 

The graphic allows you to see which nations most effectively use their population and GDP to win medals.

The opening page shows you which nations won most medals (of all colours) by head of population in Beijing, and you can see Bahamas were No1, followed by Jamaica, Iceland and Slovenia.

But by changing the tab on the left (population) to GDP, you’ll see that Zimbabwe become the most efficient nation, winning more medals per £ of GDP than anyone, ahead of Jamaica, Mongolia and Kenya.

If you just want to consider gold medals, or silver, or bronze, then change the right-hand tab to recalculate.

If you just want to look within a specific continent, change the middle tab.

Click on a country’s name on the map, or on their flag in the graphs, for more details about the relevant achievements.

There is a wealth of information available by searching for different findings, but some ‘best and worst’ findings include:

  • Iceland were the best nation in Europe in winning most medals per person (3.31 per 1m people) and Portugal were worst of those that won medals (0.19 per 1m people).
  • Belarus won most medals per £ of GDP in Europe, and Belgium won fewest.
  • In Asia, Armenia won most medals per people, while India won fewest (of those that won medals); India also had the worst return by GDP in Asia, while Mongolia had the best return.
  • In Africa, Zimbabwe punched highest above its weight (of those winning medals) in financial terms, and South Africa fared worst. In population terms, Mauritius was the best African nation and Egypt the worst.


(If the graphic fails to appearview it externally here. NB: It’s a complex graphic so it takes a few moments to get started)





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YouTube sports chief rules out any bid for Premier League rights

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

By Nick Harris

SJA Internet Sports Writer of the Year

20 March 2012

The global head of sports content at YouTube has ruled out any bid for live rights to show Premier League football matches now or in the foreseeable future despite describing English top-flight football as “a wonderfully powerful attractor of viewers”.

In an exclusive interview with Sportingintelligence, Claude Ruibal (left) – in charge of YouTube’s global sports content policy since January 2011 – says the Google-owned platform wants to increase the amount of long-form live sports events it screens – but that paying for rights isn’t in the business model.

So while YouTube wants to expand coverage of events where it pays little or nothing up front for the rights – like IPL cricket and Copa America football, and ‘niche’ sports like fencing – YouTube’s efforts around the most popular sports will aim to ‘augment’ the existing live coverage by the traditional broadcast media.

The debate about the role of web-based firms and sports rights intensified this month with reports that Yahoo is considering a bid for the Canadian rights to the 2014 Winter Olympics and 2016 Summer Games – a move that could signal a sea-change in broadcasting if it happened.

But Ruibal has told Sportingintelligence: “We’re not a content creator, we’re not a broadcaster, we’re not going to be a high-stakes rights bidder. But we can be a platform for more long-form sports rights, and want to be.

“We’re just not going to have a business model to spend £2bn on long-form live rights for Premier League football. It would be a wonderfully powerful attractor of viewers to our platform but we need to live within the reality of the world.

“How do we [instead] augment what’s there already? By potentially having a nice offering around catch-up. And another big piece of what we’re doing is everything surrounding sport, the lead-up to the event, and after the event.”

To that end, YouTube already hosts numerous official football club YouTube channels, including those for Barcelona, Manchester City and Liverpool, as well as channels for brands such as Nike Football.

“Look at what we’re doing in Spain,” Ruibal says. “FC Barcelona have one our best channels on YouTube. What they have on there is player features, press interviews, behind the scenes, training. And if I’m a fan of a club I know that’s all there. We have close to 30 official club channels now.”

YouTube has grown rapidly to be the world’s third most popular destination on the internet globally – behind only and Facebook.

YouTube attracts 4 billion views per day, of which 600m are now via mobile devices. The site has an astonishing 800m unique viewers per month, with an average visit of between seven and 15 minutes.

Sixty hours of new content is uploaded to YouTube every minute – and Ruibal would like more of it to be live sport which can also be archived on the site.

Copa America games were shown live last year on YouTube in dozens of nations where there was no existing broadcast deal, and geo-blocked in those where there was. This allowed potential viewers with no access to mainstream coverage to see games while not conflicting with pre-existing contracts.

In 2010 and 2011, YouTube broadcast live IPL games in many territories where there was no live TV coverage, and ‘delayed live’ feeds elsewhere.

IPL sources say the IPL received some (modest) rights fees but Ruibal suggests it wasn’t YouTube who paid those, but a third party.

“When we did the IPL, we partnered on that, in that case with the India Times,” he said. “They’re the ones who were the bidders. We said ‘We think we’re good at the back end and at having a good user interface. We’ve got the scale. We can provide the platform’.

“That’s how that deal happened.

“Today that’s our value proposition. You want a great platform, great scale, great reach – come to us. But you need to manage it. We don’t do that.

“You need to edit it, create the content. We’ll tell you if you’re not doing a good job because we know who is, and who isn’t, and we can help you get better at this.”

Ruibal sees YouTube as an agent for promotion of ‘niche’ sports in particular, with fencing a case in point. The world governing body of that sport now has its own channel and events are shown in full, live, to global audiences. A range of other sports have followed suit.

YouTube don’t pay for rights, but do share ad revenues that can become substantial when millions of people watch.

One area where Ruibal doesn’t rule out involvement in the Premier League is clip screening; but again it seems unlikely YouTube will pay.

At the moment, Yahoo in the UK and a tiny number of separate overseas platform deals allow specific web platforms to show Premier League goals and other clips after matches have been screened live.

Any Premier League content currently that gets onto YouTube is rapidly taken down by ‘digital fingerprinting’ software.

“It’s entirely appropriate that the Premier League should be able to have content removed from YouTube because they own the rights,” Ruibal says.

Could YouTube bid for Premier League clips? “If we could partner on something on that, on catch-up content soon after the event then that’s something we could be good at.”

Providing a platform for a third-party funder rather than spending any YouTube cash for fees is most likely, however.



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EXCLUSIVE: Funding body Sport England kept in dark over drugs cover-up

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

By Nick Harris

SJA Internet Sports Writer of the Year

1 February 2012

SPORT England, the funding body that hands out taxpayers money to sports governing bodies, was kept in the dark over alleged breaches of the UK National Anti-Doping policy, Sportingintelligence can reveal  - meaning a governing body is continuing to receive a £28m four-year funding package of public cash that should arguably be under review.

As reported previously (with further details today), a positive drugs test by the former GB rugby league star Martin Gleeson at Hull FC last year led to a drugs cover-up that Gleeson alleged involved the Rugby Football League, if only by failure of officials to pass on key details at certain times.

A six-month investigation costing a large six-figure sum by UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) considered a serious anti-doping charge against a senior RFL official, for their role in the cover-up, Sportingintelligence can reveal. That charge was not pursued on external legal advice, but the same UKAD investigation found evidence of breaches of the UK anti-doping policy that were not prosecuted at all on the grounds of finite UKAD time and resources.

Sport England relies on UKAD to police anti-doping, and unless it hears to the contrary, dishes out public cash on the assumption that governing bodies are abiding by the drugs policy.

The RFL’s current four-year funding package from Sport England is worth just under £28m, or £6.89m a year.

UKAD’s investigation into the cover-up involved formal interviews with 13 witnesses, including RFL officials who said they knew details on 3 June 2011 of the supply chain that led to Gleeson taking a supplement containing a banned supplement.

Crucially, those officials did not pass that information to UKAD immediately, as clause 4.6.2 of the National UK Anti-Doping Policy obliges.

But no action has been taken by UKAD against the RFL, and Sport England have confirmed that they were not told details of the investigation as it unfolded, nor that there was any evidence that the RFL or any of its officials had breached the Policy – which must be followed to qualify for public money.

Sport England are understood to have discovered details of the full cover-up evidence only last week when contacted by the media. A spokesman says: ’We take our own responsibilities under the policy very seriously. The policy clearly sets out the separate roles and responsibilities of Sports Councils and those of UK Anti-Doping when it comes to anti-doping.

‘We have had a lengthy conversation with UKAD about the investigation they carried out into the Gleeson case. They have advised us that, following this thorough investigation, the Rugby Football League had no case to answer. As a result, UKAD did not initially contact Sport England about this case.’

Gleeson was initially the only person prosecuted for his failed test but Hull’s then-CEO James Rule and conditioning coach Ben Cooper were subsequently prosecuted for involvement in the cover-up.

The bombshell investigation case file, running to more than 2,700 pages of statements, transcripts, emails, phone records and other material about the case, was handed by UKAD to Gleeson last month in return for his ‘substantial assistance’ in uncovering the truth. A UKAD official who worked on Gleeson’s case is understood to have told one of Gleeson’s advisors that ‘the gloves are now off’ in the fight for Gleeson to partially clear his name and not stand alone as tainted player in this case.

That file given to Gleeson contains evidence that the RFL’s head of anti-doping, Emma Rosewarne – and her immediate boss, the RFL’s C.O.O Ralph Rimmer – both knew on the day Gleeson’s positive result became known (Friday 3 June) that Gleeson had not bought a supplement containing a ‘controlled’ stimulant, MHA, himself.

Gleeson went to a tribunal on 9 June 2011 with a story saying he had got the drug himself, in person, from a shop. This was a pack of lies and when it became clear, the cover-up was exposed and investigated.

Rosewarne and Rimmer, in their own words and statements (scans below), also told the UKAD investigation that they both knew on 3 June 2011 that Gleeson’s best friend and team-mate Sean Long had been in the supply chain of the supplement (OxyElite Pro) to Gleeson, and both knew that Hull’s CEO, Rule, feared his ‘whole squad’ could have been taking the drug.

Crucially, none of that information was passed immediately to UKAD, as the Policy dictates under clause 4.6.2. (A scan of the relevant clause of the policy is in this backgrounder).

If that information had been passed on, the cover-up as it transpired could never have happened. As it was, Gleeson was prosecuted alone until he lost his initial case and decided to tell the truth.

Although a breach of 4.6.2 was never prosecuted by UKAD, the RFL’s chief executive Nigel Wood insists: ‘There has been NO breach of 4.6.2.’

The RFL has defended its position throughout, insisting in a statement on 15 January (linked here) that it had assisted in the UKAD inquiry and confirming that the RFL had been cleared on external legal advice.

Sportingintelligence can reveal the UKAD investigation contains multiple references to the involvement of UKAD’s chief executive, Andy Parkinson, being consulted on the weekend of 3 to 5 June 2011 about a potential appeal by Hull FC (and supported by the RFL) to get Gleeson’s immediate ban suspended so he could play a match that weekend.

Despite UKAD being the investigating and prosecuting body for drugs case, the dossier suggests both Parkinson himself and UKAD’s head of legal, Graham Arthur, gave advice to Rosewarne on Gleeson’s suspension appeal. Yet neither Parkinson nor Arthur were formally interviewed for UKAD’s investigation into the cover-up. That initial appeal was somehow successful although legal opinion voiced at Gleeson’s tribunal made reference to a ‘no fault’ plea always being a non-starter.

A UKAD spokesman said this week: ‘As previously stated, the investigation was thorough and robust. Everything required to be done, in our expert opinion, has been done.’

Hugh Robertson, the Minister for sport and the Olympics, is understood to retain confidence in UKAD in Olympic year, but says that governing bodies must share all information they have about doping or suspected doping as ‘a vital part of the weaponry’ in the fight against drugs.

‘We have a first-class testing system in this country but sharing intelligence on doping is also a vital part of the weaponry,’ Robertson says.

‘Sports governing bodies have a crucial role to play in the fight against drugs in sport. They have a duty to pass on intelligence so that we can continue to make progress. I am confident in United Kingdom Anti-Doping’s approach in taking on the drug cheats.’

An anti-doping source stressed that the Gleeson cover-up investigation came down to ‘judgement calls’ and UKAD had to assess whether to pursue the most serious possible charges (which it did) as well as ‘lesser’ charges (4.6.2) that might have affected RFL funding but not led to individuals being punished.

‘We have to bear in mind – and it’s probably not what the public wants to hear – that we don’t have a bottomless pit of money to deal with,’ a source said. ‘We’ve got cases coming through the system all the time … All I can say is we made calls at different parts of the process to proceed down certain routes.’

Michele Verroken, the former Director of Ethics and Anti-Doping at UK Sport for 20 years and a long-time advocate of independence in anti-doping systems, has told Sportingintelligence: ‘It is essential that anti-doping systems are based on trust and confidence. To achieve this there must be absolute openness and public accountability for decision making.

‘The new era of anti-doping organisations operating nationally carries even greater responsibility to demonstrate fairness, due process and absolute absence of conflicts of interest.

‘Perception of conflicts of interest cannot be allowed to exist, particularly in determining a case to answer or the commission of an anti-doping rule violation.

‘It is unhelpful to our ambition to make sport drug-free that confidence in anti-doping systems can be undermined by such perceptions.

‘If athletes or sports organisations do not perceive anti-doping systems to be fair, then how can we ask for their support?’


More from Nick Harris


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Part of Emma Rosewarne’s written testimony to the UKAD inquiry


Part of Ralph Rimmer’s oral testimony to the UKAD inquiry 

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REVEALED: Royal Wedding TV audience closer to 300m than 2bn (because sport, not royalty, reigns)

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

By Nick Harris

SJA Internet Sports Writer of the Year

9 May 2011

Fanciful predictions said two billion people would watch the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton live on TV around the world – and around 300m actually did, according to preliminary findings of research by sportingintelligence into the real global audience.

That figure is an extrapolation from figures in 11 major countries that account for almost half the world’s population: China, India, the USA, Germany, France, the UK, Italy, Spain, Argentina, Canada and Australia.

Those countries are all in the top 50 by population, and include the three most populous. The total wedding audience for that half share of the world was 161.92m people. See the table at the bottom of this piece for a more detailed breakdown.

We have also looked at data from a selection of other countries, including Brazil and Japan, but have yet to establish viewers there in terms of actual numbers of people (as opposed to a ratings figure, which tells us only a percentage share of an audience at a time of day, but not how many people overall, yet). Early findings in those countries are consistent with a global 300m audience.

Viewing figures are routinely exaggerated before events. Made-up numbers erroneously go down in history as fact. This often happens in the sporting world, as this website mused ahead of the nuptials of William – who is the president of the English FA, and a defender of the Aston Villa faith – and Kate.

So in an attempt to find the real numbers – and show why sport, not royalty, reigns in any given territory – sportingintelligence considered the official TV figures for the wedding from the UK and 10 other countries of varying size, politics, wealth and geography from Europe, North and South America, Asia and Australasia. (Africa, the forsaken continent, has one billion people but even in the richest countries only one in three people have access to TV at home, and in the poorest African countries fewer than one per cent have TV. Data in most African countries is less reliable diary data in any case).

Extrapolated to the whole world, the 162m from our 11 ‘sample’ countries would make a total audience of around 340m people but 340m is almost certainly too high because our 11 countries contain key nations where interest is especially high, including the UK (where a massive 42 per cent of the population watched), the USA, Canada and Australia.

A number of countries – including Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and North Korea among others – had no live coverage on any state or other domestic channel, and while it is possible people in those countries could take feeds from other places, the audiences would have been so low as to be almost insignificant.

The percentage data we have from nations like Brazil and Japan can be included in our findings when confirmed as numbers of people. (And anyone with reliable data for nations not mentioned, please feel free to email it to us at

Provisionally it appears that around 1.2m Brazilian urban households watched live on TV, but whether that translates to 2m or 5m viewers (or anywhere in between, in a country of 191m people) is not yet certain. It will be a decent share of a small 6am audience.

Similarly, we know that the wedding had a 23 per cent audience share of Japanese viewers at the relevant evening local time on NHK, but without knowing the number of people watching TV, we don’t want to count numbers that are guesses. If a third of Japan (population 128m) was watching on 29 April, and 23 per cent of those were watching the wedding, that would be 9.75m people, or almost eight per cent of Japan, a very decent figure. But we don’t know, yet.

To put the popularity of the wedding in context, a greater share of the audience in Japan at the same time (almost 30 per cent) was watching coverage of the figure skating world championships in Moscow.

As a general rule, only major global sports events – namely Olympic ceremonies and football World Cup finals – will get anywhere close to 1bn viewers, let alone 2bn, as discussed here.

And in any given territory, records will be set (and are held) mostly by major sporting events, which will always be of local interest either because teams from that nation are involved, or that nation is a host.

Britain’s most watched TV event of any genre in history was the 1966 World Cup final, with 32.2m viewers, beating this year’s wedding by more than six million. A number of other football matches have had better ratings in Britain than the wedding.

The American TV audience for Wills ‘n’ Kate was 22.8m, a whopping figure for the time of day, but a small number compared to the 111m people in the USA who watched this year’s Super Bowl live on TV in its entirety.

In India, 42.1m people tuned in to the wedding, which in gross terms made it the biggest single wedding audience by country. But that equates to only 3.48 per cent of India’s population of 1.2bn people. And the cricket World Cup final this year attracted 25m more people than the wedding.

In China, the wedding rights were bought by the Shanghai Media Group, and while it was available across the country, in many areas it was via pay-TV, which always limits the audience. Local sources say a maximum of 30m watched live in China (2.24 per cent of the population), although this may be slightly high. China’s highest ever TV confirmed audience was 500m (ish) watching on state TV, CCTV, from a global 1bn audience who tuned in to the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

In Canada, a very respectable 5.2m of 34m people watched the wedding (15.29 per cent of the population) but this pales besides the 16.6m (half the country) who watched Canada win the Olympic ice hockey gold medal last year in Vancouver.

Some of Britain’s European neighbours posted decent wedding figures (see table) but nothing compared to their sporting highs. In Germany, for example, the wedding figure of 4.48m people is small compared to the 30m who watched Germany play Italy in the semi-finals live on domestic TV during the 2006 World Cup.

One surprise in our research was the massive wedding audience, relatively, in the supposedly anti-monarchy enclave of sports-mad Australia. The biggest reported TV audiences in Australian history were for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, with more than 6m people, albeit before the introduction of the most accurate meter monitoring in 2001.

Since that date, the most-watched programmes on Aussie TV have been the Australian Open tennis final of 2005 (Hewitt v Safin, 4.04m people) followed by the rugby union World Cup final of 2003 (Australia v England, 4.01m).

The wedding beat them both Down Under, with 4.34m. Call yourselves sports fans, cobbers? Seems like you’d rather have a Royal love story to us . . .

For those interested in further reading on selected audiences, follow links to stories about wedding ratings in the UK, in the USA, in Canada, in Australia, in France, in Spain, in Germany, in Italy, in New Zealand, in Argentina, in India, in Brazil and in Japan.


Sportingintelligence home page


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Sports minister urges Welsh FA not to deny Tottenham’s Gareth Bale his Olympic dream

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

By Alex Miller

at SportAccord, London

6 April 2011

Britain’s sports minister Hugh Robertson has urged the Welsh FA not to let politics deprive Gareth Bale of his ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ to represent Great Britain at next year’s Olympics.

Earlier this year, the Football Association of Wales spelt out that they will oppose any moves by their players to be part of a Great Britain football side, fearing it could jeopardise the status of the home nations teams.

Scotland and Northern Ireland share the same opinion, meaning only English players at present will be considered for the team. (Although some Scottish players are considering legal action, as sportingintelligence reported here).

Robertson said: ‘Wales has a cast-iron guarantee from Fifa that the Great Britain team will not put at risk their home nations status. ‘It would be a travesty if a once in a lifetime opportunity was taken away because of politics. To see Team GB with great stars in the same shirts would be a great moment’.

Paul Deighton, chief executive of the Games organising committee, LOCOG, added: ‘Everybody in sport should want to see the best teams playing.’

Separately today, speaking at the Sportaccord conference in London, Robertson said he remains ‘open-minded’ about making sports doping a criminal offence.

Robertson receives expertise, intelligence and recommendations from the UK Anti-Doping Agency. If the organisation recommended the move he would consider it.

He said: ‘There are two main threats to sport – doping and corruption. Once the integrity in sport has gone, it is all lost. We will take a zero tolerance point of view during London 2012’.

David Howman, Secretary-General of the World Anti-Doping Agency has revealed the Mafia make more money from illegal steroids than heroin. He added: ‘The underworld is probably taking over world sport – it’s probably now interfering in 20 per cent of global sporting activity’.


More on the Olympics

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Head of Wada calls for global anti-corruption body

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

By Nick Harris
in Budapest

23 February 2011

David Howman, the director-general of the World Anti-Doping Agency, has today called for the establishment of a global anti-corruption agency to tackle malpractice ranging from match-fixing to institutional corruption.

In a statement released at the European Union Sports Forum, which concluded today in Hungary, Howman says he has ‘compelling information’ including from a recent briefing with American enforcement agencies, that the same figures from ‘criminal underworld’ who are involved in trafficking in steroids are also involved in match fixing.

He proposes the establishment of a body – called the World Sports Integrity Agency – which would tackle illegal betting in sport, and also bribery and corruption.

Separately, the IOC will meet in early March at a pre-planned seminar to discuss the issue of establishing a global anti-corruption agency.

Howman’s statement in full:

“Our compelling information, and that includes an extensive briefing I had last week from American enforcement agencies (which added to the information we received from the Major League Baseball investigators) is that the criminal underworld is now heavily engaged in ways that, if unchecked, will seriously jeopardize the future of modern sport.

“The same people who are trafficking in steroids and encouraging athletes to cheat by doping, are the ones who are engaged in illegal betting. This is essentially money laundering, bribery and corruption in relation to match fixing and spot fixing.

“To properly fight this phenomenon, I propose that we in the sports world establish an international body (the World Sports Integrity Agency) that would have an overarching governing board made up of Sport and Governments similar to the WADA Board.

“One arm of this possible new organization could be WADA, which would continue its work in its current form. Another arm could deal with the issue of illegal betting and be funded substantially by the regulated betting industry and the other arm should engage in the fight against bribery and corruption which could be funded by the collection of monies recovered as a result of the investigations.

“The success of WADA with a combination of Sport and Government is such that we ought not re-invent the wheel to deal with these other aspects of challenge to the integrity of sport.

“The key issue is that the criminal underworld is engaged in clear and serious efforts to corrupt the sporting world. Sports organizations do not have the experience, the resources or the legal jurisdiction, to deal with those issues alone. However, the money that the criminal underworld has is considerable. Thus it needs governments, sports organizations and the legitimate gambling industry to unite together to save sport.

“If we do not do this, we face a very rocky future.”


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Other stories mentioning sports corruption

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