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Miller Sports Notebook 21st Oct

21st October 2021

It’s official, summer is over and it almost feels like it never began. But when we look back we’ll remember a period that saw England’s men’s football team get to a major international tournament final, a brand new cricket tournament capture the imagination while bathed in sunlight, and an Olympic Games that - while missing fans - brought storylines a plenty.

Perhaps it wasn’t quite the lost summer after all…?

Anyway, on with the Notebook.

 

Sharron Davies Gets Gold

41 years ago, Team GB swimmer Sharron Davies placed second in the 400m individual medley at the 1980 Moscow Olympics - an incredible achievement and one that saw her take home the silver medal, become one of the UK’s most recognisable swimmers and launch a successful media career.

She never, however, managed to claim Gold - with that Silver being the closest she ever came.

Now, nearly four decades on, the victor that day - Petra Schneider - has admitted that she was part of an East German state controlled doping programme, one that has since left her with life-altering, long-term health issues. 

The reveal is huge for Davies, who is on the cusp of being awarded the Gold medal that long alluded her.

But 41 years on, it’s hard not to wonder what could have been and looking forward, how we can protect athletes who suffer similar fates in the future. 

Indeed, it was only 7 years ago when the world was rocked by the revelation of doping at the Sochi Winter Games, and in Tokyo this year we’re awaiting the final results on whether the Team GB men’s 4x100m silver medallists will be stripped of their victory after CJ Ujah - just one quarter of the team - tested positive for banned substances. 

For the other three sprinters, they could face loss of earnings, opportunities, and importantly, accolades as a result - and protecting athletes against this fate is a space we’re fascinated to know more about.

While Davies, however, might finally get her hands on a gold, she may well be left wondering ‘what if’. Hopefully we can ensure few have to wonder the same question…

 

The Ashes Go Ahead

Earlier this month, cricket lovers across the world rejoiced at news that The Ashes - one of the sport’s premium Test Match products - would be going ahead, and that England would head down under for the iconic five match series. The news came after early reports suggested the series may be at risk, with England players increasingly unwilling to spend extended time away from their families or be forced to live in bio-secure bubbles. While much of the world is beginning to return to normal, Australia still has some of the most stringent entry and exit requirements. 

Ben Stokes - one of England’s talismanic stars - is unlikely to feature after taking time off to 'prioritise his mental wellbeing' over the last year, and while he hasn’t directly linked ‘life in the bubble’ to his struggles, it’s unlikely that it would’ve helped. 

Thankfully, though, player power has prevailed, and it’s rumoured that England players negotiated a lesser quarantine length upon arrival and the ability to have their family or partners with them while on tour.

Miller has already spoken at length about player welfare in cricket, and the immense impact that bubble life was having on players in one of the world’s more mentally challenging sports. We said last year that something needed to change (you can read more on that HERE) and it’s fantastic to see change finally being enacted.

 

Newcastle, and the Burden of Expectation

As we will all have undoubtedly seen, Premier League club Newcastle United’s long-discussed and much drawn out takeover by the Saudi Arabian state-backed Private Investment Fund has finally been completed. The club has, in essence, become the richest football club in the world overnight. 

While the wider ethical and geopolitical implications of the takeover are best left for others to discuss and debate, it’s now worth taking a moment to consider the risk implications the club now faces.

Highly paid players will certainly soon follow, bringing their own risk and exposure with them, something the club - in the doldrums for a number of years - is now responsible for. Similarly, the club will be under scrutiny by both fans and regulators more than ever, and the reputational risks are aplenty - if not already obvious. 

While the ‘Toon Army’ are certain to enjoy the injection of cash the takeover will bring, and will be praying for success to follow, it’s always worth remembering that running a top tier football club is not without its challenges, and that while the road ahead may well be paved with gold, it might still be a little rocky.

Until next week…

 

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