...and as countless legs around the country recover, we’re back with another Miller Sport Notebook.
Premiership Rugby is back, and England’s top tier competition has hit the ground running. We’re only a few weeks into the season but already we’ve seen world class tries, dramatic finishes, big upsets and dominant performances. The stands are full once more and the world’s best players are putting on a real show.
Back from their enforced trip down to the Championship, Saracens have made a steady start to the season, winning one and losing the other, but it’ll be a while before the fans of the league forgive them.
The team, one of Europe’s all-time greatest, were forced down to the second division after improper conduct was detected - clever accounting meant to work around the salary cap. Long-time owner Nigel Wray took a lot of the flack, and the team found themselves sent down with no guarantee of immediate return.
They were promoted however, and are aiming to put the scandal behind them. And the news this week will go a long way towards that, as the club announced that a consortium of investors has agreed to acquire a majority controlling stake, pledging a £32m investment.
The new funds will also be used for a variety of other purposes, including completing the redevelopment of the West Stand; further investment in women’s sport; and the establishment of a high-performance training centre.
Lucy Wray remains as CEO, while her father Nigel will stand down from his role. Former England and Saracens women's player Maggie Alphonsi has been added to the club's board while Michael Yormark, President of sports management agency Roc Nation Sports International, has also been named as a special adviser.
A new start for the famous old club, but one that was desperately needed to repair a now troubled reputation. A critical reminder that even the most storied of set ups can fall from grace, and that rebirth is always an option with the right support.
The power of the media is unquestioned, but as social media takes over, the news cycle becomes faster and clicks become ever more important, it’s increasingly erred towards more shocking but disposable reporting.
Thankfully, however, the pendulum is swinging the other way and readers are starting to favour long reads and investigations once again. That is small part to The Athletic - a staple publication in the US but one which launched in the UK only recently and put in-depth reporting at the heart of their strategy.
This week, we saw that strategy in full force.
The brilliant and brave Meg Lineham, USWNT and NWSL writer for The Athletic, broke the devastating story this week of sexual coercion allegations against a current league manager, Paul Riley, by a number of his former female players.
Within days of the release of the story, a media storm ensued. Both NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird and NWSL General Counsel Lisa Levine were both ousted from their roles, while Riley himself was immediately fired by his club North Carolina Courage.
Other players have since spoken out about his transgressions, and the NWSL has been accused of systematic failures.
It has become a league in crisis, and all because it failed to carry out due diligence, follow up on reports, and listen to its most important shareholders - it’s players. A stark reminder of the hidden risks that can lie within all organisations if we fail to protect those that are most important.
This last few weeks has seen the Test match retirement of one of England’s greatest, and most underrated, cricketers; off-spinning all-rounder Moeen Ali.
The 34-year-old had scored 2,914 runs in 64 Tests at an average of 28.29 with five centuries, picked up 195 wickets, and was on the verge of becoming only the 15th player in Test history to score 3,000 runs and claim 200 wickets.
An impressive record, however he leaves the Test arena as one of England’s most polarising players. Loved by fans, he was often too harshly blamed by selectors for England’s failings, or made a scapegoat in the face of defeat.
And upon retirement, he discussed the impact this had on his mental health.
“I felt like I was done to be honest with you,” he said. “It’s been a big journey, but I just remember fielding once and I just struggled with it a little bit, the mental side. The actual game I felt really good after, but cricketing wise I just found it a bit of a struggle to be honest with you.”
It’s a stark reminder of the immense impact that sport - and in particular cricket - is having on the mental health of young men worldwide. We’ve written and spoke at length about this in the past through a campaign with Sport Industry Group, available HERE.
We spoke previously about the absolutely brilliant Emma Raducanu, about her immense escalation to stardom, her incredible success on the court, and the myriad future she has ahead of her. She attended the Met Gala, the Premiere of the new James Bond,
But amid all that, her response to becoming Britain’s favourite sport star overnight?
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Miller release a Sports Fortnightly Notebook every fortnight.