The International Cricket Council bowls a googly at Twenty20 cricket.

The International Cricket Council (“ICC”) has recently reported that it is considering a number of radical proposals to address the growing prominence of Twenty20 (“T20”) cricket after criticism that it is diminishing the primacy of internationals, especially test cricket.

Short-form tournaments, such as T20s, are growing in popularity with some players opting to compete only in lucrative T20 tournaments and leagues instead of the longer version of the game.

This has plagued international test cricket more recently but has been an issue for some countries such as the West Indies for a decade. Trevor Bayliss, the England coach, has urged for international T20 matches to end to alleviate the demanding cricket calendar.

This article considers the problems posed by T20 cricket and the proposals suggested by the ICC, which meets in Kolkata next month to discuss the issue.

T20s, ODIs and Tests

ICC’s Classification of Official Cricket recognises three formats of official cricket – T20, One Day Internationals (“ODIs”) and test cricket.

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The Cheltenham Festival, Brexit and the free movement of horses.

Today marks the start of the Cheltenham Festival, one of the highlights of the National Hunt racing calendar.

The Cheltenham Festival can trace its roots back to 1860, when the first National Hunt Chase took place at Market Harborough. The event has been held in Cheltenham since 1911 and continues to include the Stayers Hurdle, first run in 1912 and the Blue Riband event, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, first run in 1924.

With the Festival timed to coincide with St. Patrick’s day it is perhaps no surprise that it attracts a large amount of race fans and horses from Ireland with punters betting an estimated €450 million during the week.

According to Deloitte, the horse racing industry is worth a combined £5 billion to the British and Irish economies and one that employs some 85,000 people directly and indirectly.

However, a dark cloud is looming over the industry in the form of Brexit, highlighting its all pervasive threat to the economy.

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An analysis of the DCMS Select Committee Report: ‘Combatting doping in sport’ – Part 3 – ‘UK Athletics’ and ‘Criminalisation of doping in sports’

In this, the third and final part of our series on the DCMS Select Committee Report on “Combatting doping in Sport”, Sports Shorts looks at the Report’s findings in relation to performance versus health considerations, record-keeping inadequacies, problems arising from under-funding, and the proposal that doping be made criminalised.

The Nike Oregon Project

The third section of the Report begins by considering treatments received by Sir Mo Farah at the Nike Oregon Project (“NOP”), an initiative aimed at elite athletes and founded in 2001 by Alberto Salazar, Farah’s former coach.

Specifically, the Report discusses the concerns raised by former UK Athletics medical officer Dr John Rogers after he visited a British Athletics training camp organised by NOP. In evidence submitted by Rogers, he draws attention to the side-effects of three treatments in particular that were used on Farah at NOP, namely: nasal calcitonin; vitamin D supplementation; and iron supplementation.

Rogers told the Committee that nasal calcitonin “affected calcium metabolism” and in Farah’s case “there was a background medical issue that could have been affected”.[1] As for the vitamin D supplementation, his concern stemmed from the particularly high dosage, which can apparently cause high blood calcium levels, whilst the iron supplementation could have gastrointestinal side-effects.

Apparently, “Alberto Salazar explained to Dr Rogers that he had recommended the calcitonin and the vitamin D supplement to prevent stress fractures, that high dosages of vitamin D would help increase testosterone levels, and that iron supplements would help in high altitudes”.[2] In other words, Salazar prescribed the supplements to improve Farah’s performance.

The Report also discusses evidence received in connection with the administering of L-carnitine to Farah before the 2014 London Marathon by Dr Robin Chakraverty, former Chief Medical Officer at UK Athletics. L-carnitine is a non-essential amino-acid-like compound that assists in energy production. Although not a prohibited substance, there are strict rules around its use; athletes are permitted to take 50ml every six hours, according to the Report. Chakraverty says he injected 2.7 grams and on only one occasion. The Report comments:

“While L-carnitine might be on the list of legal supplements, there is a question over why an athlete should be taking a supplement to enhance their own advantage, rather than working on their own athletic prowess.”[3]

This at once seems a strikingly naïve question to ask in the current context.

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An analysis of the DCMS Select Committee Report: ‘Combatting doping in sport’ – Part 2 – “British Cycling and Team Sky”

In part two of our three part series on the DCMS Select Committee Report in “Combatting doping in Sport” we consider its controversial findings in respect of British Cycling and Team Sky.

It is the second section of the DCMS Select Committee Report that is likely to have the most serious repercussions for two of the biggest names in UK Sport, namely Sir David Brailsford, formerly performance director of British Cycling during its most successful years and currently general manager of Team Sky, and Great Britain’s most successful ever Olympian and Tour de France winner Sir Bradley Wiggins.

This section of the DCMS Committee’s report arises from the publication of documents by the Russian ‘Fancy Bear’ hacking group which showed that Sir Bradley benefitted from the use of three separate Therapeutic Use Exemptions (“TUEs”) for a “powerful corticosteroid, triamcinolone” to treat his asthma, prior to both the 2011 and 2012 Tour de France and the 2013 Giro d’Italia.

The Report sets out the background to TUEs, which Sports Shorts has covered previously here, and goes on to consider their use in competitive cycling in particular. It is notable that in this section of the Report the DCMS Committee has relied upon “several doctors, who wish not to be named” and evidence given to the Cycling Independent Reform Commission anonymously. It is a consistent aspect of the Report that the DCMS Committee appears to have accepted such anonymous evidence without seeking to question its veracity or the weight that should be attached to it.

In respect of TUEs generally the DCMS Committee accepts that their use is permitted within the WADA rules but states that it has concern that the “TUE system is open to abuse”.

The Report then focusses on events surrounding the 2011 Criterium du Dauphiné road race which ended on 12 June 2011 and was won by Sir Bradley. This was a key preparatory event for Sir Bradley who was seeking to win the Tour de France which started on 2 July that year.

In particular, the DCMS Committee wished to examine what happened immediately after the race had finished. Of particular focus was the contents of a now notorious “jiffy bag” sent to Team Sky at the end of the race.

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An analysis of the DCMS Select Committee Report: ‘Combatting doping in sport’ – Part 1 “Knowledge and prevalence of doping in world athletics”

On Monday the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (“DCMS Committee”) published its long awaited report of its investigations into doping in sport (the “Report”). The Report has led to a number of sensational headlines concerning those criticised within it.

The background to the DCMS’s inquiry has been covered previously by Sports Shorts here.

The DCMS Committee’s inquiry started in 2015 following a series of articles published in The Sunday Times concerning the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs (“PEDs”) in athletics. The inquiry was then extended to look into doping in cycling, in response to the hacking of the WADA database by the Russian ‘Fancy Bear’ hacking group. Finally, the DCMS Committee examined issues relating to an investigation by the United Stated Anti-Doping Agency into Alberto Salazar, the American coach of Sir Mo Farah.

Despite the 43 page Report being entitled “Combatting doping in sport” it in fact focusses on the above three topics only, with the final three pages considering whether doping in sport should be considered a criminal offence.

This first in a three part series of articles reviewing the Report will deal with its findings in respect of the “Knowledge and prevalence of doping in world athletics”.

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Changes announced to 2018/19 UEFA Champions League

UEFA has announced that it will implement a number of changes to its UEFA Champions League competition, commencing from next season. The summary of the key changes are listed and explored further below:

  • More teams will qualify directly for the group stage of the competition: 26 next season compared to 22 this season.
  • The top four teams of the four highest-ranking national associations (currently Spain, England, Italy and Germany) will gain direct qualification to the competition’s group stage.
  • Only six teams will gain entry through the qualifying rounds of the competition compared to 10 this season due to more places available for direct qualification to the group stage.
  • More teams will be able to qualify for the Europa League upon elimination from the Champions League, with 10 sides now able to compete in Europe’s second elite club competition.
  • Change in the formula that determines how teams are ranked.
  • There will be no use of VAR in the Champions League next season.
  • A new kick off format will be introduced, mirroring that of the Europa League with staggered kick offs: 17:55 and 20:00.

Direct Qualification:

All four English teams will directly qualify for the Champions League group stage next season whereas last year Liverpool, despite finishing fourth in the Premier League, had to compete in a testing qualifying contest against Hoffenheim. This is the same for the top four clubs in La Liga, Bundesliga and Serie A. Previously, only the top three national associations would be granted four Champions League places and the fourth spot would be a qualifying place.

The football associations ranked fifth and sixth, currently France and Russia, are entitled to two direct entries each and the next four ranked national associations (Portugal, Ukraine, Belgium and Turkey) have only one place allotted each.

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VAR, a disallowed penalty and The Beast from the East

On Wednesday evening, while the inclement weather brought about by The Beast from the East caused chaos to the United Kingdom’s basic transport infrastructure, another form of chaos was evident in North West London.  At Wembley, Tottenham Hotspur played the replay of their FA Cup tie fifth round tie against Rochdale AFC in freezing conditions.  While Tottenham eventually romped to a 6 – 1 victory, thereby ensuring their place in the quarter finals, most of the ensuing headlines related to refereeing decisions, most notably in respect of the use of the Video Assistant Referee (“VAR”).

Sports Shorts has covered the regulatory framework and the implementation of VAR on a number of occasions in the past, including here, here and here.  What is clear is that VAR is a technology still in its infancy – its application to football is therefore being worked out on a piecemeal basis.  As a result, while VAR has its champions, it also has a number of detractors. Continue Reading

Racism in football – what can we expect at this summer’s World Cup?

In 2016, FIFA disbanded its anti-racism task force, citing that its work was complete ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. FIFA wrote that the task force “completely fulfilled its temporary mission”, which was to develop concrete solutions to fight discrimination in football and strengthen FIFA’s approach to the issue.

Whilst FIFA declares that “both Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 will be World Cups where intolerance and bigotry will not be tolerated”, a task force member has stated that the “problem of racism in football remains a burning, very serious and topical one, which needs continuous attention”.

This article explores how football’s governing bodies have dealt with incidents of racial abuse in the past and what we can expect at this year’s World Cup in Russia.

Racial abuse in football

This season, Liverpool players have been subject to racial abuse during both fixtures against Spartak Moscow. After meeting in a UEFA Youth League contest in September, Spartak Moscow fans subjected Liverpool players to racist chants. In the later fixture between the two teams in December, Spartak Moscow’s youth team captain Leonid Mironov was charged with racist behaviour towards Rhian Brewster, who had to be restrained by teammates after the comment.

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Changes to Consumer Rights Act 2015 to offer great protection to Consumers in Secondary Ticket Market

From 6 April 2018, new rules enter into force which will impact significantly on the online resale of events tickets in the UK, bringing notable changes to the manner in which tickets may be resold for admission to sporting events, as well as other recreational and cultural events.

These new requirements come into force under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 to increase the amount of mandatory information which must be provided by those attempting to resell tickets online. This regulatory change is broadly intended to better ensure that tickets are sold to fans and other individuals with a genuine interest in attending relevant live events, and towards discouraging reselling by ‘ticket touts’ and others seeking to only profit from any onward sale.

These changes in particular require that those attempting to resell events tickets following initial purchase provide the prospective buyer with certain pieces of key information before any contract of onward sale is concluded, namely:

  • where applicable, sufficient details to allow the prospective purchaser to identify any particular seated or standing area applicable;
  • information regarding any restrictions limiting admission only to certain individuals (for example, stating that identification documentation is required or that only those over 18 years of age may be admitted); and
  • details of the original face value ticket price.

In addition, where the re-seller has any connections to the online facility being used for onwards sale, or with the event organiser or primary seller, details surrounding this must also be disclosed. Further, if that event organiser or primary seller has applied a unique ticket number to the relevant ticket, this will also need to be supplied to the new purchaser.

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Winter Olympics: Calls for Video technology in Curling – an unlikely battleground?

‘Super Saturday’ at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang saw the Great Britain team win 3 medals, including a second Gold for Lizzy Yarnold, taking their overall total so far to 4. This equals the biggest ever GB medal haul at the Winter Games and leaves them one short of the medal target set by UK Sport, the body which allocates funding to Olympic sports.

There remains a number of strong medal contenders still to compete including Dave Ryding in the slalom skiing event and the men’s four-man bobsleigh team.

Perhaps the best shot for a record-breaking medal lies with Great Britain’s curling teams. Great Britain has a strong track record in the sport with the men’s team taking silver and the women’s team taking bronze at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Both teams are in a strong position to make the semi-finals of their respective competitions at the end of this week and it is hoped both will equal or better their results from Sochi. However, for the women’s team progress has not been without controversy.

During Sunday’s pool match against Sweden the match was tied at 6-6 with one stone remaining for each team. Team GB’s skipper Eve Muirhead’s stone then had her final stone removed as a result of an alleged violation of the rules known as ‘hogging’ the stone; such being the name given to a foul stone which has not been released prior to the ‘hog line’.

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