Rob Minto

Sport, data, ideas

Month: March 2016

Sport Geek #35: Maria!

There’s only one story in sport this week: Maria Sharapova.

While we should have no tolerance of drug cheats, there are lots of questions that don’t seem to me to  answered yet. Such as:

– surely Sharapova has a team of people (dietitians, trainers) – why did none of them stop this?
– why does Wada email these changes? Who clicks on links in emails about drugs?
– why was Sharapova taking a drug that is meant to be taken for 4 to 6 weeks for 10 years?

Forget the sponsors stuff for a minute – and the irony of VW (Porsche) dropping her given their interesting history with gaming the system. This should once and for all put to rest the ridiculous idea that tennis is too skilled a sport for drugs to make a difference.

Sharapova might be the biggest fish in the women’s game, but I suspect in time even bigger names will get caught, and for more clear-cut drug use. The match-fixing scandal will look like a minor blip in comparison.


Andrew Hill in the FT: The deciding point for Sharapova could be that tennis and its backers can do without her.

Marina Hyde writes that Sharapova’s single error excuse is a suspension of disbelief too far: Maria Sharapova claims she made a huge mistake but it looks less like a misjudgment and more like a flaw that echoes other famous downfalls.

As the NYTimes points out, it is not as if tennis does not know how to march on without Maria Sharapova. She has missed extended periods of play because of major shoulder surgery and other ailments during the past nine years. Continue reading

Sport Geek #34: Infantino and the popcorn business

Gianni Infantino clearly knows how to get some positive press.

His very first day in the Fifa top job – a job that belonged to yoda’s evil twin Sepp Blatter for the last 382 years – he somehow organises a match with a group of football legends, garnering barely a single critical word.

The independent: Gianni Infantino celebrates Fifa election success with legends football match
The Guardian: Fifa president Gianni Infantino wants to reignite ‘love of the game’

Ah, the love of the game. Friendly rich ex-pros laughing for the cameras. That’s what it’s all about. Putting the fun back into Fifa.

Wrong, wrong, WRONG.

When financier Guy Hands took over Odeon cinemas, he had to stop executives thinking they worked in Hollywood. He reminded everyone that they were in the popcorn business, not the movie business.

Infantino needs to realise he’s not in the football business. Not in the sense of running a club, building dreams, having them shattered and doing it all again next season. He’s in the business of organising events – World Cups, specifically. Who bids for them, how the TV money is distributed, and managing the reserve fund in the intervening years. Nothing else matters.

If he does his job well, no-one should recognise him, care about what he says, or pay him any attention. He needs to create a boring, transparent governing body that gets almost no news coverage. It is based in Switzerland, so that’s a good start. But he should forget the star-studded kickabouts, and get on with the job. (Related: read what’s wrong with sports officials by Simon Kuper)

Anyway, here are six recent stories that you should read: Continue reading

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