Rob Minto

Sport, data, ideas and miscellany

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Sport Geek #30: in a fix

It’s usually money that corrupts sport. But in the case of tennis, it’s also technology. As I wrote this week in the FT, there are betting exchanges with a huge range of under-the-radar matches where you can bet on set outcomes. It makes match-fixing look incredibly easy. The hope is that the very technology that allows the match-fixing can also help catch it. Readily available data means anyone with a spreadsheet skills can track what’s going on. Surely, if BuzzFeed and the BBC can do it, tennis can monitor itself properly?

Here are the stories of the week: Continue reading

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Sport Geek #29: Yaya no-no; LA-la land; Fifa foe

There are some phrases that, by their very nature, make it very hard for the listener to disagree. They are like putting “right?” on the end of every sentence. At some point, the response needs to be: “wrong” – but that makes you sound aggressive and antagonistic. Right? (see what I did there).

Case in point. When Donald Trump called for a ban on Muslims entering the US, he followed up with: “We have no choice. We have NO choice.” Well, yes we do have a choice, but the battlelines have been drawn in a place you don’t want them. Arguing about choice isn’t the point.

And so to Yaya Touré. Having come second as African footballer of the year, his classless reaction was to ponder: “what can we do?” The obvious response is: “there is no ‘we’. You need to grow up and stop being an arrogant git”. Yet that’s too aggressive. The polite response is to quietly ponder: “Hmm, what can we do?” But that’s giving in. He’s already won if we do that. So while Trump and Touré don’t seem too similar on the surface, they are both very good at framing the debate in their terms. Beware.

And so to this newsletter, which is back after a holiday hiatus. Not comprehensive, but hopefully thoughtful. Enjoy. Continue reading

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Sport Geek #28: Blatini, frisbee, Chelsea

It’s a busy time of year. Let’s crack on, shall we?

Mourinho’s gone. Here’s the inside story of how it all unfolded. It all started with Eden Hazard’s injury at Swansea. So who’s to blame? It’s not just Jose, surely. Have the club made an error by sacking him? And can Hiddink (if it is to be him) turn it around?

2015 should be Arsenal’s year to win the title. The other usual suspects won’t all be as weak in the future.  Here’s a look at how topsy-turvy the season has been so far. Much will depend on Ozil and Giroud.

This changed things forever: Bosman, 20 years on.

RIP Jimmy Hill.

Abby Wambach is one of the greatest female football players ever. She’s retiring. Have you heard of her? No, well, she wants you to forget her, anyway.

Heard of Football Leaks? Dutch side F.C. Twente certainly have.

2015 LOL.

Blatini banned. But they aren’t sorry. No siree. Not. At. All. But Tim Roth is, at least.  Continue reading

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Sport Geek #27: a betrayal worthy of playing sub-standard football

Jose Mourinho feels betrayed by his players at Chelsea. He did all the hard work, you see, when they won the title, conveniently forgetting the running-about-and-kicking-the-ball-and-scoring-the-goals bit done by those blokes on the pitch. And now they are playing badly, it’s their fault, not his. Credit where it’s due. He can’t be blamed for the biggest reversal of fortune since Max Zuckerberg was born.

So how would you feel right now as a Chelsea player? Motivated to prove him wrong, play your best and move out of the relegation zone? Or poke him in the eye, play like it’s a testimonial, and move out of London? If Mourinho thinks that rubbishing his players will somehow work, it’s a huge gamble. That, or he’s given up too, and might as well take everyone down with him. Brilliant.

And so to the best articles of the week. Continue reading

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Sport Geek #26: Tyson Furore, 140+7, and stop the toss

Glory fades. Just ask Tiger Woods, who is still week after week the subject of speculative articles about his future. Just look at Tyson Fury, who wins those heavyweight titles from Wladimir Klitschko and promptly gets (rightly) pilloried for his sexist and homophobic comments.

The sports person who seems most in tune with the fleeting nature of glory at the moment is Andy Murray. After a huge effort to win the Davis Cup, he put the boot into the LTA and British tennis. That’s good. Right time, right moment to get maximum impact for an important message about your sport. Forget personal glory. It doesn’t last, anyway.

And so to the pick of the week… (in alphabetical order this week) Continue reading

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Sport Geek #25: sleeves, pink balls, and vanishing spray

Just for a change, let’s start with US sports.

Just guessing, but I assume Drew Magary isn’t on Kobe Bryant‘s Christmas card list.

What’s with the sleeves? Continue reading

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Sport Geek #24: the undefeated, remembering Lomu, and NK weightlifters

A later edition this week, but some cracking stories. With no further ado: Continue reading

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Sport Geek #23: spoilsports, terror, and economy mode

England used to fight wars with France. Now we look on aghast at the events in Paris.

Poignantly, the football match between England and France goes ahead tonight, and rightly so. Part of the point of sport is to channel our competitive instincts and our desire to fight. Yet being a civilised society, we can step back and support our sporting enemy, and in so doing a match that would resonate as a friendly proxy for war becomes a show of solidarity.

That’s the beauty of sport. It can change and reflect whatever as a society we want to see in it. You can’t do that with guns and bombs. The best response to terror is not to hide, but to show a better way. Football might not matter in the grand scheme of things, but as a stage for showing how the people of two rival countries can be friends, it’s never been more important.

And so to the stories of the week… Continue reading

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Sport Geek # 22: drugs, sexism, and bad teeth

Why aren’t there more female jockeys? Or F1 drivers? When it comes to sport and women, there is plenty of discussion of the merits of (say) women’s football or tennis versus the men’s game. But when it comes to sports where women can actually compete alongside men, have we given up?

Four years on from the Sky Sports sexism row, which started over a female linesman in a man’s world, we seem no further down the road in terms of accepting or promoting women in roles that could be filled by either sex. Three recent stories bring this home (see below for details). From Michelle Payne to Susie Wolff, the theme is the same: institutional prejudice and resistance to women competing alongside men.

The push for women’s sport to gain greater acceptance is, largely, a struggle for attention, both of the audience and the media. In the meantime, we are forgetting the struggle for opportunity. That means we cut off a huge talent pool and a diversity of personalities that would make sport far more interesting.

Anyway, to the stories of the week. No prizes for guessing what comes first… Continue reading

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Sport Geek #21: the caddie strikes back

Often we are told that the margin between winning and losing in sport is incredibly thin.

Which makes the All Blacks’ World Cup victory all the more impressive. Four years ago they should have lost the final, but for some dubious refereeing decisions (see previous Sport Geek round ups). But this time around, the gap to the rest was vast. For other teams, the margins were narrow indeeed – had England kicked for goal against Wales, had Scotland not been robbed at the last moment, things would have been very different. But for New Zealand, it just never seemed in doubt.

So, to the week’s round up. Continue reading

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