2009 was tough year for the sports world with match-fixing incidents, numerous scandals and many sponsors pulling their endorsements. John Davidson reviews the year and asks, what will 2010 bring?
By any measure, 2009 was certainly a difficult year for the world of sport.
Thanks to the global recession many companies scaled backed their investments in sport and their sponsorships of athletes. Some sports events folded without big business support. Michael Phelps’ marijuana use at a party came as a shock to many, while the fallout from the scandal around Tiger Woods was unprecedented. Most of Woods’ sponsors have head for the hills, while many golfers fear the sport is heading for a huge decline if Tiger isn’t competing.
Cricket has its own fair share of drama, from the Allen Stanford’s fraud to terrorism striking the Sri Lankan cricket team while they were on tour in Pakistan. Rugby union has also had a tough year. The standard on the field has been fairly poor, leading to calls for reform and new laws to be introduced to spice up the game. Off-field incidents in the UK, New Zealand and Australia have also afflicted the sport, from drug abuse (UK) to false claims of assault (NZ) and burglary (Australia). There then was Harlequin’s ‘Bloodgate’ saga, were a player faked an injury by biting on a blood capsule so that a teammate could replace him. That was an episode of cheating so pathetic that if it weren’t so serious it would be funny.
Formula One has arguably taken more blows than any other sport in 2009. There was ‘Crashgate’ in Singapore, Felipe Massa’s serious injury, teams pulling out of the competition, threats to start a new breakaway league, Briatore’s ban then reprieve, and Max Mosley’s lurid sex antics revealed by a British newspaper. 2009 was certainly a year F1 would like to forget.
Rugby league in Australia has also reeled from a series of off-field incidents, the same as its local rival Aussie Rules. Football has seen the ugly Marlon King debacle, the English Premier League striker going to jail for attacking a woman. More English clubs have fallen into debt and in China match-fixing and corruption have taken their toll. The fixing of matches in some European leagues has also been exposed.
In the US, National Football League players have died under tragic circumstances, while Major League Baseball has been again tainted by the specter of performance-enhancing drugs. Mark McGwire can now be added to the list of great baseballers who have admitted to steroid use.
Virtually every sport has had its fair share of trouble, and been severely tested. 2009 was a year where cheating was in the spotlight – in F1, in rugby, and in football thanks to Thierry Henry’s handball. But amidst all this have been several bright spots – an enthralling Ashes series, a tough but exciting British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa, the continuing greatness of Usain Bolt and the continual excellence of Roger Federer. Lets not forget the scintillating play of Lionel Messi and his all-conquering Barcelona team.
So if 2009 was the year when cheating reared its ugly head, what do we have to look forward to in 2010?
A lot, actually. The grand prize is the World Cup in South Africa in June but there’s also the Asian Games in China, the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Singapore’s Youth Olympics, the return of Indian Premier League cricket to its birthplace and India’s hosting of the Commonwealth Games in October. And that’s just to name a few.
Sadly, terrorism has already reentered the world of sport with the recent shameful attack on the Togo football team at the African Nations Cup, which left several people dead. But let us hope that it remains an isolated incident. Let us hope that is the beauty, the passion and the purity of sport that remains fresh in our minds at the end of 2010, and not violence or cheating. Let us hope that spectators and sponsors return in greater numbers this year because we are reminded that sport has the ability to bring out the best in us as human beings, not the worst.
Written by: John Davidson
Image: Gareth Watkins / Reuters
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