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Author Archive for Owen Gibson

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Clearing the hurdles: why we’re keeping the spotlight on women’s sport

Women’s sport has been reaching new audiences in recent months. Now, we want to maintain that momentum beyond the big moments

Eight years ago, when I was sports news correspondent for this newspaper, I found myself hastily dispatched to Helskini to speak to England’s women footballers. They had reached the final of Euro 2009 and, a successful England team being a welcome novelty, we wrote of the hope that their success would change perceptions of women’s sport in this country.

Similar predictions were made after Heather Stanning and Helen Glover took Britain’s first gold during that shimmering London 2012 summer, when the Lionesses came third in the 2015 World Cup in Canada, or after nine million people watched Britain’s heart-stopping hockey victory to win gold in Rio. Yet change remained incremental rather than incredible.

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Young fans have the power to redefine sport with virtual league of their own | Owen Gibson

Supporters disillusioned with modern sport have built enormously popular online teams whose followers are now filling real-life stadiumsA curious thing happened in our corner of south east London last month. Normally quiet side streets were rammed with…

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Lawyer urges football clubs not to impose ‘gagging clauses’ on victims

A lawyer representing former Chelsea player Gary Johnson has urged clubs to be more open about sexual assault in football

The lawyer for Gary Johnson, the former Chelsea footballer who was paid £50,000 to settle his claim for serious sexual abuse by the club’s chief scout in the 1970s, and required to keep the settlement secret, has urged other clubs to be more open and not impose “gagging clauses” on victims.

Related: Police ‘opted against action’ over ex-Chelsea player’s sex abuse claim

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Victims of sexual abuse speak out in week that truly shook football

The brave testimony of one man, Andy Woodward, has led to fears of a paedophile ring in the sport. The Football Assocation and clubs are now under pressure to show they can handle the outpouring

English football, so often the subject of both front and back pages during frothing episodes in which “scandal” and “shame” are appended to any number of trivialities, has had a week during which those words have taken on a deadening tone.

After the former professional Andy Woodward waived his anonymity to tell the Guardian of years of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of Barry Bennell, a convicted paedophile who worked for Crewe Alexandra in the 1980s and 1990s and also had associations with Manchester City and Stoke City, the shockwaves have reverberated around the game.

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‘British Olympic champion’ caught up in alleged IAAF doping cover-up

• Former Russian chief alleges IAAF covered up potential doping violations
• IAAF also accused of ignoring suspicious blood tests of Russian athletes

A sensational new message has emerged from the disgraced former head of Russian athletics in which he alleges the IAAF covered up potential doping violations by British athletes.

In a documentary alleging a welter of new claims about corruption and “mafia style practices” at the International Association of Athletics Federations under its former president Lamine Diack, which is due to be broadcast on Sunday night as part of a joint investigation with the French newspaper Le Monde, the German investigative journalist Hajo Seppelt has uncovered evidence that senior figures at athletics’ world governing body deliberately ignored suspicious blood tests for at least six top Russian athletes since 2011. The programme makers are also publishing a message from Valentin Balakhnichev – the former head of the Russian federation banned for life by the IAAF ethics commission – dating from July 2014, in which he threatens unnamed IAAF officials with blowing the whistle on the conspiracy.

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Sebastian Coe: ‘We are the envy of the world, nobody does it better’

Lord Coe steps down from BOA role with an Olympic legacy to be proud of, he insists, even as corruption allegations continue to loom large in his IAAF in-tray

For Sebastian Coe, it’s been a while since he had much good news to talk about. In his role as IAAF president, there has been nothing but a litany of corruption claims, doping cover-ups, bruising battles with Vladimir Putin and damaging allegations that threaten his own credibility.

But now, hanging up one of his many hats and enjoying the appreciation of the first gathering of British Olympic sports since their Rio success, Lord Coe is on surer ground. After the former sports minister Hugh Robertson was elected to succeed him as British Olympic Association chairman, Coe cuts a substantially more relaxed figure than he did 12 months ago at the height of the crisis that brought athletics to a new low. Standing down after four years in which the BOA has been put back on an even keel financially, cut costs and shed extraneous responsibilities to focus on its core mission and come home from Rio with a record haul of medals, Coe says it is the right time to hand the baton on to another former Tory MP.

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Sebastian Coe: ‘We are the envy of the world, nobody does it better’

Lord Coe steps down from BOA role with an Olympic legacy to be proud of, he insists, even as corruption allegations continue to loom large in his IAAF in-tray

For Sebastian Coe, it’s been a while since he had much good news to talk about. In his role as IAAF president, there has been nothing but a litany of corruption claims, doping cover-ups, bruising battles with Vladimir Putin and damaging allegations that threaten his own credibility.

But now, hanging up one of his many hats and enjoying the appreciation of the first gathering of British Olympic sports since their Rio success, Lord Coe is on surer ground. After the former sports minister Hugh Robertson was elected to succeed him as British Olympic Association chairman, Coe cuts a substantially more relaxed figure than he did 12 months ago at the height of the crisis that brought athletics to a new low. Standing down after four years in which the BOA has been put back on an even keel financially, cut costs and shed extraneous responsibilities to focus on its core mission and come home from Rio with a record haul of medals, Coe says it is the right time to hand the baton on to another former Tory MP.

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Crewe Alexandra: how a football talent factory has been thrown into turmoil | Owen Gibson

Crewe Alexandra are famed for developing talented youngsters but are now tainted after former players spoke of the abuse they suffered at the hands of the coach Barry Bennell at the club in the 1980s

Once best known for its railway junction and now defunct Rolls Royce engineering works, Crewe’s unusually named and unashamedly progressive football club once gave this railway town something to be proud of.

Now, the opposite is true, as the staff and fans of Crewe Alexandra find themselves under the microscope after revelations from their former players Andy Woodward and Steve Walters, who have waived their right to anonymity to speak of the abuse they suffered at the hands of the serial paedophile Barry Bennell while with the club in the 1980s.

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Premier League backs LGBT rainbow laces campaign for weekend’s matches

• Richard Scudamore supports Stonewall’s initiative as part of wider push
• ‘We can use the energy of football on the pitch as a force for good off the pitch’

The Premier League has promised to throw its support behind Stonewall’s rainbow laces initiative as part of a wider push to encourage diversity within its stadiums. Executive chairman Richard Scudamore has written to club-affiliated LGBT supporter groups including Gay Gooner, Rainbow Toffees, Proud Lilywhite and Pride of Irons to thank them for their contributions before this weekend’s campaign.

“We know there is more that we can do to use the spirit and energy of the football on the pitch as a force for good off it, and that is why the Premier League has decided to support Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign,” he wrote.

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Premier League backs LGBT rainbow laces campaign for weekend’s matches

• Richard Scudamore supports Stonewall’s initiative as part of wider push
• ‘We can use the energy of football on the pitch as a force for good off the pitch’

The Premier League has promised to throw its support behind Stonewall’s rainbow laces initiative as part of a wider push to encourage diversity within its stadiums. Executive chairman Richard Scudamore has written to club-affiliated LGBT supporter groups including Gay Gooner, Rainbow Toffees, Proud Lilywhite and Pride of Irons to thank them for their contributions before this weekend’s campaign.

“We know there is more that we can do to use the spirit and energy of the football on the pitch as a force for good off it, and that is why the Premier League has decided to support Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign,” he wrote.

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Sporting governance boards ‘out of step’ with their BAME figures

• ‘Across 68 sport boards, only 4% have BAME representation’
• Figures extrapolated from research into 601 board members

Figures have revealed 90% of sports governing bodies have no individuals from BAME backgrounds in leadership positions, amid calls to end the “institutional racism” endemic in the sector.

Research by Sporting Equals has shown that across 68 sports boards, including national governing bodies, there is only one chair from a BAME background and one chief executive. Out of 601 board members, only 4% (26) are BAME.

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IOC has behaved like Keystone Cops in anti-doping fight, says US chief

• Travis Tygart blasts governing body over ‘chaos’ of attempted reform
• Decision not to ban Russia from Rio Games was not right message

Travis Tygart, the US Anti-Doping chief executive, has accused the International Olympic Committee of acting like the “Keystone cops” and warned that it is “now or never” to overhaul the global fight against doping in the wake of the Russian scandal or lose it forever.

The World Anti-Doping Agency met at the weekend to re-elect Sir Craig Reedie as president for another three years, ratify a process that should allow it to set its own sanctions against non-compliant countries for the first time, and launch its first whistleblower programme.

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Aiba president CK Wu accused of personally securing controversial loan

• Ousted Ho Kim says president went to Azerbaijan himself to finalise deal
• World governing body is already at centre of scandal over Rio Olympics

A former senior executive at world boxing’s embattled governing body who was ousted in a bitter power struggle has claimed its president was intimately involved in securing a controversial loan from Azerbaijan.

The new claims about the genesis of the deal come amid wider concern over the organisation’s finances and the details of a looming 100-year commercial deal with a Chinese firm.

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Wada pushes for power to suspend non-compliant countries

Wada responds to farce over Russia’s involvement in the Rio Olympics by calling for greater powers to tackle doping despite strong opposition from the IOC

The World Anti-Doping Agency is expected to call for the power to set its own sanctions against non-compliant countries in the wake of this summer’s farce over Russia’s involvement in the Rio Olympics.

Sunday’s meeting in Glasgow of its board, at which the president, Sir Craig Reedie, is expected to be re-elected for another three-year term, is due to feature discussion of a paper that recommends more powers for Wada.

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‘First step’ taken towards introducing safe standing in Premier League

• Rail seating was discussed at Premier League meeting on Thursday
• Executives tasked with examining the issues around controversial move

The 20 top-flight clubs have tasked the Premier League with scoping out the issues surrounding safe standing to inform a debate about whether it could be introduced in England. The move was described as “probably the first step” towards safe standing by David Gold, a co-owner of West Ham and one of the more enthusiastic proponents of the plan.

After discussing the subject formally for the first time on Thursday, amid signs of a shifting mood among the majority of Premier League clubs, league executives were mandated to conduct a fact-finding exercise.

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Andy Woodward’s harrowing story must be an urgent call to arms for football

The former player’s revelations of the sexual abuse he suffered at Crewe will hopefully prompt others to come forward and force football to assess whether it is equipped to face its past and is doing everything possible to avoid a repeat

In some ways it should not come as a shock, given the horrific stories that have already poured forth from the media, showbusiness and music industries about institutionalised abuse of children in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s. But we may never become inured to the numbing, dizzying dislocation that has been prompted by Andy Woodward’s startlingly brave, disarmingly matter-of-fact account of how his childhood was stolen by a convicted paedophile football coach employed by Crewe Alexandra and several other clubs during the 1980s and 1990s.

To read Woodward’s account is to be reminded that this was likely to have been no isolated case and that there are likely to be more perpetrators and others, possibly many others, who were similarly affected. It is naive to think that football – with its similar cocktail of glamour, ambition, power and opportunity – could not also be a breeding ground for those wanting to prey on boys who would do almost anything to make it as a professional.

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Fifa begins disciplinary proceedings over England and Scotland poppies

• Both could face fines for defying rules over ‘political’ symbols
• England and Scotland could also have points docked

Fifa has commenced disciplinary proceedings against England and Scotland for wearing armbands featuring poppies on Armistice Day.

The issue sparked a national debate when Fifa indicated that wearing the symbol would be in contravention of its rules relating to the display of political symbols. The English and Scottish FAs said they planned to wear the armbands regardless for the World Cup qualifier at Wembley last Friday, which England won 3-0.

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BAME coach numbers stall in English football’s four divisions

• Sports People’s Think Tank figures reveal 4.1% are employed
• Wolves ignored the process twice in last year, authors claim

Two years after it called for a target of one in five coaches to come from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background by the end of the decade, new research commissioned by the Sports People’s Think Tank has revealed barely any progress towards that goal.

Figures compiled by Loughborough University show that despite initiatives from the Football League, Premier League and Football Association to increase diversity, the percentage of BAME coaches in senior positions remains only 4.1%.

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England masses cannot mask apathy and unloved international football | Owen Gibson

Most of the fans cramming the stadium for international friendlies and qualifiers are after a fairly cheap night out. The result matters rather less than it used to

They are among the hardest working men and women in football. Even before Spain arrive at Wembley on Tuesday night to provide the latest obstacle to the tottering baby steps of Gareth Southgate’s tenure as England manager, those whose job it is to continue to fill Wembley began trumpeting their wares for March’s home qualifier against Lithuania.

No matter how big the humiliation or how small the pool of English talent, the masses keep trudging up Olympic Way for the friendlies and qualifying ties that keep the FA’s tills ringing and have helped contribute to a changed financial picture which, the FA chief executive Martin Glenn told an industry event last week, will boost its revenues by £100m a year. “The Wembley Stadium proposition is profitable, it is not a stone in our shoe any more,” he said.

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Gareth Southgate: I have no fear about taking England manager’s job

Southgate feels he has shown the passion and desire to become permament England manager but warns his players to show ‘bravery not stupidity’

Gareth Southgate is confident he has demonstrated his passion for the England manager’s role and says he has no concerns about the post going into a process that is likely to lead to him being confirmed in the position.

“There are no fears with the job. It would be easy to look at the negatives but to work with top players and in big matches is what I want to do,” said Southgate, confirming that he expected the Football Association’s recruitment process to begin after Tuesday’s friendly against Spain.

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