If you know me you will know that I am passionate about sport. I was brought up in a home where sport was always centre stage, we played, we watched, we discussed. Later on I became an athlete then a coach and in recent years I have worked closely with any number of organisations in the hope of improving the development of sport.
Yet I ask, even for someone like myself, is there a point at which sport loses credibility?
This week we have seen Ferrari let off any meaningful punishment for a blatant breach of the rules of Formula One at the German Grand Prix. As a fan of motor sport, someone who spends a lot of money following the sport each year, how should I feel should Fernando Alonso win the world driver’s title by less than the seven points he gained by his team’s cheating?
I’m less of a snooker fan but in the same week we have seen John Higgins also let off any meaningful punishment for being caught on film agreeing to take £300,000 to throw a game. Next time we see him miss an easy pot; can we believe what we are seeing?
In both instances the governing bodies tasked with protecting the integrity of the two sports in question have let the very same sports, and thereby the fans, down.
But I am not picking on motor sport and snooker, the fall in standards, the acceptance of cheating as the ‘norm’ is rife. The issue of taking bribes and spot betting has been at the forefront of cricket news, rugby union suffered the ‘bloodgate’ fiasco and in football ‘diving’ has become an accepted part of the sport, even cheered by fans of the player getting away with it.
Standards in football have even dropped to the level where a player who has served a ban for missing a drug test is seen as a better option as national team captain to one who has cheated on his wife.
Athletics, swimming, cycling and other sports have all had their share of performers who thought they could cheat their competitors and the fans by taking illegal substances or who missed tests put in place to catch such cheating, but at least in those sports the governing bodies don’t then reward the individuals concerned.
Cheating is cheating. The rules of each sport define what is and is not permitted. An athlete taking steroids is no more or less a cheat than the cricketer deliberately bowling no balls or the footballer taking a dive to win a penalty.
Sport isn’t losing its moral compass, it has already lost it. Following the latest high profile contributions to sport’s ethical decline from Formula One, snooker and cricket is there a point at which credibility drops to the point at which we lose faith in what we are watching?
Where is the point at which sport will lose its public or, are we all contributing to the moral decline by simply accepting cheating as an integral part of sport, an acceptable way to improve the chances of fame, fortune or victory?
© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global Limited, 2010