'Bout time sport cleaned up its money-centred act

20:53, Feb 10 2013

 Has sport hit rock bottom? Has the mix of money and sport final caught up on us?

These are two questions for you ponder and my belief is it would be hard to deliver a compelling counter-argument and to answer those two questions with "no".

Having a job where you write about sport often leads to people probing you on your opinions on certain things in social gatherings.

Sport - and the weather - are the ultimate conversation starters.

For centuries people have picked through the hot topics of sport as a point of discussion - why one sporting team is going well or why another might be struggling.

Debating sport is a massive pastime in many people's lives; it can often be a distraction to many people's everyday struggles.


But the past fortnight or so has highlighted that sport is facing probably its darkest and most difficult time and people are losing confidence in those running it and those beefing up their bank balances because of it.

The opinions people have probed me on in recent weeks have bounced from the Lance Armstrong and general drug-cycling scandal, to the revelations 380 football games worldwide are being investigated for possible match fixing, to the Australian Government's announcement that there is believed to be wide-spread gang-related corruption in sport in their country.

They are not discussing the form of a certain player or team, or whether a coach should stay or go, which you often get.

Close to home the focus has turned to yet another sporting debacle to debate, which was that no one seemed to know whether the Sonny Bill Williams-Francois Botha boxing fight was supposed to be a 10-round affair or a 12-round contest on Friday night.

Williams should be given credit for showing more than your usual five-fight novice would against a seasoned pro and as a boxing contest over 10 rounds it was a compelling spectacle.

But the praise ends there.

This turned into a debacle and yet another sign that sport in my eyes has hit rock bottom and, yes, money is winning.

How can an event that sees people pay $39.95 to watch it on television be so poorly organised and leave everyone guessing as to what was going on and how long it was actually supposed to go for.

Williams won, but everyone on this planet who can breathe would be confident in saying that if it had gone to rounds 11 and 12, like it was advertised, Botha would have knocked Williams out.

This is where the evil money and sporting mix comes into it - well, it certainly looks as if it has come into it, anyway.

Let's say Williams goes into the 11th round and is knocked out as he would have been, his boxing days would have been all but over. His promoter, Khoder Nasser, then loses one of his key money-making ventures, which is Sonny Bill Williams the boxer.

Nasser - the promoter of the event who bankrolls the entire affair, including paying the referee, judges, broadcasters, the lot - decides he doesn't want Williams to lose, so it's now a 10-round affair instead of 12 as first advertised.

It is nothing short of fraud if, in fact, this is how it played out.

Gambling, drugs and general greed is the cancer killing what many of us love about sport.

Until the public can feel confident that those people running the various codes are, in fact, doing it for the best interests of that particular sport - rather than for themselves - it will be a tough hole to climb out of for world sport.

The Southland Times