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SPORTS AGENDA: Northern Irish star saddened by British kit snub

Given they have just launched a campaign promoting ‘diversity and togetherness’, it was surprising to see that UK Athletics again omitted any mention of Northern Ireland on the new Great Britain and Northern Ireland team gear when the range was unveiled last week.

The failure to include Northern Ireland on the kit which will be worn at this summer’s major championships has struck a nerve with many, including sprint hurdler Megan Marrs.

The Belfast athlete, 24, tweeted: ‘As gorgeous as this new kit is, I can’t pretend part of me wasn’t hoping it would say “United Kingdom” or include Northern Ireland in some way.’

The kit does include the Union flag for the first time since it was removed from the design in 2015.

Northern Irish star Megan Marrs expressed sadness over her country's absence from GB's kit

Northern Irish star Megan Marrs expressed sadness over her country’s absence from GB’s kit

GAME, SET AND MATCH TO BBC MAN FULLER

It appears the BBC cull of experienced, knowledgeable staff has had a knock-on effect. Ahead of Wimbledon the broadcaster’s tennis correspondent Russell Fuller felt compelled to send an email urging staff not to get their ‘games’ mixed up with their ‘matches’. Seriously.

The scarcely believable missive, seen by Agenda, reads: ‘A quick plea before Wimbledon about the importance of referring to a tennis match. You win a point to win a game, to win a set, to win a match. 

‘Referring to a match as a game can therefore cause some confusion, and potentially alienate listeners who play or follow the sport more regularly.’

Presumably feeling he had to go further to present the point in the simplest terms, Fuller added: ‘By way of example: “Emma Raducanu has been able to play just seven games on grass so far this season”. Seven matches would be quite a lot; seven games is very little.’

The BBC have looked to ensure their staff are using the correct terminology during Wimbledon

The BBC have looked to ensure their staff are using the correct terminology during Wimbledon

BRITISH CYCLING’S PARTNERSHIP DILEMMA

The British Cycling accounts may make for interesting reading when they land shortly. 

The organisation have been unable to find a replacement for HSBC, who exercised a break clause to get out of their partnership in 2020, but who agreed to extend it by a year given the damage their withdrawal could have done to the team that headed to the Tokyo Olympics.

Despite that act of goodwill – secured by the outgoing Julie Harrington – her successor Brian Facer has been unable to find a new partner.

BUSH PRESS MAN IS LIV’S POLISHER OF THE PROVERBIAL 

Ari Fleischer, polisher of the proverbial, emerged as PR chief for the stomach-churning Saudi-backed LIV Golf breakaway tour. 

The American was famously White House press secretary under George W Bush and so has experience of trying to make the unpalatable palatable.

It was Fleischer who ran the recruitment process for the deeply unpopular owners of Manchester United, the Glazer family, when they sought a replacement for former PR adviser and spokesperson Tes Nayani. 

Some have wondered if Fleischer may end up as a broker should the much-rumoured Saudi interest in United turn into something concrete.

Ari Fleischer (pictured) has emerged as the PR chief for the stomach-churning LIV Golf tour

Ari Fleischer (pictured) has emerged as the PR chief for the stomach-churning LIV Golf tour

CRUCIAL USOPC CHAIR VOTE LOOMS 

The upcoming election of chair of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) takes on more significance with reports that LA28 is struggling to hit commercial targets and contain costs.

As reported by Agenda in April, the favoured candidate – Gene Sykes (of Goldman Sachs fame) – is very close to Casey Wasserman, chairman of LA28. 

There is speculation among the near 50 national governing bodies that if Sykes is elected, he could have his eye on the several hundred million dollars USOPC have in reserve and use it as an LA28 financial backstop. LA28 and USOPC already work closely together on commercial matters.

Sykes’ rival candidate, Dexter Paine, is from the world of skiing, and will no doubt be talking about the need to use those reserves for US grassroots sport. Expect a tough final period of campaigning.

CEFERIN EYEING UP €10M AT UEFA HELM

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin appears to be preparing to run for re-election not only in 2023 but also in 2027 – and net €10million in the process. 

The Slovenian, on around €2.5m a year, told Gazzetta dello Sport he plans to run in 2023. But when asked if it would be his last term – given there is a maximum of three and that would be his third – the answer was telling.

‘In theory (I could stay) until 2031, because the first does not count — it lasted two and a half years,’ he said of his 2016 coronation. Nice work if you can get it. 

Aleksandr Ceferin is already eyeing up future re-elections at UEFA, and a €10million windfall

Aleksandr Ceferin is already eyeing up future re-elections at UEFA, and a €10million windfall

RAPTUROUS RESPONSE FOR RILEY 

Mike Riley experienced a rare moment for a referee when he announced he was stepping down this season at PGMOL’s annual conference. 

Riley was given a standing ovation by all in attendance at the event, hosted by Dion Dublin. 

There is a view within PGMOL that the organisation has changed beyond recognition since Riley took over 13 years ago. 

FALLOUT FROM BOXING’S OLYMPICS SNUB 

Many Olympic watchers were surprised that the IOC excluded the International Boxing Association (IBA) from running the sport at Paris 2024 last week. 

Agenda understands Thomas Bach was nervous that the Russian president of IBA, Umar Kremlev, would win an upcoming re-run election and complete much-needed governance reforms. 

This would have made it almost impossible to legally exclude the troublesome IBA. Therefore the IOC executive board voted IBA out. All eyes now on whether they challenge the decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. 

DISTATE OVER MCC COLOSTOMY-GATE 

Colostomy-gate – which saw MCC chairman Bruce Carnegie-Brown take the mickey out of elderly members at a recent meeting – is all the more distasteful given that in 2017 Lord’s joined the Colostomy Association’s Stoma Friendly Society campaign. 

MCC officials even made changes to ensure Lord’s facilities were ‘stoma friendly’, displaying signs stating ‘not all disabilities are visible’.

GROUNDS SET FOR FOOD INSPECTION BLITZ 

You may wish to think twice next time you order a pre-match pint or pie. 

The impact of Covid has meant that many of the country’s professional sports grounds have not had visits from council environmental health inspectors for two – and in some cases three – years. 

A blitz is planned for the forthcoming football season. 

Many of the UK's professional sports grounds have not been subjected to health inspections

Many of the UK’s professional sports grounds have not been subjected to health inspections

Contributors: Jonathan McEvoy and Riath Al-Samarrai


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