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Filthy lucre tarnishes a tradition

Michael Reid

Michael Reid

Written on Tuesday, 01 June 2010 21:05

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Sport's filthy lucre. It defines and it defiles.

Thanks to the forces of globalisation and the convergence of interests of the moneymen, the broadcasters, the administrators and the athletes, we can now enjoy almost any big (or modest) sporting event, any where, any time. All at the press of a button.

It is the reason why I could spend a lazy late Saturday afternoon at a bar on the shores of Lake Geneva in Nyon, home of UEFA, channel surfing in the company of a rowdy mob of Yarpies watching the Bulls beat the Stormers in Soweto as Millwall held off Swindon to clinch promotion to the English Championship at Wembley.

As the South Africans departed, it was time to watch Leicester edge Saracens in a thrilling Premiership final at Twickenham. I'm sure if we had asked, the accommodating barman would have beamed up the action from Lord's and Roland Garros also.

And this was a quiet weekend, the European soccer season just finished and the World Cup yet to start.

There is no reason these days why any sports fan should go without their requisite fill of action wherever they may find themselves in the world.

But the filthy lucre can sometimes, if not spoil, then soil the show.

After beating Swindon 1-0, the Millwall players made the customary climb up the steps at Wembley to receive their League One silverware.

What caught the attention was not the Spinal Tap moment when they held aloft the piddling excuse for a trophy. (In a similar vein, a former Canadian newspaper colleague, accustomed to Stanley Cup-size pots, could not hide his incredulity when Andrew Strauss "hoisted" the Ashes urn last August. "Is that what all the fuss has been about?" he marvelled, having held back the first edition for the previous six weeks so our Middle East readers could get the Test score).

What jarred on Saturday was the fact that the players, on the dais and later back on the pitch posing for the team photo, had covered over the team shirts they had sweated and drawn blood in to win the glory, with T-shirts emblazoned with Coca Cola, the competition sponsor.

Of course, we all recognise that Coke's sponsorship is crucial to the survival of the game at that level, as is the support of all sponsors to professional leagues around the world.

But to my mind, the company's insistence on snatching every last second of TV exposure, and the players' rush to parade their corporate masters' signage within minutes of the final whistle, was a little too crass, slightly tarnishing a much-loved tradition of Wembley winners climbing the steps to receive and share their spoils with the fans.

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