CHRISTIAN RADNEDGE REVIEWS THE LAST 12 MONTHS —- New Zealand won the Rugby World Cup, England regained the Ashes, Chile won the Copa America for the first time and Barcelona swept five top trophies but 2015 will go down in sporting history as the Year of Corruption.
Too many sports headlines focused on the twisted, self-centred greed of directors at the head of world football federation FIFA after a swathe of arrests in the investigation launched by the United States Department of Justice which was echoed by a Swiss inquiry into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting awards.
Football administration plummeted to a nadir with eight-year bans imposed on presidents Sepp Blatter of world governing body FIFA and Michel Platini of European federation UEFA but they were closely followed in the notoriety stakes by Lamine Diack and his close associates from world athletics.
The departing head of the International Association of Athletics Federations was accused of complicity in a cover-up of dope-test results, largely concerning Russian competitors.
In many ways the athletics scandal threatened to inflict greater damage on the image of sport than FIFAGate because, with the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro around the corner, the corruption virus infected competitive results as well as financial outcomes.
At a political level the year began with the United States Olympic Committee triumphantly announcing it had chosen Boston as their candidate city to bid to host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Residents were not so keen however, and just six months later in July the city’s bid had been dropped, being replaced by two-time host Los Angeles at the last minute. Boston’s bid may not be so easily airbrushed from history as the pace of campaigning ramps up with LA challenged by Budapest, Rome and – notably – Paris.
Hamburg’s departure from the race after a negative referendum suggested that the Agenda 2020 changes championed by International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach have yet to make much of an impact beyond the sporting cognoscenti.
Not everything went smoothly for Bach who was the subject of a stinging attack at the SportAccord Convention from its president Marius Vizer in Sochi. The rest of the Olympic movement backed Bach but it may yet dawn on them that Vizer, before being forced to quit, raised some valid issues, albeit in an inopportune manner and occasion.
A number of international federations suspended their membership of umbrella-body SportAccord in protest and ITF leader Francesco Ricci Bitti succeeded Vizer who managed the rare feat of even embarrassing his Russian allies and hosts. SportAccord had to scramble to find a new 2016 venue in Lausanne.
Premier League cashes in
In February, the Premier League landed a significant payday after securing a £5.1 billion sale of its broadcasting rights to Sky and BT Sport for the seasons 2016 to 2019. It goes some way to explain why the Premier League felt they could afford to drop title sponsorship from next year when its contract with Barclays runs out.
But all of that was overshadowed by football events in May which could could go down as one of the most infamous months in sporting history.
Only two days before the FIFA presidential election in Zurich, dawn raids by Swiss police saw seven senior FIFA and marketing officials arrested as part of an investigation into corruption in world football by the US DoJ.
Blatter, having beaten off a challenge from Prince Ali of Jordan, decided only four days later that he needed to step down though – with the appeals he and Platini are launching against their bans – he will not be banished from the headlines in the coming year.
A new presidential election was set for February 26, to be contested by Prince Ali, Jerome Champagne, Tokyo Sexwale, Gianni Infantino, Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa.
The FIFA scandal meant that there was a light presence of world football’s governing body at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada, a tournament that shattered records in attendance, TV figures – especially in the United States – and digital interaction for the competition.
The IAAF World Athletics Championships in Beijing saw the Chinese capital finally using its iconic Bird’s Nest Stadium from the 2008 Olympics in another multi-sport capacity.
The month of August also saw new leadership at the IAAF, with Lord Sebastian Coe succeeding Lamine Diack. But the euphoria would soon dissipate as Coe appeared less than sure-footed in dealing with damning revelations revelations surrounding Russia’s historic systematic doping programme.
An independent World Anti-Doping Commission confirmed the allegations and the IAAF council voted to suspend the All-Russia Athletics Federation until the country became compliant with the WADA code.
The ban puts their participation at the Rio Olympics in 2016 at risk. But Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko has insisted his country will do all it can to cooperate with anti-doping measures and regain its status in the world of track and field.
But while the fallout from athletics and FIFA continues, the world of rugby can hold its head high after a hugely successful Rugby World Cup in England.
It was not successful for the home nation, however, who exited the competition in the pool stage. Despite fears that this would trigger a decrease in interest and therefore potential profits, Rugby World Cup 2015 went on to deliver more than £250m in ticket revenues alone, with an £80 million surplus for World Rugby and a £15m surplus going to the RFU.
Pre-tournament boasts of England 2015 being the biggest Rugby World Cup ever were proved true as a record 2.5m attended the tournament, while 120m tuned in to watch the All Blacks defeat Australia 34-17 in the sell-out final at Twickenham to become the first team to win back-to-back World Cup titles.
This was one result no-one could question.
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