5 things in sport we want to (but don’t think we will) see in 2018
England fans behave themselves in Russia
The England football team going to a major tournament usually means two things – 1) the team scraping through the groups stages before being dumped out by the first decent test and 2) a bunch of middle aged men getting too drunk, singing racist songs about the war and throwing plastic chairs at people of different nationalities in a town square.
You would hope that after the treatment rival Russian hooligans gave to their English counterparts at Euro 2016, plus the inevitable (and in this case perhaps justified) scare stories about hard policing at this summer’s tournament, will put off England ‘fans’ from causing trouble.
However, in the same way the national team are addicted to disappointing, we fear there will still be enough supporters wanting their fix of dusting off the Football Factory DVD and throwing drunken haymakers to keep Russian police water cannons in business.
Athletes not having to speak out
One of the most remarkable acts of maturity and bravery in sport in 2017 came just weeks ago from Liverpool rising star Rhian Brewster who gave an incredible, yet deeply disturbing, interview around the seven incidents of racist abuse, including five since May, he has suffered while playing football.
While Brewster has rightly been widely praised for speaking out about this issue, he shouldn’t have to. Issues of abuse in a sporting context should be read about in history books only, not national newspapers.
Governing bodies, sporting associations, teams and sponsors have to act the second words such as these come out of a person’s mouth and put punishments in place that are so severe that even the biggest, most brain dead bigot will think twice about uttering them.
As Brewster himself said in his interview, closing a few seats for one game in a stadium that’s not going to be full anyway is just a slap on the wrist.
Heavyweight boxing being drug-free
For boxing to grow it needs a booming heavyweight division. And thankfully, since Tyson Fury did the unthinkable back in 2015, the heavyweight boxing scene has blown right open. Since then, led mainly by Anthony Joshua, the heavyweight scene has grown and grown and is now firmly back on the world stage as a major sporting force.
What boxing doesn’t need though is more failed drugs tests and weaker penalties from the governing bodies. Any failed drugs tests are of course bad for sport. But in one where you can legally kill another person by some of the most dangerous athletes in the world, the risks are potentially deadly.
Of the current heavyweight mix Luis Ortiz, Lucas Browne, Dillian Whyte, Alexander Povetkin, Mariusz Wach, Shannon Briggs and Bermane Stiverne have all previously failed drugs tests, while both Tyson and Hughie Fury have both had well documented issues with UK Anti-Doping.
If boxing is to continue to grow and crossover to the mainstream, it needs to be seen as a clean sport. Otherwise it’s going to be one big punch and one failed test away from dying as a sport.
No return for XFL
Short and sweet – American Football does not need a pumped up, testosterone fueled alternative to the NFL to play into Donald Trump’s vision of the sport and country.
An XFL revival will ultimately look to capitalise on, and appeal to, the NFL fans that have expressed unhappiness in the wake of player protests against police brutality.
At a time when play concussions are becoming increasingly more researched and concerning, having WWE owner, Vince McMahon, re-introduce XFL, a vision of American Football that openly sells and hypes up the brutality of the game almost seems like a logical step for Trump’s America…but we have our fingers crossed that it doesn’t touch down.
Sports stars thinking before they Tweet
One of the great things about social media for athletes is it allows fans to see the real them. The bad thing about social media for athletes? It allows fans to see the real them.
Perhaps a prime example of this happened over the Christmas break, where the boxer Ohara Davies thought it would be a smart move to drum up ‘hype’ ahead of a potential contest with rival Tommy Coyle on Twitter by praising The Sun newspaper, which Coyle has been an outspoken critic of for their reporting of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.
About 24hrs later Davies had effectively been suspended by his fast moving promotional, management and training team until further notice.
There are multiple other examples of this from athletes and their family members (looking at you Mrs Bradley Wiggins and Mrs Corry Evans) and without question some do so in response to outrageous and vile abuse on social media that Twitter, Facebook etc need to do a much better job at policing.
What we hope for in 2018 though is that our sports stars think, perhaps even do some research, before pressing the post button at times and let fans see the ‘real’ them that also displays their sport/ team in a positive light.