The Walking Oxymoron Strikes Again & 2 Good News Stories

Quick! Lets have a conference. Invite everyone. In case there is some poor bastard in the field who is  actually doing something useful.”

Chief-Superintendent (former) Leonard Powell, Metropolitan Police

Ho hum. Another month. Another ridiculous conference put on by the walking oxymoron that is the Qatari group for ‘integrity in sport’ – the International Centre for Sports Security (ICSS). This one is being held in New York and is called ‘Securing Sport’. It is the usual mixture of superannuated policemen, sports bureaucrats, mostly ignorant academics and slightly has-been celebs all speaking clichés about the need for integrity in sport without knowing much about the subject.

For American journalists who do not know the background of the story, here is a quick review:

– Qatar was awarded the rights to host the 2022 World Cup in December 2010.

– Almost immediately questions were raised about the integrity of the vote. The credibility of FIFA and Qatar have been  questioned by most soccer fans.

– A few months later, Mohammed bin Hammam, one of the key people who aided the Qatari World Cup bid was thrown out of FIFA for corruption.

– Numerous human rights and labour groups (Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, etc) have outlined the massive problems of the indentured labour system at the heart of the Qatari infrastructure construction.

– In the midst of these scandals, the Qataris are running the group (ICSS) that is organizing this conference. They claim to be interested in ‘integrity’, ‘human rights’ and ‘securing sport’.

Here are a list of questions to ask at the ICSS conference to cut through the nonsense:

  1. What about Mohammed bin Hammam?
  1. Isn’t the ICSS just a talking shop of an organization that can host conferences, mouth clichés, but cannot do anything meaningful to protect sport?
  1. What about Mohammed bin Hammam?
  1. The Kafala system of indentured labour in Qatar means that hundreds-of-thousands of workers are kept in conditions of near-slavery: isn’t that a possible major source of sympathizers for terrorism?
  1. What about Mohammed bin Hammam? (No, really could you just answer the question? What about bin Hammam?)
  1. The Kafala system of indentured labour in Qatar means that hundreds-of-thousands of workers are kept in conditions of near-slavery: isn’t that a major human rights issue?

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Right, to remove the taste of the ICSS, lets speak about some good news.

Spent Saturday in London at AFC Wimbledon watching them beat Hartlepool. If you do not know the story of ‘The Dons’, their ownership by fans, their absolute refusal to let their team leave their community, their slow and gradual growth into a viable football team – please go down to their ground and watch one of their games. It is football as it should be.

To top off the joy of a wonderful afternoon, I met a couple of the players after the match on the subway. The subway! Marvelous.

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Another good news story – ROPS or Rovaniemi. This is the team in Finland that four years ago was devastated by match-fixing. They are now second in the top division and engaged in an epic fight for the championship. Well done the players, the administration and the town. They have risen, phoenix-like, for the ashes and shown that good sportsmanship can beat corruption.

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