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One-day cricket the victim of the mid-summer sporting pile-up

Australian cricketer David Warner

Back in the 1986-87 summer, when Australian cricket had slumped so dismally into an unsettling period of crisis following the retirements of national heroes Greg Chappell, Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh, a cynical view of the local crowds persisted among the travelling English press pack.

The Guardian’s then cricket correspondent Matthew Engel put it thus: “The Australian sporting public has a marvellous knack for averting its gaze from things it doesn’t like.” In that instance he was referring to fans filing out of the MCG as the home side lost five wickets in the space of 40 minutes to surrender the Melbourne Test and with it the Ashes. Of note: those who did hang around focused their attentions on scoreboard updates of the Davis Cup tennis drama unfolding down the road.

Swap Pat Cash for Nick Kyrgios and little might have changed by the time Australia take the field for their second one-day international against Pakistan in Melbourne this Sunday – a day before the Australian Open actually kicks off, of course, but still very much in both its shadow and that of the ragingly successful Big Bash League.

It is now self-evident and not particularly original to point out how one-day cricket has fallen victim to T20’s success. One only need note the recent TV and attendance figures for the Big Bash: 34,677 at the Gabba and for Wednesday night’s Heat-Scorchers clash as home viewership nudged the million mark; 44,189 happily piling into godforsaken Etihad Stadium for the Stars-Renegades derby and in doing so, easily outstripping the combined attendance totals for days three, four and five the recent MCG Test.

The Big Bash’s cannibalisation of a willing and engaged audience for limited overs cricket is the kind of problem other sports dream of, but a problem it is if the game’s best high-volume TV product (a minimum of 100 in-built advertising opportunities as opposed to 40) is to remain viable and grease the wheel of the game at large.

The argument often put forward here is that a rolling international one-day championship or the accrual of World Cup qualification points for every ODI is the answer – and providing such context to games certainly can’t hurt – but you wonder whether such measures would mean much to the casual cricket fans who’ve deserted the format. “Hang on, a win here will put Australia eight points clear of Bangladesh on the table for an event happening in two years? Maybe I will spend eight hours baking on a sticky plastic seat after all.”

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San Diego refused to be bullied by the NFL and billionaire owners

San Diego has been home to the Chargers for 56 years
San Diego has been home to the Chargers for 56 years. Photograph: Gregory Bull/AP

 

Sooner or later the public welfare office for sports billionaires is going to close. American cities will look at the more than $7bn of taxpayer money spent in the last 20 years on football stadiums alone and say: “Enough!”

On Thursday, the San Diego Chargers announced they will be leaving the city where they have played for the last 56 years, and will move to Los Angeles. They are doing this because the politicians and voters in San Diego did not give Chargers owner Dean Spanos the same golden gift Atlanta and Seattle and all the other capitulating municipalities gave their ridiculously wealthy teams’ owners.

The Chargers were never going to pay up for what so many others kept getting (in part) for free. Their final plea to the electorate came with just $350m of their own money, as they asked for a 4% hotel tax increase and some city contributions to fund $1.1bn of a $1.8bn project.

Even with the $300m in loans and grants from the NFL, San Diego wasn’t buying a bad deal. Not for a stadium that would swallow up valuable downtown real estate and parking lots, and perhaps damage business for the nearby convention center the team said their stadium would help. The whisper of Super Bowls to come – always a favorite NFL lobbying trick – meant little to the masses. They’ve had Super Bowls before. If there’s one thing a Super Bowl city knows once the show goes away, the party was never worth the ransom the powers-that-be demanded. In November, voters shot down Spanos’s last offer by 53% to 47%.

For the want of free money that was never going to come, Spanos will move his team to a 30,000-seat soccer stadium in Carson. Then, in 2019, the Chargers will relocate to Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s new stadium in Inglewood, where they will become second-tier tenants taking little income for themselves but paying a fabulously low price for the space.

One estimate has the team nearly doubling in value to $3bn with a move to LA, so presumably becoming Kroenke’s annoying renters is worth abandoning San Diego.

While it is easy to look at San Diego heroically in this fight, painting the city as more concerned with funding schools than stuffing the wallet of a greedy owner, Spanos’s fight to get a stadium more-than-half paid for by someone else was always a loser. His biggest mistake was asking for public money in a state that had nothing left to give.

In another time, San Diego might have given Spanos a new stadium. They could have built it with some kind of financing scheme like the $235m in municipal bonds and $53m in redevelopment funds that voters awarded the city’s other sports team, baseball’s Padres, in 1998 for a $456m stadium. The problem was that the Chargers had already cut an ugly deal with the city in the mid-1990s, one that turned scenic Qualcomm Stadium into a concrete urn. It also forced the city to buy any unsold Chargers tickets for 10 years to guarantee sellouts and bypass a foolish league rule that pulled games off television in any markets where a stadium was not fully sold.

And yet even with that sham, San Diego might have co

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Manchester City will get off lightly over breaking testing rules, say athletes

Craig Pickering
Craig Pickering, left, has spoken out about the treatment athletes receive over doping procedures compared to footballers. Photograph: Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images

Medal-winning athletes and anti-doping officials have told the Guardian they believe footballers are subject to less stringent anti-doping procedures as it emerged Manchester City are likely to be fined around £25,000 if found guilty of breaching the Football Association’s “whereabouts” rules.

City have been charged for failing to provide accurate information about training arrangements and player whereabouts on three occasions over a 12-month period. However none of their team will face sanction because under the World Anti-Doping Agency’s code, teams cannot commit an anti-doping rule violation. Yet in individual sports, if an athlete misses three tests in a 12-month period they can face up to a two-year ban.

Andrew Steele, a member of the British 4x400m team at the 2008 Olympics who were retrospectively awarded a bronze medal owing to Russian doping, said he did not see why there were different rules for team sports. “The emphasis should still be on players to fill out their whereabouts forms, not their clubs,” he said, suggesting it was part of a wider problem.

“Individual sports like athletics have been held up for vilification due to high-profile doping cases, while other sports like football seem to somehow manage to avoid the controversy. Now, either people just don’t cheat in football or people are getting away with it.”

Craig Pickering, a world championship 4x100m medallist, agreed there was a perception football was treated differently. “Compare how Lizzie Armistead was treated recently after her missed-tests/filing errors, and City’s filing errors,” he said. “They’re not direct like-for-like comparisons but they’re similar enough. Mark Richardson was handed a two-year ban for taking nandrolone in 1999 but Jaap Stam and Pep Guardiola were handed five and four-month bans just a few years later.”

Richard Ings, a respected former head of the Australian Anti-Doping Agency, said the case highlighted what he called a “gross inconsistency” in the Wada code. “The same obligations do not apply to professional athletes in some team sports as they do to individual athletes,” he said.

“The theory is, that as the team travels together and trains together why should we get 16 people in the squad to put in the paperwork?

“But the practicality is that professional team players are treated much more leniently than professional individual sport athletes. It’s not so much an FA issue, it’s a gross inconsistency in the Wada code.”

Joseph de Pencier, the chief executive of iNADO, which represents national anti-doping organisations, said there had been talks to consider how to make the rules work better for team sports. “I have no doubt the case of Manchester City will spark some evaluation and I hope some improvement,” he added.