The Backlash

Michael Broughton provides an overview of how blockchain is impacting the world of sport.

The market plummeted for three straight days.  There was a mass sell off and indeed the market lost over $1.5 trillion in just those three days.  Some lost over $200bn valuation just on their own.  The losses were staggering.

Overall, this year the market has lost $7trillion… and all of it is regulated, blue chip stocks! That’s the S&P 500 in the USA.  So that incredible figure doesn’t include value lost on other stock markets so far this year.  Some of the aforementioned companies included Apple and Tesla.

It’s important to remind everyone of this because in recent weeks it has been popular to bash the ‘crypto crash’ on the basis that these are unregulated currencies.  There is no doubt the rout in the crypto currency world has been painful but to kid ourselves it’s because of the unregulated nature of that market is misguided at best and hypocrisy at worst.  

Personally, I do not trade in crypto.  I don’t own bitcoin or Ethereum or any other currencies and yet I am a fan of blockchain.  Indeed, I first started writing about it on LinkedIn back in 2017.  The article ‘Build Sport Block by Block’ was read by less that 100 people at the time.  My focus then and now continues to be on the provision of value.  As I work in the sports and entertainment industry that revolves around the consumer and fan experience.

I’m not a currency trader.  If I was I would either be working in an investment bank or sitting in front of a row of screens figuring out what to buy and sell.  That’s not my skill set so I don’t trade fiat currencies and I don’t trade crypto.   Here’s the catch – whilst one is regulated, and the other isn’t you can make or lose money on both. At least in the crypto world you can go back and see who you lost to as its all recorded and visible if you care to look.

“The change that blockchain enables is inherently scary for many and hard to understand. That tends to lead to a backlash before it can become more generally accepted.”

This is not to lessen the impact of the crypto crash.  It has tarnished the industry and brought financial pain to many.  The hope must be that with the bubble bursting the whole industry will take another look at itself and rebuild to provide greater utility above and beyond the speculation that has driven the crypto currency marketplace.

Yet much like some said the 2001 crash and the bursting of the bubble was the end of the internet so we will see detractors of the blockchain world attack.  The change that blockchain enables is inherently scary for many and hard to understand.  That tends to lead to a backlash before it can become more generally accepted.

The Punch and Judy Show

Sport and Crypto is like going to the English seaside and seeing a classic puppet show.  The bat being swung at the head of everyone who dares to play the game.  As a self-professed evangelist of the opportunities that the blockchain represents I caution against the rapid lurching to conclusions before we have even passed Go.

At the same time, I fully encourage others to learn as much as they can about the emerging technology, how it works, the pros and cons.  Equally, as not everything should be on the blockchain, its emergence should not detract you from getting the basics right – from content to data strategies and beyond.

However, there are two forms of blockchain monetisation going on in today’s industry and they follow well-worn paths.

Selling Sponsorship

Sponsorship is perhaps the most visible because you see the eye-popping figures when they are announced.  From and FTX Arenas to WhaleFin about to be confirmed on the shirt sleeve of Chelsea.  These are mega-deals, and they drive an awful of attention and awareness.  

Which is exactly the point.

Estimates at the end of 2021 showed that 3.9% of the planet, roughly 300m people own a crypto wallet.  Can you name a better more visible route to market than sports sponsorship?  So, there should be zero surprise from anyone that the main exchanges and currencies are throwing money at sports to establish a brand and to have the early masses begin to open accounts on their platform.

This is a well-trodden path and sport is doing what it has always done and milked the industry that is trying to get attention for sponsorship dollars.  This has happened across a host of industries – from tobacco and alcohol to gambling and let’s not forget the pre 2008 crash surge of financial services sponsorship.

The advice I would give to any sports property is that before they enter into sponsorship agreement with a new partner – regardless of if they are a crypto related business or not – is do your due diligence.  Makes sure you trust your counter party and that your fan base, both those that attend and those that engage beyond the venue, will appreciate the relationship.  

In the USA you have seen in the past few years, particularly with FanDuel and DraftKings, the proliferation of betting sponsorship and commercial agreements, and a general acceptance that gambling will offer the next level of fan engagement.  This has always felt slightly odd given the entire gambling industry is predicated on the philosophy that the ‘house always wins’. Which begs the question, what about the Fan?

The Fan

Where I get excited around blockchain is beyond the sponsorship opportunity.  Its where we begin to see opportunities around the interaction with the fan.  

Web2 was fabulous at demonstrating the distribution capabilities of sport, the engagement of our diverse fanbases and the fact that they want the rich content we can provide with a seemingly insatiable appetite.  Whilst the form and forma may be changing the interest has not waned.

“The emergence of DAO’s is another intriguing opportunity that whilst also unregulated today may lead to a long-term change in the ownership structures of the future.”

It also demonstrated that they want to be more involved with the teams and athletes they idolise.

BUT, the failing of Web2 was that the value chain was broken.  Sport has not been able to generate the revenue that their content deserves.  The walled gardens of the FANGS have done brilliantly off the back of it.  Building audiences and income streams off the back of the fans love of sport and the innumerable content houses sport has created.

We as an industry have fed the beast willingly and are now having to figure out how to disrupt ourselves. 

The tokenisation of the relationship with the fan is a key way to build on the bedrock of our content and distribution and to capture more of the value chain where it matters most – with those that own the IP.  That may be an athlete, a team, a league, or a nation and will also soon include the Fans themselves.

It will come in the form of ticketing, marketing, content, engagement and also athlete data to name but a few.  The emergence of DAO’s is another intriguing opportunity that whilst also unregulated today may lead to a long-term change in the ownership structures of the future.

This is not a utopia we are talking about but the next step in the evolution of the role of fans.  In the 1990’s you were lucky to have clean toilets in stadiums, in the 2000’s we began to engage with fans, in the 2010’s the more enlightened realised the fans were now the content producers and in the 2020’s we may end up with “Earn as you Fan”, flipping the economics on their head.

For now, we are experimenting, and it leaves me excited.  There are several players who have taken the blockchain and begun building the eco-systems that they are envisioning for the future.  Amongst them are a few that lead the way.

One of our key challenges has been that beyond the stadium, we have found it incredible hard as an industry to build models that reward the fans.  It’s relatively easy to provide value to those that attend events but the vast majority don’t.  the loyalty systems in place today fall short of what is needed, and as such both new tech and new thinking is needed.

MLS announced a multi-year partnership agreement with next generation fan engagement and rewards company,, making the company an Official Partner of MLS and 26 clubs.

Socios has been building a network of teams and fans that is almost unparalleled in the industry.  At last count they had 1.5m+ users and agreements in place with over 150 rights holders. The concept of the fan token didn’t exist before them and we are perhaps seeing the emergence of entirely new loyalty and reward system that was previously unthinkable.  Man City recently spoke to the fact that less than 1% of their fan base ever comes to their stadium, but the reality is that until blockchain and utilities like Socios came about there was no way to create that direct connection – nor a way to monetise unless you meant sending the fan to Zuckerberg.

It is going to be interesting to see what a digital and crypto company like Socios does next.  Now they have the audience they need to deliver value. What we have seen to date has been an evolution on polls, rewards and benefits linked to partner sponsors and other commercial entities.  I suspect that will continue to evolve as they learn what fans want rather than simply provide what we did on Web2 in Web3 environment.  What has been interesting is to see that fans away from the venues themselves appear to be embracing the solution.

As the father of an 11-year-old boy who has spent a fortune on EPL and UCL Topps Cards and is expecting another ‘investment’ into the 2022 FIFA World Cup Panini collection I am also taken by what others have done in the NFT space, bringing the trading card into the 21st century.

Sorare and RealFevr are exciting companies, along with the Dapper Labs of this world.  Reimagining what it means to own digital cards and how to not only collect but play game alongside the provision of inbuilt marketplaces for your fans is revolutionising of a somewhat archaic business.  None of these platforms are perfect yet.  They have barely begun to exist to be fair to them, but their growth and the data that powers them will lead to evolution and improvements. 

It’s important to look at these companies and any new emergent through a new lens.  How can they take fan engagement to the next level – what I refer to as involvement, making it a two-way relationship?

The old trading card model still exists and has relevance today.  Indeed during the lockdowns, the trading card business boomed.  It should be no surprise therefore that the NFT versions, effectively digital representation of the classic model, have thrived as well.  The economic model is also better for the rightsholders, and the ability to trade makes it more amenable to fans. 


Back to the beginning.  Regulation hasn’t stopped the stock market from crashing and wiping out a vast among of inherent value.  The crypto crash though will likely precipitate the need for regulation in the industry.

It’s not as simple as some make it out to be as what Central Banks and Governments are trying to figure out is how to protect the power mechanics of the current way of doing things yet take on the better elements of how cryptocurrencies operate.   We are talking about the underpinning of the Global Financial System so there are a lot of dynamics to navigate.

Michael will be moderating the panel ‘Tokenising the Business of Sport’ at our iSportConnect Web3 Summit presented by Tezos later this month.

As with all innovation and the emergence of new technologies, the rules and regulations we put in place to protect the status quo led to innovation in other areas and spawn new markets.  That now needs to be managed sensibly without killing off the new opportunities that like ahead.

Cryptocurrencies are here to stay.  More will emerge and we will get better at tackling some of the issues – such as reducing the energy needed to run them.   The use cases will expand and the ability to create value for all parties will increase.

“Regulation is also inevitable.  The better companies in this space have already been calling for it, recognising that it’s needed and a sincere route towards broader market acceptability.”

Regulation is also inevitable.  The better companies in this space have already been calling for it, recognising that it’s needed and a sincere route towards broader market acceptability and growing the overall market.

The Crypto sponsorship market will, in time, fade to some extent.  This is the gold rush at the beginning that happens every time a new market emerges and needs sport to get public awareness and acceptance.  

Rather than fighting crypto and wishing that the old world will prevail the industry should come together and forge a new path where the fan is at the centre of the marketplace, and we can use the magic of blockchain to uncork the true value of sport via those that are most important.

We must as an industry remain vigilant.  Equally we should push that new blockchain companies to put our fans at the heart of their thinking and pay more than lip service to the ‘utility’ of the chain.  This is a ground-breaking moment for out industry and the promised that we saw with the emergence of the internet may finally spawn the rewards that we have long hoped for.

You can find Michael on LinkedIn here –

Want to hear more from Michael? He will be moderating a great panel on ‘Tokenising the Business of Sport’ at the on Jun 28/29 at the Emirates.

Find out more about the Summit here –

The complaints show US Soccer is here to stay — despite World Cup 2018 failure

There has been much hand-wringing on TV and in newspaper columns about the failure of the US Men’s National Team to qualify for the World Cup in Russia next year. Much of it has centred on a few key points but there are others to consider as well.

The impact on broadcasters will be interesting. Fox made a big push on FIFA rights and secured them for 2018 and 2022 for around $400 miilion (£300.6 million). There is no doubt audiences will not be as high as they would have hoped next year but in the grand scheme of things it won’t be a major disaster for them and, if the US wins the 2026 World Cup hosting rights, they will be fine.

NBC and Turner will be watching carefully, having committed to the EPL and Champions League respectively, but we can expect that statements out of both entities right now would be that they don’t expect this to adversely affect them.

Fortunately for Fox, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo managed to scrape through on the final day of qualification. Had they also failed to qualify then there may have been an issue for viewing figures, though that would have been across the board rather than specific to the US. Without the two biggest names in football the whole tournament would have seemed somewhat of a vacuum.

It does call into question some systemic issues in US football. The league has done a phenomenal job of building the MLS into a truly national sport. In the past ten years the average gate has risen from 15,000 to close to 22,000, all whilst adding ten new expansion teams (and therefore more than doubling the total annual attendance).

At the same time TV audiences have gone up, sponsorship rights have continued to grow and MLS now receives $90 million (£67 million) a year in television revenues – a far cry from where they were in the early years.

The league therefore looks on the surface to be in rude health and if clubs like Atlanta can build on their phenomenal early crowd performances there is more room for growth.

Yet, as with other US sports, this level of expansion has an impact down the line. The talent pool cannot grow exponentially with the current number of teams. With 30 roster spots in each squad the rate of expansion means there are now roughly 300 more players in the league than there were ten years ago.

The quality of games cannot at that rate of change keep up, resulting in many games that will not be of a grade that adequately prepares players for the rigours of international football.

The sport’s leadership need to therefore take a look and decide if the current path makes sense or if they need to slow down, solidify the base and allow the talent pool to catch up. Thankfully for US Soccer, the emergence of Christian Pulisic with Borussia Dortmund offers perhaps their first true star.

Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan were good players. Tim Howard played at the very top level – and proved legendary in the last World Cup – but never has a talent like this emerged.

If Pulisic carries on progressing as he has the past few years it would be no surprise if he ended up at a Manchester United, Real Madrid or Barcelona. In a day and age where superstars attract greater followings than even the biggest clubs his emergence could prove to be the antidote to his nation’s failure to qualify.

Clearly it would have been useful to have him play on the world stage but starring in the Champions League and being a cover star of the FIFA video game is perhaps even more important. In the background are other factors that are still to play out over the next decade.

The concussion issues in American Football are very real and increasing research in that space and concern amongst parents may well lead to greater numbers of youth athletes looking to other, less combative, sports. Soccer in the US is well placed to grab this opportunity alongside the changing demographics of the country.

The growth of MLS has put in place more opportunities for a professional career even though it has currently thinned out the talent pool. Stadiums are in place and youth facilities continue to sprout up. City Football Group believe in the opportunity enough to be investing significant funds alongside Goals Soccer Centres to build a physical presence.

Lastly, consider this: if people aren’t complaining then you aren’t providing something they want.

If this had happened in 1998 it’s unlikely to have been a lead story on ESPN or to have received so much press coverage. Football’s rise in the US has meant that this is now a national story and there is a clamour to fix things. We should almost be celebrating.

When England failed to qualify for Euro 2008 it certainly wasn’t great news for sponsors, broadcasters, pubs and so on but that didn’t lead to the collapse of football in England.

It won’t destroy the Netherlands that they are not going to Russia and neither will it destroy US Soccer. Twenty years ago it might of, but we are in a new era and though this is a short-term shock to the system don’t be surprised if viewing numbers do just fine.

The real question is whose head might roll other than the coach as scapegoats are always sought.

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Transfer ‘Silly Season’: Ludicrous prices, Financial Fair Play and clubs getting their houses in order

The ‘Silly Season’ should close prior to the season starting

This is typically a story touted by managers who are frustrated at not knowing who is going to be in their team and it is impacting their ability to plan for the season. If that was really the case then wouldn’t they need the window to close prior to pre-season so that they could spend those weeks drilling the team?

The very same managers are, of course, also busy trying to recruit so its all very hypothetical. The real reason the window should close is to provide football with a clear storyline and timetable to the season.

This year the season in most leagues has kicked off and – as usual – gone on for two or three weeks before the international break began. In the UK, at least, it is unlikely many people tuned into the France vs Holland game whilst Sky was busy touting the Deadline Day door about to slam shut.

For an organisation keen on building a week of international football intrigue it seems odd that it would leave its own creation to be cannibalised by the transfer window.

There are complications to having the silly season close prior to the leagues commencing not least as the EPL with 20 clubs needs to start sooner than most, but where there is a will there is a way.

Having an agenda that goes: pre-season, tours, transfer deadline, season kick off then international break simply makes more sense, sets a logical timeframe and offers natural components for marketing campaigns.

Let’s get it done.

Careful what you wish for

There will no doubt be articles produced by the great and the good prognosticating about how ludicrous the numbers are around transfers. Yes, in the grand scheme of things they are getting ridiculous and as you look at some of the larger social issues in society could money be ‘better spent’? Obviously.

However, if you analyse things just a little bit more you realise that the reason these numbers are getting ever bigger is perhaps counter intuitively because clubs are getting their house in order.

One of the major factors is clearly down to the new television deals in the UK starting. Clubs are flush with cash but what this has meant is that the 14 clubs outside the top six are no longer in need of selling players and as such can refuse significant offers.

Even a year ago if Southampton had been offered over £60 ($77) million for Virgil Van Dijk does anyone believe they would have turned it down?

Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk endured a frustrating summer

With the new television deal in place they can afford to say no as their own business model is no longer predicated on selling two-three top players to bigger clubs.

This is coupled with the Premier League’s short-term cost control structure (salary cap in a sense). The best description of which can be seen in full here. This has in the past limited salary increases at a club to a tune of £4 ($5.2) million per year and is now at £7 ($9) million per year alongside a number of provisos.

This has again meant that as the new television deals have come in (which sits outside the salary cap) there have been constraints that have allowed clubs to compete on a salary basis for the best players but also reduced the risk of being reliant on sales to continue to operate.

It’s a sellers’ market which is why players like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain can go for £35 ($45) million, despite a history of injuries and only 12 months remaining on his contract. It’s not madness just exactly the results you would expect in a boom market.

UEFA has a coming nightmare

I am most certainly not a Financial Fair Play expert but on the basis that PSG have spent close to £184 ($238) million this year on Neymar – £36 ($46) million per year over five years on an accounting basis plus an additional £23 ($30) million per year in post tax salary – and have loaned Mbappe with a view to a £165 ($213) million transfer next year it feels like there is a problem on the horizon.

FFP has noble goals but the slap on the wrist Manchester City and PSG had last time round when they breached the rules did little to dissuade them from splashing the cash again.

Of course, they have been looking to, and in some cases succeeding, in selling some players but generally not at the levels that would make up the required short fall.

So, UEFA will once again need to revisit the commercial deals that have been structured to see if they are in line with market expectations.

Its going to be a fun one to watch as the Neymar acquisition has no doubt annoyed many elite clubs at the level of inflation it has created which may just embolden UEFA to take more serious action if they find that PSG have breached the rules for a second time.

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Is sport the ultimate ‘Super Affiliate’ as new era dawns for rights holders?

The affiliate model in the Gaming industry has already established a business model that can work for both the affiliate and the gaming company. But is it time for sports rights holders to recognise that the Affiliate Model could work for them? After all, sport is perhaps the ultimate Super Affiliate.

There have been some recent excellent articles that focus on the changing rights world, including a column featured on The Drum offering a wonderful synopsis of the issues that are at play and the challenges that the various parties have in navigating the new world that we are entering.

I have often argued that the entrance of the larger digital and technology companies will mean that the value chain will need to adapt. The ever-increasing rights payments would be untenable and the changing consumer viewing dynamics – which, as Joel Seymour-Hyde cogently argues, doesn’t necessarily mean lower number of viewers just that the channel it is distributed to them in will change – would require a rethink.

Many others have argued that the increase in competition from the more ‘traditional’ broadcasters to the new broadcasters and then technology companies would mean that prices will be driven up – and to date let’s agree that to be broadly correct.

This interesting article by DigiDay considers that many major sports clubs are already moving on from Facebook Live as it didn’t provide the levels of engagement they had hoped and that Facebook was no longer offering the upfront investment that came a year ago.

What this actually tells us is that the technology companies continue to be willing to spend to Beta test a theory and move on either if it doesn’t work or the client becomes dependent on them for audience and therefore needs to stay even when the coffers are closed. This strategy was brilliantly executed by YouTube a few years back so shouldn’t really be a surprise.

The additional insight it gives us is that even though some football clubs have spent money driving up the number of followers on social media that doesn’t equate to active or engaged fans. 500,000 viewers from 100 million followers demonstrates the folly of using the like button as a KPI for your own business.

READ MORE – The Football Broadcast Bubble: are we seeing a change in commercial attitude?

Underlying the strategy of Facebook or Amazon’s entry into the sports rights market though is a very different ethos to that of Sky. Sky was built off the back of the Premier league and Film content. The model from there was to build subscriptions and advertising revenues and as more subscribers came along that helped cement their ability to acquire more content and other distributors onto their platform in order to create a positive cycle of improvements.

BT’s entry into sport, whilst supplemented by advertising revenues, was inherently due to limiting the churn rate of people cutting their phone line connections and other basic resources. In that sense, it has been a positive endeavour.

Amazon, however, is unlikely to ever become a broadcaster. Yes, they will clearly sell advertising inventory against the content they acquire (and will do it in-house with better margins due to their rapidly growing advertising business which is what Sir Martin Sorrell, WPP’s CEO, says keeps him up worrying at night), yet ultimately it is about driving people to their platform.

Once on their platform, be it via mobile, tablet or web they are experts at keeping you there and indeed on getting you to move up to being a Prime subscriber, courtesy of their relentless focus on putting the customer first, speed and convenience.

The recent acquisition of the ATP rights seems like a classic beta test for Amazon. £10million-per-year is a relatively paltry sum for Amazon to invest but shows they are serious. Of course, the initial goal will be to drive tennis fans to the platform and make them sign up to Prime.

They only need 62,500 new subscribers to make half their money back, then – of course – sell tennis balls, rackets, clothing, tickets to tennis events and everything else (I half expect to hear that Amazon has purchased a booking system technology to charge you a fee to play tennis too – as Ben Thompson once said the Amazon model is a tax on all economic activity as no doubt the booking system would run on AWS).

What we also know is that once someone has signed up to Prime they are more likely to make additional purchases. If the company gets close to that 62,500 figure then we can assume that the ATP deal will have more than paid for itself and that in all likelihood Amazon has a new lifetime user.

So, it’s clear that Amazon has a plan and thinks the NFL and Tennis and the profile of those fans is likely to generate new revenue streams – but what about the rights holders? If the Amazon model is so much more nuanced than the classic broadcaster model should rights holders not be changing the formulation of their deals to capitalise on the new economics?

If Amazon is using its universal platform to generate new revenues off the users sport sends them, should the rights holder benefit throughout that relationship?
If the ATP had taken £5million up front for access, an introductory fee for every new subscriber and then a revenue share off the new incremental income from that user, the economics could be demonstrably higher than a fixed fee over a stated term.

You could envisage a £20 introduction fee for every new Prime Subscriber and perhaps something like 10% of net margin – basing that off the current Amazon Affiliate scheme of offering a 10% advertising fee, as explained here.

Now, I haven’t broken out my Excel sheet and run the numbers but the economics that could be generated seem instinctively like they could be substantially higher than those generated purely via an upfront rights fee.

There is a reason why sports are so attractive and why they have a significant share in the rights and sports market. The engagement of the sports consumer and the ability for it to drive consumption is conspicuous by the nature that time and time again companies and new industries build their recognition and business off the back of the leverage sport can give them.

Sports is perhaps the biggest super affiliate in the world yet to date has sacrificed the potential for the bird in hand. As the world around us continues to adapt and build off a new set of economic dynamics perhaps it’s our turn to seize the day and get the best of both worlds.

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Why sports leaders must learn from each other’s problems to restore integrity – opinion

An odd phenomenon has taken root in sports governance and it has replicated time and time again. The leaders of the majority of sports have taken a historical view that the challenges facing other sports are not their problem.

This is an entirely understandable approach to headwinds and happens in all walks of life but it does sport a disservice.

Take for example the recent stories surrounding child abuse in grassroots and academy football in Britain.

The press coverage has been unforgiving (rightly so) and the police are actively investigating a number of institutions to see if this could have been happening on a more widespread scale.

Other sports have been conspicuous by their absence, but don’t be fooled.  Where the opportunity existed in football for such heinous crimes to take place with the abuse of authority, so it existed in other sports. Rugby and cricket will not be immune, given the very nature of their scale as the other major sports in Britain.

Fortunately, that is not an issue that comes along very often.


A more common one deals with drug use in sport. The issue has typically been characterised as one that impacts sports such as cycling, athletics and, of course, weightlifting. Those sports have all had high impact disclosures of drug taking and bans being implemented but don’t expect those to be the only sports impacted.

It is hard to directly correlate the impact of doping in one sport on another. In the athletics world, we would no doubt be saddened if it was revealed Usain Bolt had taken drugs but it’s unlikely anyone would be overly surprised.

The same goes for cycling. Considering the history of cycling all the way back to its first emergence, when cocaine was allegedly the PED of choice, it would hardly therefore be a shock if evidence emerged that the rules had again been broken with some new previously unheard drug cocktail being used.

The negative impact that the various drug headlines have created means there is an inherent suspicion that elite athletes are using drugs. Over the long term this can have a meaningful negative impact on the popularity and hence the value of those sports.

It does not mean that there wouldn’t be a role for sports still – look at how the WWE has exploited the ability to straddle the theatre, entertainment and sport verticals – just that the veneer of human excellence and some of the allure will rub off unless all sports do something more meaningful.

It seems incongruous that suspicions wouldn’t be held over other sports. Take professional rugby, a sport that has had very limited suspensions for positive tests at the elite level in sports. Simply look at the size, shape and speed of the players today and the velocity and power of the tackles followed by the need for recovery.

It would not be entirely unsurprising therefore if a story were to break there. Yet, if that did happen there would likely be a lot of wise heads nodding in affirmation.

It could happen in football as well. Given the vast sums of money in football available to players, could you believe that some players trying to make the big time and go from earning £5,000-a-week to £100,000-a-week might just be tempted to use something to enhance their performance? Of course.

So rather than looking at other sports and smiling wryly about their “bigger” issues, those that run their respective sports need to look at themselves collectively and consider what they could be doing to protect the image of sport as a whole. The issues around grassroots abuse, drugs, gambling, bribery and so on are manifold.

The future

As was stated to me not very long ago, the problem FIFA has now is that to people over 30 they are viewed as a corrupt organisation whose President and Secretary General were kicked out, and to those under 30 they are simply seen as a computer game.

So where does the governing body of sport go to next?

It’s clear that the overall corporate governance of sport needs to improve. Revenue generation and governance should probably not be a part of the same organisation, drug testing should be entirely independent and properly funded – the miniscule funding from sports themselves is shocking as is the dependence on government funding for anti-doping.

Further data integration and systematic audit trails should be in place to detect betting habits and potential issues – including further legalisation of gambling around the world to better implement these safeguards.

If there is not a clear governance and integrity agenda and the current see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil strategy continues then there will be not a lot to fall back on to uphold the very fabric of professional and competitive sports.

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