"Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing."
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Ed Warner, London, Yellow Jersey, 2018. ISBN978178290129Former chairman of UK Athletics, Ed Warner, argues that “money is pulling all the strings in today’s sports market”. The book has chapters on television, agents, sponsorship betting, drugs, Government funding, the role of sports federations, a case study on an elite athlete and more besides.
Warner is well informed on these topics but is at his best when he writes of processes where he has been intimately involved, such as ticketing of athletics events including the London 2017 World Athletics Championships, the bidding process for London 2017, UK sports funding as seen from the perspective of one sport, issues surrounding the London (Olympic) Stadium, how Diamond League finances work etc.
He admits that professionally he “learned some things I wished, as a fan, I didn’t have to know”. He does not mince his words, calling the International Olympic Committee “the ultimate sporting magpie. Over the course of a century it has persuaded the watching public that its compilation of games constitutes the pinnacle event for the vast majority of the constituent sports without being the governor or regulator of any of them”.
He is no less critical of the IAAF (the world governing body for athletics) which, he says, “has garnered sponsor revenues, seen its championships played out in front of half-empty stadiums is and had seemingly no developmental benefit…The short-termism of the lAAF hierarchy is laid bare by the transient nature of the sponsors that have been dragged aboard the athletics bandwagon by host governments looking to embellish their bids”.
There is one point at which I disagreed with his analysis. In the booing of Justin Gatlin at London 2017 he saw “a damning public judgement of the performance of the authorities in their battle against drugs cheats [which] couldn’t have been clearer”. I was very uncomfortable with the booing in the stadium that night wondering why, of all those competing in London 2017 who had served a ban for a drugs offence conviction, only Gatlin was subjected to incessant booing. I also wondered how many of the jeering spectators had checked facts relating to Gatlin’s two bans before jumping on the booing bandwagon.
I enjoyed the book and would thoroughly recommend it to anyone wishing to gain a deeper understanding of how professional sport works and is financed.