Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Paddy's Sports View 29th March 2005

From "The Emirates Evening Post"

In a year when the forces of nature have caused such terrible devastation (including the near destruction of the Galle cricket ground) it may seem churlish to bemoan the way the weather has disrupted some recent sports events. Australia were denied a certain victory in the Wellington Test, the qualifying session became a farce at the Australian Grand Prix and last weekend in Florida the “Players Championship” descended into chaos as severe weather constantly interrupted play on the golf course. Other than doing their best to schedule events when the likely weather conditions will be favourable (something that cricket administrators have not always done in recent times!) there is not a great deal that can be done. Even in Dubai’s glorious winter climate the Dubai World Cup was once delayed a week because of torrential rain and I can recall a similarly rainy Dubai Rugby Sevens a few years ago.

Changing weather conditions mean that there can never be a guarantee of a “level playing field” in sport, but it is reasonable to expect that officials will be consistent. When Michael Vaughan, the England cricket Captain, mildly suggested that the umpires had been inconsistent over their decisions on bad light at the Johannesburg Test in January (something that anyone at the game or watching on television could see to have been the case) the full force of the ICC descended on him and he was fined 100% of his match fee. Quite how standards of decisions making are going to improve if International captains cannot make any comments I do not understand. Certainly cricket is a sport particularly troubled by weather problems and whilst we must expect this to continue we can also hope that umpires and other match officials will apply some consistent rules. Technology ought to be able to help them do this. Similarly in MotorSport it is nonsense to be inflexible during qualifying sessions as was the case in Australia recently. As far as it is possible the officials should try and ensure that all competitors have reasonably similar conditions for their qualifying runs – otherwise the whole thing becomes a lottery.

As my golfing friends will know I am very much a fair weather golfer. Much as I enjoy the game I have no intention of venturing onto a course when the rain is horizontal or when it is so cold that I have to wear four layers of clothing to keep me warm. A few years ago some English friends visited us in Dubai for a golfing week and I arranged for rounds at Creek, Nad Al Sheba, Jebel Ali and Emirates. They thought that they were in a golfing paradise as the sun shone and the temperature hovered around the thirty degree mark. However we were halfway round the Majlis course when quite unexpectedly a huge black cloud appeared from the Gulf and it began to rain quite heavily. I was so astonished that I dithered around not having a clue what to do. My friends meanwhile had put up their golfing umbrellas (I didn’t even carry one) adjusted their golf bags so that their clubs were protected, climbed into their waterproofs and strode unconcerned to the next tee. A golfer used to the changeable English climate comes prepared – a golfer, like me, more used to smearing on the sun block than to wearing “all weather” gear was completely at a loss.

To return to the “Players Championship” which should have been finished by the time you read this (weather permitting!); it is certainly usually a very good competition and is rightly seen as one of the best on the PGA Tour. This has led to some to call for it to be classified as a “Major” but I think that this is unlikely to happen – I certainly hope so. The current designation of three events in the USA and one in Britain (“The Open”) as “Majors” is a historic fact that I have long thought anomalous. Golf is now a world game and it is high time that the five tours (European Tour, Japan Golf Tour, PGA TOUR, PGA Tour of Australasia and Southern Africa Tour) each had at least one “Major” and that the top players were persuaded to show their skills on courses away from The USA and Europe. Why not an expand the “World Championship of Golf” to (say) ten events a year each of equal status - the four current Majors plus new “Majors” in Europe, the Far East, Australasia, South America, Africa and the Middle East?