SWEET FA might conceivably apply to Faria Alam, but certainly not to her ex-employers. The Football Association have again been cast as a bunch of blunderers, even more so than the England and Wales Cricket Board.

It's ironic that their bunglings have left both without a chief executive at a time when an Independent Review of British Sport has just been announced. Perhaps the departing chiefs, Mark Palios and Tim Lamb, will be asked to help, although probably not given that the one reason for optimism over this review is the choice of personnel on the panel.

It includes the only two competent sports ministers of recent years in Kate Hoey and Colin Moynihan, plus Sir Steve Redgrave, Sir Trevor Brooking and Duncan Goodhew. It is to be hoped they can override the sports administrators who will be joining them to ensure that something is actually achieved.

The current sports minister, Richard Caborn, recently observed: "We have spent just over £1.5 billion on sport during the period of the Lottery and increased participation by 0.3 per cent."

As with the NHS, chucking money at the problem isn't the answer. As we have seen this week with Paul Scholes, making someone a multi-millionaire can take away his pride in playing for his country, and the same seems to apply to many of our Lottery-funded athletes, who have failed to qualify for the Olympics.

The first task is to get the message across that obesity is the road to personal and national ruin - it is said to cost the NHS £7 billion a year - and exercise is essential to combat that. Boys who think it's cool to chill out need to be told to get a life.

We also need a select group of high achievers to get the message across, instead of having vast numbers of over-populated sports bodies ruled by self-interest and therefore working at cross purposes.

Why, for example, do we need three governing bodies in English football - the FA, the Premier League and the Football League? And why do the chairmen of the 18 first-class counties seem to carry more clout than the executives of the ECB?

APART from losing their chief executives, the FA and ECB have both also lost their communications directors. Reference was made here last week to the tacky tabloids with regard to their treatment of Sven, and they don't come any tackier than the News of the World, which has clearly stitched up the FA's communications man Colin Gibson. As an ex-national newspaper sports editor, he obviously felt entitled to some loyalty from fellow hacks, but he has been made to look a fool for trusting them.

The ECB man was John Read, who quit because of his frustration with the way county chairmen run the game.

It's unfair to blame the chairmen personally, but the point about tail wagging the dog was illustrated by the ridiculous situation of Simon Jones being released from second Test duty by England with the express purpose that he would get some much-needed overs under his belt with Glamorgan.

His county then declined to pick him, putting their own interests ahead of those of the national team. The situation has since been rectified and he took five wickets against Somerset on Wednesday.

Most first-class counties are in favour of the utter nonsense of fielding two overseas players each, while also signing a variety of half decent players who have EU passports. The result is that promising English players are inevitably held back or lost to the game.

Again it reinforces the point that governance has to come from a few high achievers who can command widespread respect.

THE Review of British Sport panel is bound to invite cynicism at a time when panels seem to outnumber participants. UK Sport apparently has an advisory panel looking into ethics and had invited Mark Palios to sit on it. Is this wise?

The new review body has also appointed Michelle Veroken, sacked last December as Britain's chief sports drugs-buster, to head an inquiry into anti-doping. Is this progress?

DOPING will inevitably cast a cloud over the Olympics, which start next week. But hopefully some progress has been made in the last 20 years.

While it is generally reckoned that improved training and a more professional approach have continually improved records, I note that the longest-standing world record in athletics belongs to Jarmila Kratochvilova in the women's 800 metres. It has stood since 1983.

In her running kit the Czech was sexually indeterminate. Either she had been pumped full of male hormones or had an over-abundance of them occurring naturally in her body.

There are a number of other long-standing female records, held by East Europeans, not to mention the 11-year-old 10,000m record held by China's Wang Junxia. She did it on turtle's blood, of course.

Published: 06/08/2004