Group think + cosy cartel = death of sport

Group Think Pt. 1: six weeks ago. “Listen, we’ve to stay on theme (message). If we don’t criticise X (TV Exec), I’ve a chance to get a full-time contract on Y (TV Channel). Okay?” The radio host nodded, then they both looked at me. “So, Irishman? I get this contract and it might be good for you too.”

The 15 minute segment was to discuss the quality of sports reporting in Russia in light of recent scandals and general event coverage.

Group Think Pt. 2: last week. “He’s in real trouble, they lose again and he’s gone. But he has media friends, but you know people working at the club. They listen to you, especially from a marketing point of view. If you can write, or say something on the radio, business can be good for both of us.”

Turned out I was the third person the ambitious assistant manager had approached to lobby for him last week, one of the others was an elected city official, the other the journalist who got his full-time contract from Pt. 1. He now has been mentioned as “successor” to the incumbent four times in five days in media articles.


We all know, and are often fooled, by examples of native marketing of the very worst kind. Often labelled, “Exclusives” they are mostly targeted leaks, or in political speak “kite flying”.

When the USA, UK and their lapdogs wanted to deflect attention from their supporters moneymaking in the early 2000s, there were a raft of articles written, often taken verbatim, from “Think Tanks”. These were placed in leading newspapers or news sites to form public opinion. This still happens.

It can be seen in the West-East nonsense, with paid for journos and bloggers inventing all sorts about Russia, and from the Russian side the same types of morally corrupted headbangers countering these with their own warped view of reality. We accept that this is geopolitics, business and life. Step out of line and you lose your place on the gravy train.

There are very few crusaders for truth in the news media, and those who believe themselves to be, are usually taking home a hefty cheque from some wealthy businessman.

In sports it is as bad and more corrupting. Has anybody wondered why there are no real investigations into drug taking (PED and recreational) in football? Why tennis continues to be able to buy its way out of trouble by throwing the occasional victim under a bus?

Why golf, despite being third for positive tests gets a free pass, because, as one journo told me – “Do you think anyone wants to have the door shut in their faces and excluded from the Open, Masters and Tour?”

Why is it that equestrian sports get a free ride compared to cycling? Why is Russia and “Eastern Europe” being scrutinised and demonised when thoroughly corrupted athletics federations in Jamaica, USA, UK and Kenya are reluctantly mentioned?

For two of those four I personally feel that it’s down to the Irish connection, though I feel bad about thinking ill of our media and two of the greatest investigative sports journalists (David Walsh and Paul Kimmage).

When my brother was involved in greyhound training, he left the sport in a hurry and disgust when he, as a compassionate carer of animal rights, realised he couldn’t do it clean and ethical. He was given steroids to inject into dogs in his kennel to give them the muscle tone and power needed to be competitive.

Having lucked out first time doing everything clean with an amazingly fast dog he rebuilt from a broken and neglected loser, he knew he couldn’t harm a helpless animal. The only thing we hear from greyhound racing (or equestrian sports) is doping to make them lose, not the foul abuse of innocent animals that draws comparison too closely to the abuse of young tennis players by parents and coaches.

So why the silence? Sure there’s the tennis omerta that can be translated into other sports. Speak out and you lose out. Go along with the group think and you’re grand, you’ll get a new contract. It’s the exact same, largely, with the reporting of sports.

A really good journalist here was not alone refused his press pass into a Russian Premier League’s club home games (for questioning teh Club’s President and their proximity to certain agents), his editor caved and the publication, a weekly sports magazine, sent a different journalist. The cosy cartel between media, clubs, athletes, sponsors and backers is just a parallel of what happens in the real world.

So why should we be surprised or shocked by anything? Group think rules and it will not change?


(Above was completed Saturday 02.04.16 06:30 Moscow time)

So Saturday night turned into Sunday morning and the world was alive with the doping scandal to beat them all, with worse to come! But it’ll never come. By Tuesday we watched Barcelona, without a mention of the pending decision directly related to Barcelona and Operation Puerto, football was happy again (until the UEFA offices were raided).

From smug colonial mentality, where everything from FIFA to ITF to IAAF would be fixed with a bit of old fashioned US-UK imperialism, suddenly one partner in the fight for good, is looking to be on shaky moral ground. The media lauded the appointment in stunning group think, anyone who questioned it was wrong.

When UKAD (UK Anti-Doping) was appointed to look after changing the state of play in Russia, I was immediately on record as saying that with such a poor track record (historical to recent) they should not be in anyway involved. Yet while they preach the gospel away from home, an Irish Doctor revealed he’d doped up to 150 athletes including Premier League footballers.

Naturally the money behind the band wagon that is the Greed is Good League went into overdrive, beginning with well-worded statements from Arsenal, Chelsea and Leicester (yes, that Leicester, the people’s club) and then the journo’s whose living depends on ensuring the game stays as healthy as a well-medicated athlete got in on the act.

The FA announce plans for “an enquiry” and by clicking on that link you’ll see what will happen – nothing. Especially after the Panama Papers gave a lapdog media the chance to go after VVP, while his buddies in the Russian media ran with the UKAD story. And before they got too happy, the entire Russian Under-18 Ice Hockey team was pulled from the World Championships on suspicion of doping.

I began this article out of frustration that two recent ploys to “stay on message” worked for the individuals involved. The journo got his contract, the coach is getting into the groove to return to his former club as manager. It was triggered by the article which appeared a few days ago announcing that Maria “Invalid” Sharapova was caught as part of the biggest drug sweep in tennis history.

If this journo doesn’t print this native advertising, he’ll never get a chance to stay inside the tent and try keep tabs on the corruption. If you believe that, then you’ll believe that Meath GAA people are inherently honest and believe in fair play.
When group think rules and cosy cartels are the norm, nothing is going to change and we’ll all continue to be played for fools.

The Author

Alan Moore

Russian-based sports journalist, commentator, radio host & consultant. Worked with major clubs including Hajduk Split, Eintracht Frankfurt, Lokomotiv and Spartak Moscow. Current host of Capital Sports 3.0, former international boxer and semi-professional footballer and FIFA World Cup commentator.

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