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A New Year wish list: Athletes take control, BCCI gets a CEO

Well, hello, hello, hello. Or rather goodbye, sayonara, alvida 2023. Thank you for many happy memories and no thanks for the rest of the rubbish you dished up.

BCCI logo(HT Photo)

What could 2024 possibly bring? What would we want it to? To start with, please God, a proper re-setting of the post-Covid sports calendar. No more wrapping our heads around the 2020 Tokyo Olympics which took place in 2021, the 2021 World Athletics Championships (WAC) edging over to 2022 followed 13 months later by Budapest WAC. And the 2022 Asian Games being played out in September 2023.

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But who would want to be FINA whose World Aquatics Championships are still drowning in the whirlpool of postponement and suspensions triggered by Covid and the Ukraine war. Now there is a world championships every year from 2022 to 2025; with FINA’s biennial WAC tempo only resuming in 2027, as far as we know. Or FINA hopes.

Just before we head off to make those unfulfilled resolutions, here’s Left Field’s world-famous-on-this-computer New Year’s wish list. Just like was said in December 2022, what follows is a revelation of what should become real in the year ahead but most definitely will not.

For starters, the Athletes Commission of the Indian Olympic Association holds an impromptu, unpoliced press conference streamed on Instagram. They demand the setting up of an independent body made up of lawyers, social workers, international experts and athletes to deal with complaints of sexual harassment, bullying and abuse across Indian sporting federations and in Sports Authority of India centres. Apart from expertise in safeguarding sport, the AC says the members of the newly-formed body must have a full understanding of the concept of ‘conflict of interest’, cannot be part of any other Indian official sporting body or connected to political parties holding power through either family, business or social links. The AC’s blueprint has a title for this – KISS (Keep Indian Sport Safe).

The Mumbai Indians start a 24-hour steaming channel called ‘MI Parivaar’ to quell social media outrage, fury, upheaval re: Hardik Pandya-Rohit Sharma captaincy switcheroo. MIP streams live footage from all parts of the MI enterprise (barring hotel rooms, showers and loos) with free and direct access to MI Mahaul. For premium members, Rohit and Hardik do weekly joint press conferences where Jasprit Bumrah and Surya Kumar play the media and ask nice questions.

In a parallel development, Virat Kohli takes control of his intellectual property rights, starts ViratTV™ which attracts more followers than Cristiano Ronaldo and Taylor Swift combined, tells BCCI exactly where they and their broadcasting partners get off – and get in line.

The BCCI office-bearers in turn gift themselves golden tickets to every VIP lounge in every cricket ground to finally have time to watch the game they so truly love with only one other condition – they do not want to been seen on TV. They hand over the boring job of bothering about Indian cricket to its first independent, professionally-capable CEO. Who naturally, happens to be female. Her first step is to work out a 25-25-50% ticket split between complimentaries (VIPs/ government departments/ police/misc.), clubs and the paying public. Tickets to Indian cricket matches are sold on a seamless, UI-friendly ticketing app created by the folks behind Bengaluru’s Namma Yatri auto-booking app. If you can get Bangalore’s auto-drivers and passengers on the same page, anything is possible.

The Saudi Public Investment Fund’s SRJ Sports Investments has had enough of trying to make the men in golf, football, cricket and tennis happy. Its most radical pivot yet pumps in billions into supporting, expanding and fortifying the world’s biggest women’s sport – tennis – and go in partnership with the WTA. It means escalating women’s tennis earnings up and down the ranks of the newly-renamed Superwomen Tour, development programmes on women’s health and the creation of public courts with access for women in Saudi Arabia and other nations across the developing world. The Superwoman Tour’s annual year-ender event now offers a total prize of $25m.

Naturally, ATP and ITF are ready to sign whatever terms SRJ wants and obediently lay down strict international governance standards. First move – the ruling bodies in countries with non-performing, non-productive tennis programmes are scrapped. Like, for example, India’s AITA.

Japanese baseball player Shohei Ohtani arrives at the conclusion that his and sports most behemoth-paycheck ever – a 10-year, deferred $700m with the Los Angeles Dodgers – is all too much and so hand over all his endorsement earnings for 2024 to the promotion of worldwide grassroots baseball. And spontaneously pigs also start flying.

And while FIFA plans to ban Brazil, it is rumoured that Brazil are preparing to ban FIFA, the idea attracting many followers. Even more than ViratTV™.

Peace, health, love and sanity, everyone through 2024 and beyond.

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