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With a US GranF1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi - Previewsd Prix grid reduced to 18 cars, and the whiff of ongoing boycott in the breeze, Bernie Ecclestone finally admitted that Formula One’s financial model has hit the barriers.

In a frank confession, Ecclestone said that the current commercial distribution deals, mostly brokered by him, were the root cause. “The problem is there is too much money probably being distributed badly – probably my fault,” went Ecclestone’s mea culpa. “But like lots of agreements people make, they seemed a good idea at the time.”

So, despite the fact the sport will generate in the region of £1bn this season, Marrusia and Caterham have entered administration and were absent from Austin and unlikely to be seen again. Their plight is cause for alarm and, for once, the fixer appears powerless.

One solution, Ecclestone said, was to rob Marco to pay Vijay.

“We have to decide the best way to sort this whole thing out. Frankly, I know what’s wrong but don’t know how to fix it. I would put that money together to divide among the three or four (teams) we know are in trouble but are not going to run away with the money, and then I will put in the same amount of money.”

To add to Bernie’s woes, three cash-strapped teams, Force India, Sauber and Lotus, had stirred up talk of no-race in Austin. The boycott was averted by the intervention of the sport’s majority shareholders, CVC Capital Partners.

The latest offer from the private equity firm which continues to suck considerable financial lifeblood from the sport, is an one-off payment of £100m to those smaller teams. That is merely a band-aid where a tourniquet is required.

Earlier this year, mindful of the looming financial kerfuffle, the FIA proposed cost capping for the 2015 season.

Those plans were abandoned in April following resistance from the F1 grandees (Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes, McLaren, Williams) who comprise the decision-making F1 strategy group along with a sixth member – the floating best of the rest.

FIA President Jean Todt, lamented that the FIA could not not impose the cap “if the commercial rights holder [Bernie Ecclestone] and six teams are against it”.

Instead, he added, if the governing body could not enforce a cost cap then measures would have to be introduced instead through the sporting regulations. We await the FIA’s response.

Another spectre sitting in Ecclestone’s in-tray is a potential breach of an agreement between the FIA and Ecclestone’s Formula One Management over the minimum number of entries required at each race. What happens if the grid dips below the agreed minimum? A number we are not privy to.

If, the wealth distribution issue cannot be resolved, Marussia and Caterham are joined on the scrap heap, and the bigger teams are not prepared to run third cars (nor should they), where does that leave Ecclestone’s agreement?

Might there also be legal action from individual race promoters if the minimum requirements for grids are not met in Brazil and Abu Dhabi? Might all of the above trigger a parting of the ways between Ecclestone and CVC?

“It’s not like having the flu and taking a few tablets and it will disappear,” he says.

Brazil is in four days Bernie. Let’s hope the head clears by then.

Questions of Allegiance – Part II

Here at Funny Peculiar Towers, we take little pride in saying we told you so. But, when it comes to Kevin Pietersen - ons het jou gesê.

Many cricketing summers have passed since FPE grew suspicious of Pietersen’s understanding of allegiance. The recent launch of KP: The Autobiography, confirms it once and for all.

Among the many grievances aired in the sad tome, those aimed at former England coach Andy Flower are particularly sharp. “Contagiously sour. Infectiously dour. He could walk into a room and suck all the joy out of it in five seconds. Just a Mood Hoover. That’s how I came to think of him,” Pietersen claims.

But, wait, is this the same Andy Flower referenced in glowing terms by Pietersen in an interview in 2009? “My opinion of Andy has shifted hugely over the past few months. On the West Indies tour he was an absolute superstar. I loved working with him.”

Switch hit anyone?

IMG_0085Having become the largest manufacturers of Optimists in the world, established a global sales network for one-design racers and performance cruisers, Shanghai’s Far East Boats, harbours hopes of putting its name to the first America’s Cup entry built in China. That is the lofty ambition of chairman Demolar Du Yingying (left).

Far East Boats, the company she founded with her husband Lu Weifeng in 2002, has produced over 14,000 yachts with a distribution footprint which reaches western Europe, Asia-Pacific, South America, South Africa and Russia.

The range spans from youth dinghies like Funboats and Optimists, Lasers, International 420s, under licence to ISAF, to catamarans such as the Rosella 36C unveiled at the Shanghai International Boat Show earlier this year.

In 2009, Far East entered into a partnership with the Dutch-South African designers Simonis Voogd. The fruits of that collaboration come in the shape of a fleet of 16 FarEast 28Rs among the 108 entries in this week’s 8th edition of the China Cup in Daya Bay, Shenzhen.

Ms Du Yingying cited the rise of the Chinese participation in global sailing events, and burgeoning Chinese engineering and manufacturing expertise as reasons why an America’s Cup entry emerging from the Far East boat yard in Qidong, Jiangsu Province might not be a forlorn hope.

“If you look at the number of good Chinese sailors competing in the China Cup and other major regattas in the Asian region and around the world, we are building a solid foundation,” Ms Du Yingying says.

“Also, with the acceptance of products coming from Chinese builders like Far East Boats in global markets, our technical, engineering and manufacturing capability if gaining respect – and earning customer loyalty.

“We have had Team China in the America’s Cup and currently we have Team Dongfeng in the Volvo Ocean Race, so one day I hope as a nation that we can reach our ultimate dream. We are growing our all-round expertise, and we certainly have the desire.

“We also need to have a full Chinese crew on a Chinese-manufactured America’s Cup boat to satisfy our country’s passion for sailing.”

To underline the point, Dongfeng Race Team, represented in the China Cup by a number of Volvo Ocean Race reservists, clinched class victory in IRC Division B.

Team coach Bruno Dubois explained that the objective is to expose the Dongfeng underlings, some of whom will feature on future Volvo legs in the current iteration of the race, to competitive sailing whenever possible.

“The aim is to put the sailors in a competitive environment when we get the opportunity, and the China Cup is the biggest regatta in the country and one of the biggest in Asia, with the quality going up every year,” he said.

“I was at the China Cup a year ago looking for talent and there were certain qualities we were looking for such as strength and fitness. But the main thing is spirit, and that is what these sailors have. Spirit is the most important quality.”

To help the bottling of tscenichat spirit, Far East Boats has also launched training initiatives with over seven yacht clubs all over the country. The majority of clubs in China, which now number 40, have adopted their training techniques. The results are speaking for themselves.

“As an example we have four clubs in Shanghai and Suzhou and at one of them 6,000 people came for sailing training for the first time this year. We also hold team building events at those clubs where we attract the corporate sector to try sailing,” Ms Du Yingying says.

“We educate them about sailing and then they get to try it for themselves. In this way we are helping to introduce the whole country to sailing.”

That growth resulted in China’s first ever gold medal in the Laser class at the London 2012 Olympics for Xu Lijia. That followed gold for Yin Jian in the woman’s sailboard at Beijing in 2008.

Far East also collaborated with the organisers of the China Cup to stage a regatta in Shanghai in September featuring 14 teams competing in Far East 18 and Far East 26 racing yachts. The event attracted over 20,000 spectators to the marina.

Far East’s effort in growing sailing participation in China was recognised with a special achievement award at the China Cup annual gala dinner.

The secret of Far East’s growth, Ms Du Yingying says, is a strong team ethic, and the time and resources they invest in market research and taking learnings from their distributors in the regional markets.

“We have a highly skilled team at Far East with exceptional technical expertise,” she says. “We have 10 Chinese engineers at the boat yard who focus on attention to detail and craftsmanship. We are very proud of their work and their efforts to raise the profile of Far East in the sailing world.

“We have not been afraid to take the feedback from our distributors in the international markets in an effort to constantly improve our products.”

So, will we have an America’s Cup entry stamped “made in China” in the future? “No, ‘made in Shanghai’”, she quips.

www.fareastboats.com

Notwithstanding the odd Chinese and Korean badminton player, a Belarusian shot putter, and a cashed-up US basketball team which had no place being there, London 2012 was largely about fair play in the pursuit of precious medals.

For the past two and a half weeks, young sportsmen and sportswoman have adhered to the Baron Pierre de Coubertin principle and made the inhabitants of Britain feel happy and glorious again.

As of today, athletes from Armenia and Azerbaijan to Zambia and Zimbabwe via Kiribati and Krygyzstan who enthralled us with their running, jumping and paddling will be replaced by overpaid bores whose specialist sports are spitting, goading and feigning injury. Welcome to the new English soccer season.

Where once, the front and back pages were filled with tales of honest endeavour, there will be kiss-and-tell tattle of extra-time romps, nightclub fracas and obscene salaries. Throw in terrace hostility and the Olympic glow is a distant memory.

One can only hope that the words of national manager Roy Hodgson are heeded. “The Olympics have really shown us the way to go,” he said ahead of England’s match against Italy.

“So there is now an extra burden of responsibility on our players to make sure they are good role models and professionals in the way they speak to the nation as our athletes have done.” Phew, some hope Roy.

“It’s been very refreshing to see talented people showing a good face to the nation and the world at large,” he added.

“The way that Team GB have conducted themselves in a home Olympics must make the world of  athletics very pleased and proud and so many of them have done such a great PR job.”

Speaking of bad PR jobs, step forward Kevin Pietersen who attempted a very public career suicide this week.

This in a week when England face a South African team eager to topple Andrew Strauss’s men from their No.1 spot. And a week which should have been equally dominated by Strauss’s 100th Test appearance – at Lord’s.

Pietersen wanted to play for England on his terms – a schedule where he could pick and choose between T20, 50-overs and Tests and trouser several million rupees in the Indian Premier League.

Naturally enough, the suits of the ECB were not amused.

Pietersen saw opportunity in a riotous 149 in the second Test at Headingley to launch a stinging attack on the game’s rulers and suggested that all was not well in the England dressing room. “It’s not easy being me in there, he said.” Retirement was threatened.

His handlers then thought it a smart idea to issue an incredulous Youtube apology which included a pledge to represent England in all forms of the game.

He made that without the ECB’s knowledge and was subsequently dropped for the third Test when it was revealed that he had sent unsavoury remarks about Strauss and others to the South African camp by sms.

After repeated prompts from the ECB, a further apology was duly delivered, this time by email …

“I did send what you might call provocative texts to my close friends in the SA team. The texts were meant as banter between close friends. I need to rein myself in sometimes.” Indeed.

Pietersen’s mea culpa was met with a cool response from England managing director Hugh Morris.

“Further discussions need to take place to establish whether it is possible to regain the trust and mutual respect required to ensure all parties are able to focus on playing cricket and to maintain the unity of purpose that has served us so well in recent years,” he wrote.

That doesn’t exactly sound like a ‘let’s shake hands and put this sorry saga behind us’ does it?

So to Queen’s Club, the traditional Wimbledon dress-rehearsal, where Andy Murray, the defending champion, was a second-round casualty at West Kensington.

His defence lasted just two and a half hours – beaten 6-3, 6-7, 7-6 by France’s Nicolas Mahut. Just over a week before Wimbledon, the Scotsman as he will be known after this defeat, will enter the All England Club short of grass court match hardening.

Murray’s one success today was a post-match volley aimed squarely at Germany’s Tommy Haas who had accused the World No.4 of exaggerating injuries during the French Open.

Haas, who has a wildcard into Wimbledon, claimed Murray comes over all diva at the hint of a knock or strain in a bid to change the momentum of matches if he is behind on the scoreboard.

Former Wimbledon women’s champion Virginia Wade also weighed in by labelling Murray a “drama queen” when he suffered a back injury but recovered quickly to beat Jarkko Nieminen at the French.

“In the time I have been on tour I’ve been called many, many things from my personality not being exciting enough. I have been called boring. It was said I was unfit, lazy, fake injuries. All sorts,” was Murray’s response.

“It’s something that kind of goes hand in hand with playing sport. People criticise you regularly. So it’s something you need to just deal with. But I don’t care for his (Haas) opinion.”

15-all.

The fallout from England’s dismal World Cup – ineptitude on the field, indiscretion off it – has been dealt a significant blow with the leaking of details of three confidential inquiries into events in New Zealand.

The reviews by the RFU’s director of elite rugby Rob Andrew, the players’ union and the professional clubs, have found their way to the pages of The Times.

Not ideal timing when the RFU is looking for a chief executive and a head coach to replace Martin Johnson who chose to fall on his sword prior to the gory details of the infighting among players and officials being made public.

Is it any wonder that there is not an orderly queue forming outside Twickenham for the top two posts in English rugby?

The RFU has a shortlist of three for the chief exec role (salary £350,000) but two of the candidates are re-thinking. They are clearly pondering whether they want to be part of an organisation that is, not for the first time, in utter disarray.

Players more interested in making money than representing their country, drunken antics with the captain in the lead role, alleged hush money after dalliances with chamber maids. Ill-discipline and lack of leadership, on and off field, lackadaisical training regimes – just a few of the details contained in the reviews.

“You have to ask whether there is a sport in this country that is run more badly,” says politician and former England wing Derek Wyatt. “The need for a chief executive is great, yet even if they found one tomorrow he would not be able to start work for between three and six months. Sponsors are making threats and I cannot see why the RFU has not asked Francis Baron (the former chief executive) to come back and steady things.”

Identifying a coach is also proving problematic. Former South African coach Nick Mallett was the early leading contender but has since ruled himself out.

Another former South Africa coach, Jake White, who has expressed an interest, provides an interesting take on the situation. “I don’t know how I’d react if I was called by the RFU, one never knows until you are in that situation.”

White, or any other candidates, would be wise to consider the comments of Jeremy Guscott, a former England and Lions team-mate of the deposed Johnson.

“He didn’t have the CV to do the job but the RFU backed him and he backed himself and unfortunately and regrettably he came up short,” Guscott told the BBC – helpfully.


When Rory McIlroy spring-heeled onto the PGA European Golf Tour four years ago, people in the know told us the kid was a bit special. After a stunning eight-shot victory in the US Open we can now appreciate just how special.

Not only did the Northern Irishman shred the record books, he also laid to rest the bogey of a dramatic capitulation at the Masters two months’ earlier. At Augusta National, McIlroy squandered a four-shot final round lead to finish nowhere. Afterwards he would say that the Masters was a “little speed bump but no more than that.”

At Congressional, he became the youngest US Open champion since Bobby Jones in 1923 and the youngest major winner since Tiger Woods triumphed at the Masters in 1997.

He posted rounds of 65, 66, 68 and 69 to finish 16 under par. Along the way he became the quickest player to reach -10 (after 26 holes), the first player to reach -17 and produced the lowest 36-hole total of 131 in a major.

Nursing a wounded reputation and recuperating from knee surgery, Woods, doubtless thumbing the pages of his latest Nike ad script, would have thrown envious glances at his TV set while McIlroy was etching his name in history. Woods himself won the US Open by 15 strokes at Pebble Beach in 2000.

He was on an inevitable journey to usurp Jack Nicklaus as the greatest major winner of all time. Woods had amassed 14 titles to the Golden Bear’s 18.

He was also one wayward dalliance from golfing self-destruction. Or 13 rounds of night putting, depending on your maths proficiency or tabloid reading habits.

Woods must now accept that he is not the most compelling golfer on the planet. That honour goes to a freckly-faced, tousled-haired kid from Holywood, County Down.

When Woods returns from injury he will confront a youngster who has the potential to dominate golf as he once did, and thus derail his attempt on Nicklaus’s record.

As for the Nicklaus himself, he likes what he sees in McIlroy.

“He’s got a great golf swing, his rhythm is beautiful,” Nicklaus says. “He also has a great short game and I like the way he walks. He is a little cocksure about himself and I like that in a guy, to have confidence in what you are doing.

“I think this kid is going to have a great career, no question. He has all the components, he has a lot of people rooting for him and he is a nice kid. He is a pleasant personality, humble when he needs to be humble and confident when he needs to be confident.”

As for the record, McIlroy has time on his side. For Woods, unless he can rediscover his aura, regain his form and gather up what’s left of his composure, the clock may have stopped.

The great British culture clash

Seems like the British Olympic Association has been a bit previous with the announcement of a ‘historic agreement’ with the English Football Association to field a British soccer team at London 2012.

No sooner had a triumphant press release dropped in the inbox than a joint statement from the other nations kiboshed the claim.

The BOA’s release said: “We are pleased the team will be selected from players across the home nations and I’d like to thank our counterparts at the Welsh, Irish and Scottish FAs for their understanding on a difficult issue.”

The release also quoted FA general secretary Alex Horne. “We’re delighted there will be football teams representing Team GB at the London 2012 Olympics,” he said.

The retort from the other home nations was blunt. “No discussions took place with any of us, far less [has any] historic agreement been reached,” it stated.

“The Football Associations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland reiterate our collective opposition to Team GB participation at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, contrary to the media release issued by the BOA.”

The FA’s release follows the recent announcement that of the 2.3 million tickets that remain for Olympic events, 1.7 million of these are for soccer.

FPE has two questions on the subject.

Is the BOA/FA’s rush to announce a non-existent GB entry in anyway related to the sluggish take-up of tickets?

Just exactly how deluded is the English FA?

For the second time in as many weeks, Rory McIllroy has snatched capitulation from the jaws of victory.

The young Irishman, you will recall if you were anywhere near a newspaper, web site or TV set recently, led the Masters by four strokes entering the final round only to come up  short. A succession of missed putts and wayward drives and a round of 80 handed the green jacket to South African Charl Schwartzel.

Soon after leaving behind the azaleas of the Augusta National, McIllroy ventured to Malaysia to begin the rehab.

Already laden down with emotional baggage, he arrives in Kuala Lumpur minus his golf clubs.

Cue the Evening Standard to run a front page picture story under the headline: ‘What’s Rory lost this time?’

The full story featured on page three under the title ‘Things go from bag to worse as McIllroy loses golf clubs after Masters meltdown’.

It went on … ‘First he lost his nerve in front of a global audience of millions, squandering the chance of a US Masters title’ the story ran. ‘Today life got even worse for McIllroy as he stepped off the long-haul flight only to be told his prized golf clubs had been lost in transit’.

The clubs eventually turned up and enabled McIllroy set about establishing a four-shot lead as the final round unfolded. McIlroy was still in contention after three birdies in four holes from the eighth, but his progress was halted when he three-putted for a double bogey at the 12th.

However, he responded with three further birdies to keep alive hopes of forcing a play-off with Matteo Manassero, only for a bogey at the 18th to end his victory prospects.

McIllroy’s exploits prompted headlines containing the phrases ‘more misery’, ‘another late collapse’, ‘putting betrays McIllroy again’ and ‘McIllroy let another chance slip’.

The truth is McIllroy will have to live with those headlines and those comparisons to Augusta for quite a while yet. Until he exorcises the demons with a major title one suspects.

The Irishman’s unraveling has inevitably drawn comparisons with Greg Norman’s deck chair moment at the Masters in 1996.

In one of the worst meltdowns in majors history, Norman carried a six-stroke cushion into the final round and lost the tournament to Nick Faldo by five strokes, shooting a Sunday 78 to Faldo’s 67.

The story goes that Norman’s daughter Morgan-Leigh, 13 at the time, passed by a  graveyard on the way to Augusta on the final morning. She held her breath, closed her eyes and prayed. When your dad is Greg Norman sometimes divine intervention is on the menu on Sundays. Her prayers went unanswered.

The final word on the matter goes to McIllroy himself. “The Masters was a little speed bump but no more than that. I will have lots of other chances to win majors.” At just 21 years of age, he may well be right.

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