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Sick Of How U.S. Sports Are Run? Take A Look At Europe

Oct 9, 2013
Originally published on October 9, 2013 4:44 am

Complain all you want about how sports in the U.S. are run, but the playing fields aren't always greener on the other side.

In Europe, FIFA, the soccer federation, is dealing with problems associated with the 2022 World Cup's timing and venue. For one, after awarding the World Cup to Qatar, those running FIFA wonder now if it'd be better to play the games in winter when it will be cooler — only that's when all the European leagues are operating.

Also, in doing its due diligence, FIFA failed to appreciate that Qatar planned to build its World Cup stadiums with, essentially, foreign slave labor. FIFA is looking into it.

The next winter Olympics — helmed by a series of Europeans — will be held in Russia, where homophobia is prominently enshrined in law. And Formula One is run by an Englishman who is facing jail on charges of bribery and embezzlement.

Click on the audio link above to hear Deford's take on this issue.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

On now to commentator Frank Deford, who has discovered something even more entertaining than gambling, at least certainly - maybe more fascinating, and that's international sports organizations and the European men who run them.

FRANK DEFORD, BYLINE: Two things we know are that the United Nations doesn't do a very good job at uniting nations and that Europe is a mess. It may not be too surprising then to learn that international sports, which are basically like stylish, little United Nations run by Europeans, are having all kinds of problems. Of course, at home and abroad in every sport that I've ever dealt with, the people who love the sport are forever saying: This must be a great game because not even the dopes who run it can ruin it.

But you see, everybody worldwide loves sports, so cities and whole countries, austerity be damned, throw themselves at feckless sports organizations. Even with that sweet advantage, though, it's amazing how often the European masterminds get it wrong, whatever their game.

FIFA, which is the soccer federation - a sort of athletic OPEC, but without the charm - is run by a man from Switzerland with the wonderful name of Blatter. As a young man, prior to becoming, almost surely, the most powerful person in the world in sport, Mr. Blatter - are you ready for this - was president of an organization known as the World Society of the Friends of Suspenders, which sought to stop women from replacing garter belts with pantyhose. And...

(LAUGHTER)

DEFORD: And you thought Roger Goodell was behind the curve for not recognizing that football concussions could hurt you.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Blatter thinks women soccer players should wear tighter shorts. And he and his colleagues appear to have been astonished to learn, after awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, it is very hot in Qatar and maybe it'd be better to play the games in winter, only that's when all the European leagues are operating. Oh my. Also, in doing its due diligence, FIFA failed to appreciate that Qatar planned to build its World Cup stadiums with essentially foreign slave labor. FIFA is looking into it.

And the Olympics - now run by a German, who replaced a Belgian, who replaced a Spaniard, who replaced an Irishman - gave the next winter Olympics to Russia, where homophobia is prominently enshrined in law.

Then we have Formula One, the race car circuit, which is pretty much the fiefdom of a wee, octogenarian Englishman named Bernie Ecclestone, who - notwithstanding the fact that he's become a billionaire as a, quote, sportsman, unquote - is facing jail on charges of bribery and embezzlement.

No, I'm not a jingoist or a unilateralist, but maybe it's good that we here care so little about international sport. Ah, so let us toast our baseball and basketball commissioners, Bud Selig and David Stern, as they prepare to retire. Complain all you want about how our sports are run, but the playing fields aren't always greener on the other side.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: The comments of Frank Deford who comes to us each Wednesday.

You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.