Fox Bytes 21 – the mad-about-sport issue

Not for sale!

Britain has a football problem. The Football Association (FA) – which oversees British football – has 91 000 affiliated clubs in 1 100 leagues. Most are ‘grassroots clubs’ in small towns and cities.

Because of funding cuts to local authorities, pitches and facilities are becoming neglected. Last year, more than 147,000 grassroots matches were postponed because the pitches were unplayable.

So in April this year, the FA announced it was selling Wembley Stadium – the ‘home’ of British football – to raise funds to invest in grassroots clubs. 

It was as if the Queen were selling the Crown Jewels.

The Brits went mad. It didn’t help that the buyer – Shahid Khan – was American, and owned the Jacksonville Jaguars who play what the Americans call ‘football’. (In his defence, he also owns Fulham F.C., who play real football.)

Either inspired or infuriated, everyone from sporting personalities and government ministers to vicars and florists argued over protecting heritage versus grassroots funding. For every “no value can be put on retaining the keys to this most august of castles”, there was a “this is an opportunity to unleash an unprecedented amount of investment into community football”.

It all became a bit too much for Mr Khan, who last week withdrew his offer to purchase. 

Your ball, FA.

Image: REUTERS/David Klein


More than just a player.

Tiger Woods is the No. 1 golfer in the world. According to the Official World Golf Ranking, he’s not, but that doesn’t matter. Millions of golf fans think he is.

In a game of cordial competitiveness, the Marine-like steely cool of Woods commands sex appeal. It’s just one of the marks of what’s known as the ‘Tiger Effect’.

Beyond all the wins, and the many records he has smashed, Woods has transformed golf. His gruelling training regime added athleticism to the professional game, and his playing attracted big money – for over a decade from 2002 he was the highest paid athlete in the world.

His effect on recreational golf has also been remarkable. In 1996, just before Woods turned pro, there were about 24.4 million golfers in the US. Ten years later, that number was 29.8 million. Today, over 10 000 schools in America offer golf as a competitive sport

For the years that Woods battled injuries and poor performance, and tried to resurrect his personal life, TV viewership of golf plummeted. 

But his fight back has reignited the attention of golf fans. In the four events this season where he finished inside the top 25, broadcast network viewership in the US was up 93% compared to the same events last year.

Tiger Woods: golf’s greatest player, in more ways than one.

Image: Stokely-Van Camp, Inc.


Taking one for the team.

Would you chop off a pinky finger to save your arm? 

Okay, that may sound a little drastic, but it echoes a move in chess that’s repeated in other sports: the ‘sacrifice’.

In chess, a ‘sacrifice’ is a move in which a piece is surrendered in order to gain a tactical or positional advantage against an opponent. Any piece – other than the king, obviously – can be sacrificed. It’s a highly risky move. 

On appearance, what may look desperate, even foolish, in fact, reflects a confidence borne of a strategic focus on the big game.

Any time in a game or match where there’s a conscious decision to hand an opponent, say, a run, a shot, a penalty, or a point – it could be part of a bigger strategy. In which case it was a strategic sacrifice.

Consider a pace bowler in cricket who bowls continually wide of the off-stump. The batsman hits three successive fours, to the collective groan of the crowd. He then goes out, caught behind. The crowd goes wild. 

The bowler had probably sacrificed those 12 runs in order to lure the batsmen to play the one shot that would increase the chance of him going out.

The sacrifice: a move that sometimes takes balls.

Image: Pixabay

[These articles originally appeared in Issue 21 of Fox Bytes (you can view it here) in the week of 22 October 2018. Growing Foxes is a school strategic intelligence programme designed by mindofafox. It is being piloted in a number of leading schools in the UK and South Africa. Fox Bytes is published weekly to support those students currently engaging with the programme. Click on the logo to find out more]


Cover image: Pixabay