Int’l Cycling Union (UCI) President Brian Cookson said that the primary goal of the recently announced independent commission "is restoring the reputation of the sport." Cookson, who was elected UCI president in late September, created a three-member panel that will look into allegations of wrongdoing within the governing body. Cookson told SBD Global, "[Cycling] has been so damaged by recent controversies. We’ve never really got to the bottom of the allegations that have been made about the UCI’s alleged collusion and so on, and I think it’s really important that we do that." The "Cycling Independent Reform Commission," whose members have experience in investigations and int’l crime networks, will look into cycling’s most recent era, when the most damage has been done to its reputation. Cookson said that the "Festina affair," which occurred during and after the 1998 Tour de France, seems to be a good starting point for the commission inquiry. "The terms under which the commission will operate will be decided ultimately by them. We’ve given them some broad guidelines; we’ve given them a budget. But I don’t want to stop the commission from going further back than that if it wants to." The commission will try to talk to Cookson’s predecessors, Hein Verbruggen (1991-2005) and Pat McQuaid (2005-2013), who both have been accused of corruption and cover-up during cycling's EPO era. Unlike Lance Armstrong, who said that he will cooperate with the investigation, it is unclear if McQuaid and Verbruggen will provide evidence. Cookson did not consult his predecessors as he thought it would have been inappropriate to discuss the matter with them. "I think it’s important that we have a clean break and that we look into the investigations and allegations of the era in which they were both presidents in a way that is entirely impartial." He also said that it was important to establish the commission in a way that is acceptable to the broader int'l sporting family, including the World Anti-Doping Agency, the IOC and the rest of the people involved in cycling.
PICKING UP THE TAP: While Cookson reassured that the panel will have complete autonomy and will have access to all UCI documents, communications and other information, the issue of it being completely funded by the UCI leaves some doubt about its independence. "We are funding them because nobody else will fund it, frankly," Cookson said. It has been reported that the UCI will spend around 3M Swiss francs ($3.3M) on the investigation. This is a considerable amount taking into account that the UCI's average annual expenses are around 6M-8M Swiss francs ($6.6M-$8.8M), according to VeloNews. Cookson: "My management committee has agreed that it is important to allocate a serious amount of money to do it but not an unlimited amount of money." He said that the organization will have to take some money out of its reserves and perhaps not build them as high as it hoped over the next few years. Despite this financial burden on the UCI, Cookson said, "I think it’s absolutely essential that we did it."
The NBA and Russian gas processing and petrochemicals company SIBUR announced a multi-year sponsorship. SIBUR and the NBA will launch a program to regenerate basketball facilities in 10 cities in Russia. Along with SIBUR, the NBA will identify indoor courts in need of refurbishment in regions where SIBUR has a presence. The improved facilities will be available to communities, providing people with a chance to learn and play basketball. Current and former NBA players and coaches will visit the locations to host clinics and events (NBA).
Super League clubs "have given the go-ahead for a radical overhaul of domestic rugby league," according to Ian Laybourn of the London TELEGRAPH. Representatives of the 14 current Super League clubs voted at a meeting in St. Helens to cut the division to 12 at the end of the '14 season, "ratifying an earlier decision to scrap the much-maligned licensing system in favour of a return to automatic promotion and relegation." The clubs also agreed to implement a "convoluted proposal" from the Rugby Football League "which would see two divisions of 12 teams divide into three of eight two-thirds of the way" through the '15 season. The top eight in Super League "will then play off as normal for a place in the Grand Final, with the bottom four joining the top four from the Championship to play each other for the right to compete in the top flight" in '16 (TELEGRAPH, 1/17). The DONCASTER FREE PRESS reported Doncaster "will get a shot at reaching the Super League next year after a radical overhaul of domestic rugby league." The new structure "is expected to be ratified by the Rugby League board this week" (DONCASTER FREE PRESS, 1/20).
The Basketball Bundesliga (BBL) "is changing its licensing procedure as a consequence of the recently occurring financial problems of BBL club s.Oliver Baskets Würzburg," according to the SID. From now on, clubs have to submit their documents for the new season by April 15 instead of March 15. The additional month "gives clubs more time for preparation." In addition, the league will review the clubs' numbers on July 15, starting with the upcoming season. So far, clubs have not had to provide numbers between early May and the end of September. BBL CEO Jan Pommer said, "The clubs were unanimously for it. Those are very important issues because we are putting an emphasis on reasonable economic practices" (SID, 1/18).
New Zealand Cricket has backed the proposed changes in the Int'l Cricket Council's administrative structure, "which would leave major decision-making in the hands of India, Australia and England, despite facing severe criticism from the country's players' association," according to the PTI. The New Zealand PA has described the draft proposal of this plan, which will be presented to the ICC Exec Board during its quarterly meeting in Dubai on Jan. 28-29, as "scheming" by India, Australia and England. NZC, however, "is not complaining too much about it." In a statement, NZC Board Member Martin Snedden, who attended the Dubai ICC meeting where the plan was unveiled, insisted that New Zealand would not be "disadvantaged" or "downgraded" under the "changes that are currently proposed" (PTI, 1/20). The PTI also reported the Pakistan Cricket Board said that "it will oppose any overhaul that will cede executive decision-making to India, Australia and England." A member of the PCB governing board said that at the meeting held on Saturday in Lahore, the members had made it clear to reinstated Chair Zaka Ashraf "that the draft proposal should be opposed strongly at the ICC meeting." The member said, "The governing board was firm that this was a very sensitive issue for Pakistan and the PCB should go to the ICC meeting well prepared to give strong arguments against the proposed changes" (PTI, 1/20). In Abu Dhabi, Osman Samiuddin wrote whether or not that vision is fulfilled, potentially as early as the three-day ICC meeting in Dubai from Jan. 27, "depends almost entirely on how the smaller seven act during those meetings, on the sidelines and in boardrooms." Reaction, at least official, public reaction, from those boards "has been almost non-existent." Snedden "cautiously dipped his toes in the coming whirlpool." Snedden: "Do we have power at the ICC table? Not a hell of a lot. Do we have an ability to influence and persuade? A little bit." Some officials of these boards have said that "they still cannot believe what they have read." A "moment of rare levity in one internal board meeting asked who would be relegated if England, Australia and India finish sixth, seventh and eighth?" Will "there be clear opposition to it, however, at the meeting?" It "is looking unlikely." The smallest boards -- financially -- "seem resigned to bargaining their acquiescence." To these boards, "in practice little would change under the proposed system" (THE NATIONAL, 1/20).
The Badminton Association of India has decided to set up a fund of Rs. 25 lakh ($40,600) "to help needy ex-players," according to THE HINDU. Announcing the action plan of the BAI after being re-elected as president for a second term, Akhilesh Das Gupta admitted the sum was "not a big amount," but maintained "it could help some former champions and players who need it" (THE HINDU, 1/20).
The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) offered Portuguesa FC £1M ($1.6M) to "accept the decision to play in Série B of the Brazilian Championship" in '14, according to ESPN Brazil's "images of a document containing the proposal." Portuguesa finished 12th "in last season's championship, only to be relegated following a points deduction for fielding a suspended player" (SAMBAFOOT, 1/20). ... With Indian Premier League dates "expected to clash with the general elections this year," the Board of Control for Cricket in India "is in talks with the home ministry on security measures for the high-profile T20 tournament even as it scouts around the world for other venues." With most franchises batting for the IPL to be held in India, the BCCI "is also looking at alternative home grounds for teams, apart from their original turf." If a certain state can not provide security within a certain window, the BCCI "will try and accommodate those matches in some other cities" (TIMES OF INDIA, 1/20).