Pacific Grim; The Pacific nations lose out to money and politics

“Fiji effectively go out of the World Cup in the first five days, to me that is ridiculously unfair”


The words of David Campese come in the wake of Fiji having lost to two of the tournament’s favourites England and Australia in the space of five days. Campese contends that every four years the Pacific Islands suffer at the hands of the tournament’s organisers when it comes to scheduling. Campese compares the plight of Tonga in the last world cup where they played the hosts New Zealand on a Friday evening and then had to play Canada just five days later (a fixture which they unfortunately lost 25-20). With hindsight, had Tonga beaten the Canadians, France would not have qualified from Pool A and they would not have played in the final at Eden Park four years ago.

It is not only the scheduling of the games which is having a detrimental effect on the Pacific Islands,  Samoan international Dan Leo has spoken out about the pre-tournament contract negotiations that have seen Pacific nations such as Samoa losing up to a third of their players.  The big money clubs such as Toulon and Toulouse have offered players eye-watering contracts to hang up their boots from the international stage which to many players are simply too good to refuse.

33 Year old Cencus Johnston has, according to Leo, been offered a further two year extension on his current contract at Toulouse which means that whilst under contract with the French giant he will not represent Samoa in the World Cup.

Another international tight-head, ex Newcastle Falcons’ Carl Hayman, was offered £425,000 more to remain with Toulon rather than represent the All Blacks at the World Cup in 2011.  In the final New Zealand won, leaving him, short of a World Cup Medal.

Rugby players are not paid the same sums of money than the likes of Ronaldo and Messi in the round ball game. With the highly publicised injury statistics surrounding the game the average professional rugby career is around 8 years. It is clear that players have to earn as much as possible in what is becoming an increasingly shorter career.

Both Johnson and Hayman were lured by the French salary cap which is markedly higher than other European clubs. The impact of the French salary cap has divided opinion in the Welsh and English camps. The Welsh Rugby Union (“WRU”) currently allows players who play their rugby in France to represent their country; high profile exports have included the likes of Jamie Roberts, Leigh Halfpenny and James Hook in recent seasons.

Lancaster has come under scrutiny for overlooking Toulon’s Steffon Armitage in particular, as many pundits in the game have stated Armitage is the only specialist openside flanker that could counteract the marvels over the ball in the form of Australia’s David Pocock and Michael Hooper.

For nations like Samoa, Fiji and Tonga there is no way they could take the stance of the RFU and overlook picking players placed abroad as their respective unions can’t afford to centrally contract the players. Their woes are further compounded by the cash rich clubs such as Toulon and Toulouse offering exorbitant wages to their stars. The club versus country row will rumble on for another four years and unless the Pacific Islands receive substantial financial assistance the Pacific nations will continue to be underpowered on the world stage.

If you need any advice on any sports related matters please do not hesitate to contact the Choix team.

Andy Boyde – Sports Consultant



The sting in the tail of social media

Judith Doherty

It’s just over  24 hours since the story emerged of a London-based female barrister, Charlotte Proudman, publicly calling out a male lawyer, Alexander Carter-Silk, for making ‘sexist’ and ‘misogynistic’ comments about her Linkedin profile photo.

The story has hit the headlines, covered by the BBC alongside national press and digital titles, and a further story by the Mail Online has suggested hypocrisy on the part of Charlotte Proudman based on comments she has made about photos of men on Facebook.

Setting aside any views on specific media outlets and how this morality tale has been played out, there are a number of salutary social media lessons here:

1. Using social media appropriately
For the vast majority, Linkedin is a powerful business networking tool, bringing you closer to potential employers, employees and business partners.
It’s not Tinder.
Think about why the vast majority of users are on a specific platform and use common sense!

2. Post appropriately
Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube, it makes no difference.
Don’t post something that you wouldn’t be happy to be overheard saying in a pub, restaurant, office or any other social setting.
Because it’s online, it makes no difference.
Another useful barometer is, ‘What would my Mum, partner, child say if they saw that comment?’

3. Speed
Yes, just 24 hours and millions of views between the story being released, Charlotte Proudman being praised for taking a stand and the subsequent piece in the Mail Online raising questions about her own social media behaviour.
Social media is instant and has the power to gain a massive reach very, very quickly.
Great if you’re in control of the story, not so great if you’re not.

4. Privacy settings
Think about your privacy settings. For many, Linkedin is an open network; for others, they want to remain anonymous when viewing profiles.
On Facebook, do you want to limit posts to certain individuals, just your friends, friends of your friends or share with the whole Facebook world?
Do you want to approve Twitter followers first?
There’s a solid case for all of the above, but be aware of your privacy setting and how to change them if necessary.

Judith Doherty – Social Media Consultant



The heat is on in the Big Apple

The US Open, the noisiest and brashest of the four Grand Slams, never takes long to find front page headlines for a host of reasons. 


Two days in and more players have stopped playing during matches because of injuries or illness during the first round of the U.S. Open than in any round at any Grand Slam tournament in the professional era.With the temperature topping 90 degrees, a total of 12 men and women retired during matches Monday and Tuesday at Flushing Meadows — with the first round still yet to be finished.

The previous mark for most retirements during any round at any major was nine at the 2011 U.S. Open. Among the 10 men and two women pulling out so far were five retirements Tuesday: Marcos Baghdatis, Ernests Gulbis, Thanasi Kokkinakis, Aleksandr Nedovyesov and Marina Erakovic. Not all of the retirements were directly related to conditions at Flushing Meadows, but temperatures in the mid-30s and punishing humidity took their toll.

As pointed out by Sports Illustrated, ‘Something is wrong when so many players are physically unable to play. It will be rejected as a bit of heresy but is it time to rethink the best-of-five format? We all know that fitness is part of tennis. But at what point have we transformed a ball-and-stick sport to a physical sport? And at what point are players endangering themselves?’

Whilst most people and commentators will have their own views the situation has brought back into focus the fine lines that exist between players, the ATP, Tournament organizers and sponsors. Few professional sports are as successful across both the men’s and women’s game as tennis. Regular combined events in some of the world’s most famous sporting arenas provide a unique package for spectators, sponsors and broadcasters.

The complex issues that a global, multi-stakeholder sport such as tennis faces, coupled with the lessons learned from other sports have enabled improvements in both operational and financial performance in the sport. At a worldwide level, consultations with stakeholders, tournament financial analysis and calendar restructuring work with the ATP has helped the world governing body of men’s tennis drive through several changes to the competition format for the men’s professional tour. However the development of the “business” of tennis over the last twenty years has also had a detrimental effect on the pressures applied on the “Gladiators” of the game – the players – who are an essential part of the business of tennis, as without them there would be no game, no business!

However, since the US Open 2011 there has been an undercurrent of frustration amongst players that they are still battling in vein against officialdom, organizers and sponsors with regard to the conditions and circumstances they are continually being asked to play. Even though the tournament is only a few days old, the issues at the US Open  regarding playing conditions, injuries and withdrawals, have brought into sharp focus the need for a re think of the game and the running of the modern game so that players as well as fans are protected, with the quality of the “product” beneficial to all.

Let us look at the US Open 2011 particularly to understand the concerns and issues more closely. Over the course of the two week period there were over 18 singles player who pull out of the tournament as a result of injury or illness The high number of withdrawals became the major talking point of the tournament, with two players pulling out before the start, two more choosing not to play their matches – including Venus Williams – and 14 more retiring mid-match. Many of the players had been, and still are  strong critics of the length of the tennis season which has been swirling for years , and Andy Murray weighed into the debate on Twitter, echoing what many players and fans feel, saying: “is the 18th pull out in the us open telling the tennis authorities anything?? No?? Thought not….

The length of the Tennis season is still the subject of much debate, even more so this year where the Olympics is having to be cramped in to already cramped calendar . Tennis has no off-season like many other professional sports. Maybe more so for those in the top 20 but a lot of the players are still grinding it out in tournaments till the end of November and maybe they get three weeks off to prepare for the Australian summer. Professional Tennis players are not machines and should not be expected to perform as such. Even the fittest Tennis player is going to wear down their body in this week in week out grind. The player’s body suffers and, in this case, the US Open suffers. The previous record for retirements during the US Open was 10! Is more proof needed that the gruelling ATP schedule is taking its toll on the players?

The US Open 2011 in some ways turned out to be a pivotal point in the future direction of professional tennis. The players were serious about change – whereas in the past when ideas were rejected the players just shrugged and accepted they had gone away. The intention was for there to be a players’ charter drawn up to demand a shorter season, less mandatory tournaments and a two-year ranking system. In addition it was planned to come up with a list of requirements that will help prolong careers.

It is clear players are now taking more interest in how tennis is run, not just the top guys, but the whole tour.

The key however is understanding the business side of the sport, as well as, making the sport better for the players moving forward. As the players point out, the problem is not the organisation but more particularly the players don’t have enough power, which has to change.

The biggest issue for players during the US Open 2011 was the conditions they were being ask to play in without due regard to injury of the players, against a back drop of TV and media pressures. Whilst players understand the need to put tennis on TV, as well as the financial and business aspects, players need to feel comfortable and safe.

For over 25 years, the US Open has promoted ‘Super Saturday’ hosting the men’s semi-finals one day before the final. Often, the winner of the second semi-final gets to bed so late that he barely has time to prepare for what should be one of the most important matches of his life. This year however, due to change in TV Network there will be no ‘Super Saturday’ Show and players in the Finals have more time to recover.

In 1985, McEnroe took over five hours to beat Mats Wilander, a former world No 1, in five sets in the second semi-final. The next day he was beaten in straight sets by Ivan Lendl. Other stars down the years could conceivably plead that their hopes of winning this title had been ruined by the effort they had been required to expend the day before the final.

The reasoning for such ridiculous scheduling is purely down to money and business where tennis becomes the by-product! CBS television pays hundreds of millions of dollars to have a controlling stake in the schedule. An insider said, ‘Perhaps, the penny has dropped that this isn’t the CBS Open.’ Events at the US Open will hopefully have galvanized their minds and given the organisers food for thought?

Adrian Rattenbury – Sports Consultant