Sir Michael Parkinson, the President of the Sports Journalists’ Association, used the platform in front of more than 300 sportsmen and women, journalists and guests at the 62nd annual British Sports Awards to encourage his colleagues in the media to spend the next eight years investigating the management and governance at FIFA, football’s world governing body.
AP McCoy, 15 times the champion jump jockey, was named Sportsman of the Year, with Jessica Ennis retaining the title of SJA Sportswoman of the Year, while Colin Montgomerie, captain of Europe’s victorious Ryder Cup team, collected the Team of the Year award at the ceremony staged in London.
Sir Michael had kicked off procedings with a thought-provoking speech in which he also praised the bravery and sacrifice of the members of the armed forces and their families who were in the audience as guests of the SJA through the Tickets for Troops scheme.
The SJA’s nominated charity also received a donation of more than £2,000 as a result of a prize draw staged during the lunch.
Speaking less than a week after England’s 2018 World Cup bid was roundly and embarrasingly rejected by the FIFA Executive Committee, Sir Michael, in his opening remarks to the Awards, said, “I can’t make my mind up which event caused me most joy – the way our cricket team beat the Aussies in Adelaide or the manner in which the appaling Sepp Blatter and his FIFA cronies spared us the indignity of having to spend the next eight years in the company of men we ordinarily wouldn’t touch with a barge pole.
“The Sunday Times and Panorama did the job of a free press and those who criticised them, including some politicians who really ought to know better and a handful of journalists unworthy of the description, should be ashamed of themselves,” Sir Michael said.
“It would be reassuring to think we could now usefully spend the next eight years lifting the rock on FIFA and exposing what crawls beneath.
“The message to Blatter and his tribe is that if they were shocked as they claimed by the impertinence of the Sunday Times and Panorama, they ain’t seen nothing yet.”
Sir Michael is one of Britain’s best-known and well-recognised broadcasters, having hosted a weekly eponymous chat show from the 1970s until his retirement three years ago. He began his journalistic career as a sports reporter and columnist.
On the day when a parliamentary committee announced it was to examine the way football in Britain is governed, Sir Michael did not spare domestic administrators from the call for greater scrutiny. “It would also be good, as we seek reform abroad, if we also look to the game of football at home, where much needs to be done and the dubious aspects our game exposed and changed before we start criticising others.”
Sir Michael’s tributes to the soldiers, sailors, air force personnel and Royal Marines in the audience, alongside some of the country’s leading sporting stars, drew huge applause.
“What a pleasant duty to stand here today and pay tribute to our guests, many of whom have reminded us of the great and profound joy to be had from watching them in action.
“I can’t mention them all by name but i would like to single out two men who have graced their respective sports for many years and who this year provided us with unforgettable spectacles. A P McCoy, one of the great jockeys, finally triumphed in the Grand National and Colin Montgomerie masterminded a Ryder Cup event which emcompassed all that is exciting, moving and irresistible about a sporting event.
“But our very special guests today are not athletes but soldiers,” Sir Michael continued.
“We would like to pay a special welcome today to table No1, which we have donated to Tickets for Troops.
“Their guests today include members of the armed services who have been injured in Afghanistan, as well as Christina Schmid – the widow of bomb disposal expert Sgt Olaf Schmid, who was awarded the George Cross for making over 70 devices safe during one tour of duty in Afghanistan. Christina is a persuasive advocate in her work as patron of Tickets for Troops.
“Could I also mention a special guest on Table 5? He is Matt Croucher of the Royal Marines who threw himself on a grenade to save his comrades from the blast. Miraculously, he survived without serious injury. He received the George Cross, the first Marine to do so since the Second World War.
“We salute all you brave men and women for your courage and your sacrifice and for reminding us how much we owe you as we go freely about our business.”
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