Tom English: ‘This wheeze demeans the spirit of the relay. It is a shoddy piece of profiteering’

David Beckham with the torch during the ceremony to mark the arrival of the Olympic flame
David Beckham with the torch during the ceremony to mark the arrival of the Olympic flame
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ON the day the Olympic torch passed through town even the most cynical mind might have been won over by the unfolding spectacle, the giddy innocence of the school kids lining the streets and the euphoria as the jogger went by.

When you looked at the excitement of the children it was possible to deal with the ugly commercialisation of the scene, the fact that some of the outriders in the relay were corporate opportunists, among them cheerleaders for Coca-Cola who walked down the line of on-lookers offering bottles of Coke to anybody who held out their hand. Could have been worse, of course. McDonald’s are one of the platform sponsors for the London Games. Could have been Ronald McDonald dishing out product. Could have been free quarter-pounders for the P1s and Big Mac meals for the rest. “I’m Lovin’ It”. Not.

Overall, it was a day for positivity, a coming-together of communities in order to celebrate a unique occasion. That’s how it felt then. And now? Well, the opportunists are going into over-drive, the vulgar pursuit of money becoming ever more objectionable. On Wednesday it was announced that Locog, the Games’ organising committee, are going to auction off a heap of Olympic memorabilia including tennis balls, the baton from the relay races and anything else they can think of. Jessica Ennis’s javelin? Chris Hoy’s helmet? Michael Phelps’ goggles. Don’t be surprised if Usain Bolt’s sweat is spooned off his naked torso and sold by Locog as Eau de Bolt: the Essence of Champions, one-off limited edition bottle, reserve price: £100,000

Oh yes, and key to the official auction is the torch we all marvelled at as it came through the streets of our town. If you want the torch that David Beckham carried then the bidding as of Thursday night was £5,250 but it’s going to end up as a multiple of that by the time the cyber gavel comes down on 4 July. The Jonathan Edwards torch was going for £1,300 last time we checked. There were others being auctioned, from £620 to over a grand, some of which will have been sold by the time you read this. Fear not, though. Locog reckon they can shift about a thousand torches and assorted other pieces of memorabilia and raise hundreds of thousands of pounds in the process.

And this is the depressing bit. If the proceeds were going to charity wouldn’t that be the perfect end to the heart-warming story of the torch relay and all the incredible people who carried it along the way? But the money isn’t going to charity. Another idea would be to not sell them at all and instead have a ballot among British schools and donate them as part of the legacy Locog are so keen to talk about. Put them in school assembly halls as beacons for future athletes. That’s not happening either, though.

They’re going to be flogged off and the cash is not even going back into the sports who have had their Lottery funding slashed in order to help pay for the Games, which are coming in at a minimum cost of £9.3 billion to the taxpayer. No, Locog are keeping the money. They say they have costs to meet for staging the relay even though the relay was backed to the hilt by their corporate partners. They say they have a revenue target of £2bn and they need the auction to help get them there. They say a lot of things, but this is a wheeze that demeans the spirit of the relay. It is a shoddy piece of profiteering.

By the time the relay finishes there will have been 8,000 torch-bearers, each of them allowed to purchase their own torch for £199. That was the message at the outset. Only those who carried the torch would have the right to own it. That’s gone out of the window now, not for the sake of charity or legacy but because Locog have seen what’s been happening on eBay and they wanted a piece of the action. If you looked at eBay on Thursday evening there was almost two dozen official London 2012 torches for sale, most of them coming with the tracksuit the bearer ran in. Classy. On average, they were reaching £2,500-£3,000 a pop. One was still taking bids at £8,000 (free postage, if you’re interested) and there was another on sale for £65,000. Quite what was so special about that one was not immediately evident, but the whole experience of scanning the online auction pages was grim. It was bad enough seeing torch-bearers trying to cash in, but some of the chancers trying to shift homemade replica torches that a child of five would have bettered was thoroughly depressing.

Almost as bad as seeing the official body getting in on the act with their own site. The spivs don’t just hang about at market stalls, it seems.

SPL and SFL are desperate to settle for integrity ‘lite’

SO the Rangers goose looks well and truly cooked as far as their hopes of playing in the SPL next season are concerned. Unless Charles Green can start cutting some pretty spectacular deals in the coming weeks, they’re done for. It now seems close to a formality that Newco Bears will begin life outside of the top flight.

Into the Third Division they go. Er, probably not. Their fellow clubs want to ensure that sporting integrity is served but there seems to be varying degrees of sporting integrity in all of this as far as the SPL and the SFL are concerned. There’s sporting integrity max and sporting integrity lite. The former puts Rangers in the Third Division but places the finances of their SPL rivals under strain for three long years, the latter sees a handy compromise brought about by concessions from the Ibrox hierarchy on voting structures and TV revenue and Rangers beginning again in the second tier, with the financial hit to other SPL clubs lasting just a year. Right now, there is a frenzy of activity trying to make the second option workable.

For the longest time a rocket lodged in the rectum of football’s governing bodies in this country wouldn’t have been enough to make them get off their backsides and get some consensus on the future direction on the game in Scotland. The current talk of mergers and league revamps all done in a matter of weeks might be fanciful but it’s also instructive.

Let’s be clear, newco Rangers should be in the Third Division next season, not in the First (or SPL2) or in any other compromise set-up that might give the impression of sporting integrity well-served but would actually be self-interest writ large. A fudge at Hampden would be tantamount to saying: “Oh yes, we believe in sporting integrity, but not too much of it”.

It’s either one thing or the other. Spare us this rushed concoction that the SPL and the SFL seem to be brewing.