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Why was there a 43 hour long pit stop at the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix?

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United Autosports, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Flickr

Monaco 2021 was a very unique and unexpected race weekend for most. Not least because, despite taking pole position in qualifying on Saturday (22nd May), Charles Leclerc was not even able to participate in the race on Sunday. This was due to the crash he suffered in qualifying resulting in a left driveshaft issue in his car.

Lewis Hamilton, to many people’s dismay, only managed to secure P7 in qualifying on Saturday, and struggled to overtake during the entire race, meaning he finished in the same position that he started in. He was kept at bay by AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly who took P6, whilst Aston Martin’s Vettel finished in ahead of him at P5, maintaining his record of never finishing below P5 in Monaco. Although it was a generally frustrating race weekend for Hamilton, his perseverance proved somewhat fruitful, as he took the fastest lap on Sunday, securing him a much needed additional point.

Leclerc’s misfortune was the good fortune of Verstappen, as the Dutchman who was originally starting in P2 was safe and secure at the front of the pack due to Leclerc’s absence. He held onto this position throughout the race and took the podium on pole position. This was the maiden Monaco Grand Prix win for Verstappen, and it secured him enough points to take the lead from Hamilton in the driver’s championship for the first time, with a difference of four points between the two.

To the joy of Ferrari and McLaren, Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz joined the podium as they finished second and third respectively. Red Bull’s brilliant strategy paid off as Sergio Perez climbed from P8 to P4 by the end of the race, proving beyond a shadow of doubt that Red Bull is very much in the race for the constructor’s championship with Mercedes. Lance Stroll had a good race as he managed to climb from P13 to P8, which was a result of him starting on hard tyres.

The Slowest Pit Stop

That brings us to Valterri Bottas, who was met with a stroke of costly bad luck. He advanced to and maintained P2 throughout the race; on Verstappen’s tail. Providing Mercedes with a sense of false security and almost certainty of points for the constructor’s championship, in lap 30 he was unexpectedly forced out of the race – due to a pit stop nightmare; the wheel nut of his front right tyre got stuck. Viewers could only look on in disbelief as the Mercedes Pit crew desperately (and unsuccessfully) attempted to remove the wheel nut of the front right tyre with their wheel gun, ultimately ending Bottas’ chance at a Monaco 2021 podium.

This disaster cost Valterri and Mercedes dearly as they lost their potential points in both the Driver’s and Constructor’s championships whilst also ending the weekend without a single Mercedes car in a podium position – a very rare sight, indeed.

Despite such an unusual weekend for Mercedes, there was one final silver lining. They achieved the record for the slowest pit stop – with Bottas’ right wheel coming off after 155,700 seconds (that’s over 43 hours). Ultimately, they were able to make light of the situation, even posting a video of the wheel finally being removed from the car on their official Instagram page.

Mercedes will have to learn from their mistakes in time for the next race. Bottas will have his eye on the podium in Baku for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix 2021. It is, after all, it is the same circuit where he took pole position and won the race back in 2019.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Red Bull’s bittersweet race: Verstappen crashes but Perez takes the win

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It seemed like a definite victory – and a first for Max Verstappen at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix – until to the dismay of Red Bull and his fans alike, he crashed with only five laps to go! This, as well as some pretty good racing, allowed his Red Bull team mate Sergio Perez to take his second career victory. Surprisingly, championship contender and seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton only managed to finish 15th.

After the unexpected race at the Monaco GP two weeks ago, hardly anyone could have expected such an unpredictable race on the Baku City circuit. The championship leader, Max Verstappen, crashed and was out of the race with only five laps left at lap 47 – due to some tyre issues. A safety car was dispatched which eventually ended with a red flag, meaning that the race was restarted with a standing start almost 35 minutes later, on lap 50, leaving the drivers with two laps to the finish.

The Mercedes championship contender Lewis Hamilton did not manage to make up for his P7 (7th Place) at Monaco two weeks ago which resulted in Max Verstappen winning the race and getting ahead of Hamilton in the championships by four points. Baku proved frustrating for Mercedes and Hamilton, as traffic in the pit lanes meant he had a slower stop than usual. This was all before Verstappen’s crash, so all seemed well with Hamilton almost taking the lead after the race resumed on lap 50. However, frustratingly for the Mercedes team, he locked-up heavily and ended up in the run-off of Turn 1. Although he held pole position at the beginning of the race and almost again after Verstappen’s crash, he ended the race in an unfortunate P15, taking no points for Mercedes nor for himself.

Valterri Bottas managed to beat his teammate in this race but due to finishing P11 no points were awarded to Mercedes or Bottas for either championship either.

These unfortunate events for the top drivers along with some excellent driving and strategies allowed others to stand in the limelight. Sergio Perez made Red Bull proud with pole position, securing constructor’s championship points as well as driver’s championship points. 

Sebastian Vettel, to many people’s delight, proved his championship standard skills by moving up from P11 to finish in P2, giving Aston Martin their first podium as a newly branded team. His pit stop, 18 laps later than anyone else, proved to be an extremely successful strategy in this instance.

Pierre Gasly also secured a podium for AlphaTauri by finishing P3 due to some excellent racing, even beating Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc who for the second time in a row managed to secure pole position during qualifying but wasn’t able to hold on to it in the race. Still, P4 was a great result for Ferrari and Leclerc.

McLaren driver Lando Norris faced a three-place penalty but beautifully shrugged it off by finishing P5 ahead of Fernando Alonso, undercutting his rivals from where he started at the beginning of the race in P9.

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri’s second driver in the race kept a consistent result by starting and ending in P7, pitting early on in the race on lap nine.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz also performed admirably as he bounced back on hard tyres from P15, due to a massive lock-up in lap 11, and managed to secure P8 at the end of the race. Daniel Ricciardo moved up from P13 at the beginning of the race to P9 by the end, whilst Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen closed up the top 10 championship earning points positions by finishing in P10.

An intensely unpredictable race naturally resulted in a very unusual scoreboard. This was mainly due to championship leader Max Verstappen’s crash costing him the lead in the race and Lewis Hamilton’s costly late lock-up which, if avoided, would have allowed him to comfortably reclaim the championship lead from Verstappen.  However, as it stands, the two are still battling at the top of the driver’s championship leader board. Fans and teams alike will be eager to see next week’s Canadian Grand Prix as well as a few more races after that for some clarity on who might just win the title this year.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Leicester City has come a long way

Billions can buy you ready made teams, it can buy you Top 4 positions and win you titles

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Leicester City Football Club has come a long way since 2010. It was in 2010, that Mr Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, Thailand’s fifth richest man, bought the club and within four years saw them promoted to the Premier League.

The story of Leicester City is unique and different from almost all other clubs; its recruitment, talent and above all else, desire from the players to the fans and everyone in between. No one could have imagined that a new team coming into the Premier League could win that very league just two years later. 

That doesn’t just happen by luck (although it helps). The way a football club is run is a massive factor in their success. Despite some key title-winning players moving on after the 2015-16 season, Leicester City have again this season proved they can achieve success. They finished 5th in the league for a second successive year, FA Cup winners and almost qualified for the Champion League again.

In 2014, Vichai made what seemed like ambitious claims for the club. He committed almost £200 million towards the club to achieve top 5 finishes plus European football within three years of Premier League football.

How amazing that his words came to fruition within the time period claimed.

The recruitment team at Leicester City have been unique themselves. They did not attempt to buy left-over players from other Premier League teams in 2014. Instead, they went for a route that almost no other club in the league would ever think of.

Mark Walsh led Leicester City to scout lesser known talent. Players were found from multiple leagues below the Premier League and their equivalent from other countries. For example, Jamie Vardy was bought from Fleetwood; Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante from the French equivalent of League 2 teams; all with minimal expenditure. Thus the trio that were eventually paramount in clinching the Premier League title in the 2015/16 season were bought for less than £3 million combined. 

The owner, Mr Vichai then went on to gift every player a BMW i8 worth £100,000 as a gesture for lifting the trophy and reaching the Champions League.

You don’t see such owners anymore. Owners that are so intertwined with the players and fans that its hard to even look at them as owners, but rather as the average Joe. You won’t see Roman Abramovich mingling with the players, you won’t see the Glazers communicating directly with fans so regularly and with such commitment. You won’t see the Kroenkes giving players gifts for their hard work.

Mr Vichai heralded a new, but old, forgotten way of ownership. He displayed a philosophy that this club is not theirs, it belongs to the players, the fans and the staff; everyone who loves Leicester City’s club. Leicester City sits far away from other clubs when it comes to connecting with fans and players. They are highly unique and different from almost every other club in this regard, and it shows on the pitch.

Tragically, of course, in 2018 Mr Vichai and others died in a helicopter crash shortly after taking off from the King Power Stadium. The crash and deaths reverberated throughout the football world and wider communities. It was a very sad day and extremely difficult period, but Leicester defied all odds and held their heads up high. They played their hearts out and even though they did not reach the heights of previous seasons, they finished ninth that season and dedicated every moment of their games to the beloved owner who had passed away.

Leicester City never accept defeat, they fight till the last minute of every game and the passion and determination of every player shows that. Following the departure of Riyad Mahrez to Manchester City and N’golo Kante to Chelsea, Leicester City were written off. But once again their shrewd business acumen allowed them to replace these and other players with similar, if not of equal calibre talent. 

Consistency is key and Leicester have managed to become a regular top 10 team in just over six years in the Premier League, but their next target is to be a regular ‘Top 4’ team and title contenders. And it’s not a dream anymore, it’s just a matter of time if things continue this way. Leicester have failed to achieve this on the last day of the season for the last two years with Brendan Rodgers at the helm. However, the new owner (Mr Vichais’ son) is just as passionate and determined to live the dream of his father for this club, so don’t expect them to disappear anywhere soon.

Billions can buy you ready made teams, it can buy you Top 4 positions and win you titles. But what Leicester City have cannot be bought. It can only be attained with passion, and if other clubs followed suit, the game would change forever. Leicester City are from head to toe, a club for the people, and in this uniqueness lies their greatest strengths; unity.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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NHL playoffs preview

With the conclusion of the NHL regular season, the most exciting time of the year for hockey fans is finally here. It’s playoff time.

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With the conclusion of the NHL regular season, the most exciting time of the year for hockey fans is finally here. It’s playoff time.

With Covid-19 still existent and the emergence of the vaccine in North America, there are some major changes to the playoffs and format as compared to last year’s playoffs. The first and second rounds of the playoffs will consist of the divisional matchups, and then the respective winners of the divisions will be reseeded based on the team’s regular season points standings to shape up semi-final play. A notable difference from previous NHL postseasons is that there won’t be any conference championships awarded, as the winner of the semi-finals will then meet to play for the prestigious Stanley Cup and be crowned the winner. 

Another change from last year’s playoffs is that the bubble has been burst. The bubble that was setup in the cities of Toronto and Edmonton for last year has been dropped as teams will play in their home arenas for the duration of the playoffs. The playoff teams (except for Canadian teams currently) will also have fans in attendance to add to the playoff atmosphere. However, this home arena format does raise the question of whether or not the Canada-US border will be opened up and how the Canadian government, who have not yet relaxed restrictions to vaccinated individuals, will allow teams to travel across the countries to play.    

Let’s take a look at some of the biggest headlines and storylines that make up each of the first round series of the NHL playoffs. 

North Division

The North Division playoffs consist of 4 Canadian teams starting with the Toronto Maple Leafs facing off against the Montreal Canadiens. This is one of the longest and most fierce rivalries in all of sports. The Leafs championship drought sits at 54 years, which is currently the longest active drought in the NHL and ties the NHL record for the longest time span a team has gone without winning the Stanley Cup. On the quest to end that drought, the Canadiens will be their first challenge. The two rivals will be meeting in the playoffs for the first time since 1979 and it’s shaping up to be one of the most physical and entertaining matchups of this year’s playoffs. 

The electric and high-flying Edmonton Oilers play the undermanned Winnipeg Jets in the second all-Canadian playoff matchup. While taking on last year’s best goalie award winner, Connor Hellebuyck and the Jets, the front-runner for the Hart Trophy -the NHL MVP award- Connor McDavid and the Oilers look for their first championship since the team was led by Wayne Gretzky. McDavid has made a name for himself as a point scorer but will he be able to cement his legacy of one of hockey’s greatest players of all time at such a young age by carrying his squad to hockey’s ultimate prize? We will find out in due time. 

East Division

Arguably the toughest division in the NHL, the East Division features the Pittsburgh Penguins taking on New York Islanders. The Penguins earned the top seed in the division and set up a date with the same Islanders team that swept them in the playoffs 2 years ago. However, the heavily-favoured Penguins still showcase the likes of the two-headed monster Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who have already led the team to 3 Stanley Cup championships, with 2 of them coming in the past 6 years.

The other East division matchup has the Boston Bruins versus the Washington Capitals. Longtime former Boston Bruins captain and 40 year-old Zdeno Chara returns to the playoffs as a member of the Washington Capitals to face his former team, which he won 1 Stanley Cup with. Both teams are hungry for wins after fairly controversial seasons thanks to Capital’s Tom Wilson disciplinary actions, and Taylor Hall’s arrival to Boston.

West Division

Among the 4 teams playing out of the West Division are the Colorado Avalanche and then St. Louis Blues. The powerhouse Colorado Avalanche play the St. Louis Blues in the first round of what is regarded as a tough matchup. The Avalanche finished the regular season with the best record in the NHL and most points, winning themselves a Presidents Trophy. This matchup showcases two of most defensively deep teams in the NHL. Bettors beware, Nathan MacKinnon and the Avalanche have the best odds to win it all this year. 

The Vegas Golden Knights, the league’s second-best team, look to start the journey to earn their first ever Stanley Cup in team history against rookie of the year frontrunner Kirill Kaprizov and the Minnesota Wild. Minnesota has been playing formidable hockey as of late but unfortunately for them Vegas’ goaltending tandem have been standing on their heads and stealing games for their team. Both teams will definitely have to bring their A-games if they want to advance.

Central Division

The underdog Nashville Predators, who just squeaked into the playoffs, face-off against the division champs Carolina Hurricanes. This matchup features two of the most inexperienced teams playing in this year’s playoffs, but the young talent cannot be denied. Carolina boasts offensive, defensive and goaltending depth, so they should be heavily favoured as the favourites to come out on top in this matchup.

Another rivalry matchup: the defending Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay Lightning open up their title defence against in-state rivals and long-time foes, the Florida Panthers. The Lightning will have a big boost going into the series as they are slated to get captain Steven Stamkos and 2019 league MVP Nikita Kucherov. The Panthers have had key role players step up and emerge as stars this season, and they’ll be looking to use the playoffs to prove that their success this season was no fluke. The Lightning are focusing on repeating as Stanley Cup champions. The last team to repeat as Cup champions was the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and 2017. The players better keep their mouthguards in when they’re on the ice in this one as a brawl is always brewing in the Battle of Florida.

The quest to crown the champion of the 2020-2021 NHL season has officially begun. So, grow those playoffs beards, dust off your jerseys, and get hyped up, hockey fans. It’s playoff time.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Liberty Media’s modernisation of Formula 1

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In 2017, Liberty Media agreed to acquire Formula One for £3.3 billion. The sport was suffering from image problems with growing disinterest in the sport from the younger population, which was further amplified by the old fashion attitude applied to the sport and its inner running. 

In recent days, drivers such as Lewis Hamilton hanging out with popular stars on race days would not cause anyone to bat an eye. However, it would have caused an uproar a few years ago, claiming that the sport is ruined and no one cares about the racing anymore. It can be argued that this stubborn and almost ignorant attitude to change is what held F1 behind. Additionally, the image surrounding the sport that it is only for the exclusively rich to watch from their million-pound yachts on the coast of Monaco only furthered the divide between the sport and the average fan.

The ways in which large sports utilised their digital and online presence helped propel them to target new fans. However, the lack of advancement due to the F1 leaders at the time meant a growing disconnect between the sport and emerging young fans. 

Before Liberty Media

Bernie Ecclestone was the previous Formula One executive, often highlighted and the main reason why the sport is financially stable and profitable. He is credited with managing television rights of the sport to bring in a large influx of money to the sport. 

However, near the end of his reign, faults in his management became evident. His lack of knowledge in the technical advancements of the world meant the progress of the sport was hindered, and he was not afraid of stating his distaste for social media.

In an interview, Ecclestone stated; “I’m not interested in tweeting, Facebook and whatever this nonsense is. I’d rather get to the 70-year-old guy who’s got plenty of cash. So, there’s no point trying to reach these kids because they won’t buy any of the products here and if marketers are aiming at this audience, then maybe they should advertise with Disney.” From this, it was evident the management of Formula One felt no need to chase younger fans or adjust their practice to become more accommodating to a larger audience. 

As is evident in the football world, targeting and maintaining younger generations of fans is key in achieving profits and maintaining a future for both teams and the sport. This business model has expanded across the sporting world, and yet Formula One was resistant to accept it. As a result, multiple failures in Formula One were exposed, such as sporting decisions exposed to be financially motivated, and this triggered the need for change.

Liberty Media’s instant impact

Since Liberty Media agreed to the takeover of Formula One in 2017, the focus of management shifted towards utilising the internet and social media channels to achieve the marketing potential of the sport. The existing channels were revamped, giving the users personal connection to the sport rather than the old corporate approach. Content was updated regularly during on and off-season, and this constant stream of content helped keep existing fans engaged and appealed to younger and new fans. The media produced balanced everything perfectly, from classic throwbacks for old fans to exciting montages of overtakes or crashes. There was something for everyone now.

In addition to this, Liberty Media has shown that the fans are number one in priority by announcing plans to save and support iconic races rather than shifting venues to the highest bidder across the globe. 

Ultimately, the impact has been monumental, with reports showing that viewership increased and the number of new fans are even younger, with 36% being under 25. This has a knock-on effect that will benefit the sport for years to come as these fans can stay connected and establish online communities with the sport that is self-sufficient and constantly evolving.

Modernisation of Formula One

No one can argue against the positive effects that the modernisation of Formula One has had at the hands of liberty media. 

However, looking back at Bernie Ecclestone’s management of the sport, it is important to welcome change rather than resist it. At the end of the day, the sport is a business to Liberty Media, and profits do play a major part in their decisions, but to continue to be successful in the future, it is important to remember, prevent and learn from the mistakes of their predecessors.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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The Ugly Game

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Playing devil’s advocate, the formation of the ESL is a perfectly coherent business solution addressing the monetary risks of sporting failure

During the short-lived reign of the European Super League (‘ESL’) which was announced by 12 European football clubs, UEFA’s emotional rhetoric in response to the new competition was understandable, given how much they stood to lose in terms of both power and money over the European game. UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin’s sentiments in labelling the 12 clubs’ plans as “disgraceful, self-serving proposals we have seen, fuelled purely by greed”, were adopted by the rest of the football world. This effectively nipped the breakaway club owners’ dreams firmly in the bud and seemingly hailed victory for the sanctity of the game against the might of the dollar. However, scratching below the surface, the ESL may well be the sagaciously crass conclusion to the path this ‘beautiful game’ has been heading for, when examined in the cold light of day, against the materialism inherent within the wider footballing industry.

Follow the money

Playing devil’s advocate, the formation of the ESL is a perfectly coherent business solution addressing the monetary risks of sporting failure, coupled with the financial stress experienced by professional clubs due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The ESL’s guaranteed minimum income stream would allow private club owners from the EPL to finally realise the business investor’s nirvana and crystallise their investments into an economic ‘cash cow’, furthering their own wealth, at the expense of the rest of the industry. Therein perhaps lies the root of the failure of the ESL, the club owners’ lack of emotional intelligence in underestimating the greed of the remaining stakeholders, rather than misinterpreting the impact of their own.

Wet One’s Beak

The ESL is an old idea going back to the 1990s, when the owner of AC Milan Silvio Berlusconi approached the largest clubs in the European domestic leagues, in order to form a separate pan-European league and capitalise on the increasing value of media rights. UEFA, sensing the threat to their own future, managed to quell the plan by forming their own new competition, the UEFA Champions’ League (‘UCL’), promising the breakaway clubs more entrants, more games and thus a larger share of an even larger revenue pot, from which UEFA were also the beneficiary. The latest iteration of the UCL yet to be ratified compromises even further by allowing clubs a veto right over any future UCL media contracts, permitting private equity investment in domestic competitions and removing its pure meritocratic qualification process by allowing teams to qualify based on historic performances. UEFA’s minimal punishment for some of the breakaway ESL clubs has a whiff of them knowing not to bite the hand that feeds it.

Player Power

The players have been championed by the footballing media for speaking out against the ESL, yet they should share some responsibility for its origins. The majority of a club’s revenue is typically paid out as player’s wages to the extent that a proportionate expense of below 60% of revenue is considered prudent, yet, few clubs demonstrate such self-discipline, for example, for Barcelona it is 83%. Clearly irking the club owners, the ESL committed the clubs to restraining such expenditure to 55%. One can only imagine the continuous urgent phone calls from ‘concerned’ player agents to their clients, insisting the ESL was not in their best interest. Coupled with UEFA’s threat to ban ESL players from the upcoming European Championship this summer, it was perhaps unsurprising when high-profile players, such as Liverpool’s captain Jordan Henderson spoke out against their own clubs.

Media Blame Game

The ESL guaranteed billions to their clubs, via a loan underwritten by JP Morgan. Yet that loan was expected to be indirectly serviced by a broadcaster willing to take on the financial risk of paying a vast sum for an untested competition format that would have the knock-on effect of diluting the value of their existing football media rights deals. ESL’s proposal was in stark contrast to deflationary media right prices for existing European domestic leagues. France’s Ligue 1 broadcasting rights deal collapsed in the first year, Italy’s Serie A rights package fell well short of its asking price and Germany’s Bundesliga rights was discounted by 5%. Not even the ever-popular EPL has remained immune. The Premier League sought the UK government’s approval to cancel its upcoming domestic media rights auction and instead roll over its existing £5bn broadcasting deal with Sky, BT and Amazon. Hence, it was foreseeable that no media entity would currently have the appetite to bid for an ESL broadcasting deal and therefore inescapable to conclude media sentiment would veer towards speaking out against the ESL.

Supporters’ Curse

Images of the supporters of the breakaway English clubs protesting against the ESL served as stark reminders of how deeply unpopular the ESL was amongst football consumers. However, the same level of dissatisfaction from fans is typically discernible when their clubs are unwilling or unable to spend sufficient sums in the hope of winning silverware. It is not unusual for supporters to demand for owners to be replaced by another billionaire, expecting the new owner to somehow have the same reverence for their club. Yet, historical precedence suggests the owners’ motivations are unaligned with the club’s supporters, who view it unambiguously as a business opportunity.

Nail in the CoffinArguably, the greatest misreading of the situation from the ESL antagonists was underestimating the potential actions of the UK government to transform the conversations from being held solely within a sporting bubble, to effectively shutting it down. The EPL has been an overseas success and a crown jewel for the British government, bringing in the ever-increasing millions of tax revenues from the sale of its international media rights. It is of little mystery that the UK was the most vocal European government, when faced with potentially losing billions in tax income from the EPL. It should not escape irony that the government that pushed for Brexit is the same government that effectively united Europe in preventing the formation of the ESL. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was money all along that proved the impetuous in ‘saving’ the beautiful game.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

I work in asset management in the City of London, am a qualified Chartered Accountant and hold an Economics and Accounting BSc from the University of Bristol. I dream of completing my first triathlon.

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Sarah Voss and the hyper-sexualisation of women in sports

The hyper-sexualization of women in sports is a debate that often raises questions about the abuse women suffer from in this field

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Sarah Voss made headlines during the European Championships in April 2021 without winning any medals. 

The 21-year-old German gymnast received a lot of attention for wearing a lycra suit that covered her whole body, including ankles and arms. Sarah Voss’s outfit, a change from the traditional high-cut leotard, was labelled “controversial” by the International Gymnastics Federation. Despite her young age, Voss was able to articulate her annoyance. She explained that: “Us women, we just want to feel good about ourselves. In gymnastics, the more you grow up and leave your childish body, the more it becomes difficult. When I was little, I had no problem with the leotard and its high cut, but when puberty came, I felt a growing discomfort there”.

The German federation, however, gave Sarah Voss their full support. As a result two other German women followed the move by wearing a similar jumpsuit covering their arms and legs during the competition. 

The hyper-sexualization of women in sports is a debate that often raises questions about the abuse women suffer from in this field. In 2016, Gymnastics suffered the biggest scandal in the history of sport. Larry Nassar, an American osteopath who had practiced for thirty years in the sports clinic of Michigan State University and the American Gymnastics Federation (USA Gymnastics), was sentenced to life in January 2018 for assaulting at least 265 women and adolescent girls, the majority of whom were gymnasts. Since the scandal, many athletes have openly discussed the pressures surrounding sports. 

Recently, another five former gymnasts have also shared their stories in an interview with BBC Sport, in light of widespread allegations of abuse that have shaken the field. Ex-gymnast Abbie Caig recounts her experience during the 2012 London Olympics and believes that success is prioritised over  personal well-being. Caig explains, “It wasn’t a happy place, and it should have been a happy place and a fun place. It was a sport that we all loved but for me it became a sport that I absolutely hated.”

These women have denounced the daily pressure undergone during training and in competitions from a young age. Most gymnasts only told their parents about their experiences after they retired, while others have only heard of their children turmoil recently, since the first allegations were made public. 

The hashtag #GymnastAlliance was created to share experiences that highlight the verbal and physical abuse. Gymnasts shared stories of shame, stifled emotions, daily physical and moral pressures and being forced to train with injuries. Some have even come out to share how their trainers have sexually assaulted them for years. This becomes more abhorrent when we remember that most gymnast begin their training in their teens. 

The Sarah Voss story raises questions around male dominance in sports and a woman’s freedom to choose. While it is essential to call out and condemn these horrific incidents, one must think of a solution as well to put all this abuse to an end. These unfortunate events allow us to ponder why society is fairly comfortable promoting women’s nakedness but is appalled whenever they willingly choose to cover themselves.

Needless to say that wearing less clothes has absolutely no impact on the performance of athletes; be it a leotard or a jumpsuit, the outcome remains the same. Voss and the other athletes have rightfully received an overwhelming amount of support for calling out the hyper-sexualisation of women, despite the discontent of the Gymnastics Federation. 

However, one must point out the irony and double standards of the majority of media outlets that frown upon Muslim women and consider their struggle for wearing a hijab a regression to the feminist cause but salutes the courage of the former. Both point out the same problem: the pressure to conform to societal standards compromises women’s freedom to choose for themselves.

Feminism must rethink itself as a global, inclusive movement for all women, regardless of their race, skin or religion. Otherwise, we would keep living in an unjust world that is most likely to remain a paradise for the men.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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