Will rugby league snatch defeat from the jaws of victory …. again?

Historian Tony Collins argues rugby league is better placed than most sports to capitalise on the digital revolution – but will it’s cultural and commercial flaws collude to hold it back?

Advertisements

Steve Mascord

Historian Tony Collins argues rugby league is better placed than most sports to capitalise on the digital revolution – but will it’s cultural and commercial flaws collude to hold it back?

DXDtVQgVQAAjb3q
Promotional material for the planned Test between New Zealand and England in Denver, USA.

You wouldn’t call them headlines. They are down-page news stories. But at least they are in the paper, where 10 years ago they would not have been.

I can remember the first time I saw Tonga play Samoa in rugby league. It was 2006 at Campbelltown Stadium; Feleti Mateo had just come back from his stint with London Broncos.

When the two sides got in each other’s faces during their pre-match rituals, we didn’t know what they were called and we’d never seen it before. That’s myself and the other 900 people present.

11 years later, Tonga beat New Zealand to make the World Cup semi-finals – where they were joined by Fiji who have now made it to the final four three consecutive times.

Things have come a long way … but then they haven’t.

Now to those headlines. In the immediate aftermath of the success of tier two nations at the World Cup, Fiji players threatened a strike, Lebanon players threatened a strike while Tonga and Samoa initially baulked at having to go back to Campbelltown this coming June.

New Zealand and England seem to have struck the jackpot by being invited to play in Denver’s Sports Authority Field with the backing of the NFL’s Broncos.

But the NRL clubs resisted this for months and are still grumbling. They didn’t think teams would want to travel overseas for internationals!

There are two competing causal aspects to this apparent cluster-youknowwhat.

One is the old rugby league default position of “what’s in it for me?”; that goes back to 1895 and the George Hotel. The Fijian players argued they were due payments and the Rugby League International Federation has intervened to make sure they are paid.

The Lebanese players seemed more vague, citing only a “lack of trust”. There are whispers of defamation proceedings in response to how this curious dispute has been reported in Australia.

Tonga know that if they played New Zealand three times each year, it would be the Shakey Isles’ answer to Origin. It’s about money – but not necessarily for the players. The Tongan Rugby League doesn’t have too many paʻanga in the bank and what they saw in New Zealand showed they could, and should, have a lot more.

Samoa coach Matt Parish seems unhappy about the level of support from just about everywhere to just about everyone.

So that’s one side of the argument. Rebellion is in the blood. It’s a working class game. You have amateur officials administering teams full of professionals who are used to a certain level of sports medicine and accommodation and remuneration and – as colleague Robert Burgin pointed out – they are arguing over nickels and pennies.

But the other side of the argument is: why should they just be nickels and pennies?

The RLIF has just advertised for two new general managers, one for the northern and one for the southern hemisphere.

That will take the international governing body’s total number of employees to a grand total of three.

Is it any wonder there’s no money, or power, in the international game?

In RLIF speak, Test series are “bilateral” games. That means the countries involved are just left to organise them. The RLIF only gets money from World Cups and the much-vaunted second property, a Nines World Cup, has attracted only luke warm interest from potential partners so far.

Plenty of cynics believe the Nines idea is more to satisfy the Collective Bargaining Agreement in Australia by minimising the wear and tear on NRL players than actually developing the international game.

So there’s our perfect storm: argumentative players and domestic officials and one hand and on the other an under-resourced international federation at the mercy of cashed up, self interested clubs.

But despite all this, and as I said at the start of this column, the arc of the game’s history is bending towards expansion and globalisation – even if incrementally.

It has to. Renowned rugby historian Tony Collins says the digital revolution, like newspapers, radio and television, can and will rearrange the balance of power between sports worldwide.

“We’re now in a position where the prospects for the game, if the opportunities are taken, are brighter than they’ve been for decades,” Collins – whose got a great new podcast called Rugby Reloaded – says.

Rugby+Reloaded+logo
©Rugby Reloaded

“You can’t tell because you’re in the middle of it, so it’s hard to get an objective view.

“But I think sport, at the moment, is undergoing a revolution.

“The ease with which you can travel between continents thanks to low cost flights, the ease with which you can communicate across continents thanks to the internet and the way sport can be seen all over the world thanks to digital television really changes the scenario around the world for sport.

“When modern sport first emerged, it emerged at the same time as newspapers. Then you get the radio in the 1920s and 1930s and the same thing happens – radio publicises sport, sport provides the content.

“Despite the obvious weaknesses that the game has, it’s actually in a very strong position to take advantage of the big changes that are taking place now because we are both a mass spectator sport but we’re a small mass spectator sport.

“Things can change quite quickly in rugby league in a way that they can’t in soccer – it’s just a huge juggernaut – and to some extent, in a way they can’t in rugby union because rugby union’s very tightly bound with tradition.

“So the opportunities we’ve got, with the Wolfpack and a World Cup in the States, the possibility of other franchises, the way people are now considering Perth playing in a different comp than the Australian one…

“We can do things that other sports can’t because we’re small and manoeuvrable and still have that mass spectator sport image.

“We don’t have all those guys in blazers, the rampant tradition.

“We’re in this fantastically exciting period – if we take the opportunities.”

Steve Mascord.png

Advertisements

Is school sport still too ‘gendered’?

After gender specific sport has plagued our PE lessons for decades, change is starting to take place for the better.

Beth Fenner

After gender specific sport has plagued our PE lessons for decades, change is starting to take place for the better.

pexels-photo-88808.jpeg
Gender is commonly accepted as a fluid concept. But why is PE and sport still so rigid?

Gender, a term that has been catapulted into the forefront of society over the past year, continues to create debates amongst the sporting world. Despite the acceptance of gender as a fluid concept and campaigns from Hollywood to the BBC advocating for the equal treatment of women, sport still remains one of the last preserves of masculine ideals. But are these issues deep-rooted within school sport or are they starting to change?

It is common knowledge that men are still more likely to participate in sport later in life with 40.5% of men taking part in sport at least once a week compared to 31.9% of women, often as a direct impact of an individual’s school sport experience[1]. Evidence still shows that boys are more likely to be offered sports such as baseball and rugby and girls cheerleading, netball and hockey in PE lessons[2]. This institutional segregation of boys and girls into sports deemed ‘gender appropriate’ from a young age influences young people’s decisions to participate in certain sports beyond school. Yet, this seems to be changing for the younger generation who have been bought up in a more accepting society.

There’s been a surge of interest in women’s sport in recent years. In 2016, the women’s GB Hockey side claimed a Gold medal at the Rio Olympics. Last year saw a World Cup win for England’s women’s cricketers (and three of the ‘Five Cricketers of the Year’ in the age-old Wisden Almanack being women), and a runners up for the England Rugby Union side in the women’s World Cup. And 2018 has already seen glory for England’s netballers, who claimed Gold at the Commonwealth Games against all the odds. Media coverage has never been more extensive. However, the question is whether this is being replicated at grassroots level. Tom Simmons, a primary school PE coach from Rotherham, said: “At primary school age I don’t think there are many gender differences at all to be honest. In my experience boys and girls at primary school age get fully involved in PE lessons and any sports no matter what the content. Staff within primary schools tend to do a good job in regards to encouraging both boys and girls to participate in all sports and creating an environment where there is no stigma attached to what people participate in. Both boys and girls participate in the same PE lessons as equals within a primary school environment”. Safi Ahmed, a primary school teacher from the Dales agrees: “I don’t think schools push children into stereotypical gendered sports. We follow a rising stars program which allows all children to participate in a range of sports from multi skills and tag rugby to gymnastics and dance. I think it is beneficial to have mixed PE lessons during school and all our after school clubs are also mixed.”

pexels-photo-296301

It therefore seems that at least some schools are changing for the better. The question is whether this transfers to secondary schools. Gillian Twaite, who has a daughter in year 7 at a school in Birmingham, said: “At my daughter’s secondary school both boys and girls do all sports on a rotation together and she has got the chance to experience basketball, gymnastics and cross country. At primary school she got invited to a gifted and talented girls cricket training session and a mixed sports camp where they did a range of sports, again both boys and girls together”. The fact that girls and boys are now being encouraged to participate together in educational institutions at a young age is crucial to ensuring both sexes learn to appreciate and respect one another as equals not just in sporting situations but within daily life.

There is no doubt that Women’s sport is now well and truly in the limelight and this can only be beneficial in terms of participation levels for girls at school, but there is still one major factor that deters girls from pursuing sport further; the social stigma that surrounds them, especially from male counterparts[3]. A recent Channel 4 documentary No more boys and girls: Can our kids go gender free? exemplifies how children as young as 7 already hold the beliefs that girls are weaker than boys, especially in a sporting situation, with the girls under-estimating and the boys over-estimating their abilities. Gillian Twaite explained: “One of the issues I believe there to be is that girls make other girls feel like they should just sit around and chat. What shocked me is that children as young as 9 would make comments suggesting that if you were a girl rushing around the playground you were ‘weird’. My daughter gets really frustrated with this. There’s generally even more pressure at secondary school for pre-pubescent girls to ‘sit and talk’. I believe that this could have an impact on the types of sports girls choose to participate in and whether they wish to participate at all.” In addition, her daughter attended the football club at her primary school, where they ran a number of mixed football clubs and even had coaches from Aston Villa. However, one particular Year 6 session only had boys signed up making her daughter the only girl. This deterred her from continuing as her boy mates wouldn’t be natural with her in case they got teased.

It is clear that despite the developments within schools, the increase of opportunities for both boys and girls and the change of attitude in the recent years towards mixed PE lessons, the role of the media still has an overarching influence on participation levels in the later years of school life. Tom Simmons stated: “Personally I believe that the image the media (social media, magazines, what they see on the internet) creates has a huge impact on gendered participation. Having said that, children don’t take much interest in social media until year 6 or the start of secondary school years when the idea of self-image becomes really important to young boys and girls and how they come across to others such as friends and the opposite sex”. Dave Emmerson, who is head of PE at his primary school in Wensleydale, also says: ““I think external clubs and media influences for primary school aged children push boys and girls into stereotypically gendered sport more than schools do. In our school, we have mixed PE lessons, but I know that others don’t. I personally think it’s more beneficial to have them together”. It seems that primary schools are embracing the culture of mixed lessons but this may not transcend into secondary schools, despite the dropout of girls being most prominent at this stage of education. With so many mixed sports seen in events like the Olympics such as badminton and tennis and up and coming sports such as korfball, it is disheartening to not see this replicated at school. The media clearly holds a prestigious place within our young generation’s lives and with males still being put on a sporting pedestal above females in society, there is no wonder that there is so much pressure on young people to adhere to gender behaviours that are deemed ‘appropriate’.

What can be learnt from this is that without the stark separation of boys and girls at school into gender specific sports or single sex lessons, it will instil the belief within our young generation that both sexes have the ability to pursue any sport equally. Challenging ingrained social stigmas and perceptions is the most powerful way of ensuring eventual equality for all. Primary and especially secondary schools need to be leading advocates in inspiring both boys and girls through sport in order to confront the gender order that our media outlets have sadly established. However it is apparent our education systems are starting to make positive changes to create sporting opportunities with no gender boundaries.

Beth Fenner

[1] Sport England (2017) Active Lives Adult Survey: May 16/17 Report https://www.sportengland.org/media/12458/active-lives-adult-may-16-17-report.pdf

2Quick, S., Simon, A., and Thornton, A (2010). PE and sport survey 2009/10 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/181556/DFE-RR032.pdf

3Women’s Sports Foundation (2018) Factors Influencing Girl’s Participation In Sports https://www.womenssportsfoundation.org/support-us/do-you-know-the-factors-influencing-girls-participation-in-sports/

 

From Beirut to Sydney – The boys who did their nation proud

In their most important ever fixture, Lebanon were losing at half time. With the deficit only six points, they had 40 minutes to make history.

Jack Douglas

In their most important ever fixture, Lebanon were losing at half time. With the deficit only six points, they had 40 minutes to make history.

Untitltrgtrged.png
Lebanon fans at the World Cup ©Lebanon Rugby League (@LebanonRL)

In their most important ever fixture, The Lebanon rugby league team found themselves 22-16 down at half time. Tries from Adam Doueihi, Abbas Miski and James Elias saw the Lebanese claw themselves back into contention after trailing heavily for most of the half.

With the deficit only six points, Brad Fittler’s men had 40 minutes to make history. Minutes into the second period Doueihi thought he had scored his second, but a controversial Video Referee’s decision ruled the try out.

A Hingano penalty meant Tonga lead by eight and despite a converted Miski try late on, the Tongans held on to record a 24-22 victory, shattering the dreams of thousands of Lebanese fans.

lebanese 1
The heart-breaking moment Lebanon’s World Cup came to an end  ©Lebanon Rugby League (@LebanonRL)

After nearly sixteen years, the Lebanese civil war ended in 1990; leaving an estimated 120,000 – 150,000 dead with a further 200,000 wounded. The Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 resulted in one of the most infamous sieges in military history.

As Israeli forces bombarded Beirut from air, land and sea in an attempt to assassinate key Palestinian leaders, a multinational peacekeeping force was sent in to Beirut to help evacuate Palestinians.

The US, French, Italian and British contingent helped restore some normality and to ensure the withdrawal of all foreign forces and aid, whilst helping to train the Lebanese military to prevent future conflict.

With Israel to the south and Syria to the north and east, you could be forgiven for expecting conflict to be ever-present. Despite this, the nation of six million has been recently making the headlines in a surprisingly positive fashion.

Rugby League

Les Cèdres (The Cedars) deservedly qualified for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup after comprehensively beating South Africa 90-28 on aggregate over two legs in Pretoria.

Lebanon were then drawn alongside eventual winners and runners up Australia and England, as well as France, and were expected to finish bottom. The top three in the group qualified for the knockout stages.

Travis Robinson, who plays for Newtown Jets in the New South Wales Premiership, built on his tally of six tries in qualifying as he went over twice; helping his side secure a shock 29-18 victory over the French in Canberra.

Robinson had previously enjoyed time in the NRL with Melbourne Storm, and his and his teams’ heroics against France was enough to qualify for the knockout stages and more importantly, receive automatic qualification for the 2021 World Cup.

Lebanon’s other two group stage fixtures saw them lose 29-10 to England before eventual champions Australia recorded a 34-0 victory against Les Cèdres. Both results warranted overwhelming respect from the League world as punters expected the English and Australians to record much higher scores against the then eighteenth ranked side.

With progression confirmed, Lebanon were drawn to face Tonga in the quarterfinals. At 3pm local time, 4am back here, the fixture in Christchurch kicked off. Whilst the Lebanese side came up short on that occasion, their adventure in the world cup was certainly admirable.

The positive performances and results Lebanon recorded means the side came away from the world cup with their heads held high. Now up to ninth in the world rankings, The Cedars find themselves ten places above Russia; the side that inflicted Lebanon’s heaviest ever defeat (80-0) back in 2008.

Despite the 24 man world cup squad featuring only one home-grown-player, the people of Lebanon are still enthralled with the game. The player in question, Raymond Sabat, plays for Lycans RL in Beirut.

photo_1025223720864274
The Lebanon national side team that beat Italy in the Mediterranean Cup in 2017 ©FIRL/SportCode

The outside back wants the country to bring through more home grown talent to help progress the game, and thoughts like these are reflected by journalist Danny Kazandjian (1) who adds: “It is essential for countries like Lebanon to ensure there is a clear, robust cultural link between the country and the national team.

“Lebanon fields national teams at under-21s, under-18s and under-16s – last year the U21s and U18s toured Serbia – so the pathways are there now.”

Up and coming sports in countries such as Lebanon and other historical underdogs have often struggled in influencing young players and ensuring their youngsters have a clear pathway to the first team. The fact that the Lebanese Rugby League Federation are heavily investing in their youth teams epitomizes the hope and enthusiasm the nation has for its rapidly growing sport.

The Lebanon Rugby League Championship added another side to its roster in 2016, with Lycans RLFC now making it 5 domestic teams within the league. Collegiate Rugby is making a big impact in Lebanon. There are 2 university divisions, the first featuring 4 sides and the second division hosting 6 teams. As the game grows in Lebanon, the competitions are doing so too.

The Australian influence in the team is evident, with the majority of the Lebanese players playing at some level within the Australian pyramid. In an interview for the BBC (2), Lebanon head coach and ex-Aussie superstar Brad Fittler says that his players are beyond proud to represent their nation.

He states: “The majority [of the players] have both Lebanese parents. And if anyone has kept their identity in Australia it is the Lebanese community. They live together, they eat together – they’ve kept their identity more than most other nationalities that have come to this country.”

Les Cèdres were triumphant over an Italian side in June 2017 as they ran out 6-4 winners in a remarkably tight match. Unlike their World Cup squads, the fixture was played between two national sides using all domestic players, which proved pivotal in the progression of the Lebanese players, as Lebanon successfully defended their Mediterranean Cup title. But this success was unparalleled to what would follow.

Lebanon’s success at the world cup was unexpected to say the least, and now with qualification confirmed for 2021, who knows what unprecedented success the little nation can go on to achieve. With the tournament being held here in England, Lebanon are sure to leave a lasting impression here within the UK.

The national anthem titled: All of Us: For the Country, surely embodies the spirit of the Rugby team; as this group of players go on to make their nation even prouder.

Jack Douglas

Sources:

1 & 2: BBC Sport: Rugby League World Cup 2017: How has the sport become so popular in Lebanon? – 2nd November 2017

Why has darts grown in popularity so quickly?

Darts has grown into one of the most watched sports across Europe and the attendances are only going in one direction.

Jack Witham

Darts has grown into one of the most watched sports across Europe and the attendances are only going in one direction.

Darts_in_a_dartboard.jpg
Darts was traditionally seen as a pub game ©PeterPan23

Darts used to be known as a pub sport to many people. That has now changed drastically, with crowd numbers being in the thousands and prize money being as high as it’s ever been before. Both the number of fans and the number of players have greatly increased in recent time, but just why has such a simple pub game dramatically grown on a worldwide level?

For starters, there is the addition of players with more flare than ever before. At no point can Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor be criticised; it was him who began to put the sport on the map. The 16 time world champion is a credit to the sport, however his showmanship was limited, letting his arrows do the talking the majority of the time. A leg or set was won with very limited reaction. There is no problem with this; in fact this is the way some feel the game should be played.

Nowadays though, players really like to give it ‘the big un’ when winning just a single leg. In a World Series Final at the back end of 2017, Gerwyn Price and Corey Cadby turned around and celebrated when hitting a ton or more, much to the amusement of many fans who were watching the game. Although the incident was silly, it is what fans want to see. They want the drama and the controversy because it is what they have paid to see.

Players now are just far more entertaining than they used to be. Michael Van Gerwin wins almost everything, and has done so with a certain flashy style. An MVG in full flight is exactly what the punters want to see. The walk ons are also very crowd friendly. ‘Snake bite’ Peter Wright dances across the stage every single time he comes on, immediately getting the crowd involved, and Daryl Gurney sings Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline, which is always a crowd favourite. The sport just seems to have developed a more relaxed atmosphere than it ever used to have.

The amount of players participating has increased dramatically in the last 10 years, but why? Well, the prize money that is now on offer for winning tournaments is certainly very eye catching. Rob Cross, the 2017 World Darts Championship winner received a massive £400,000 in prize money. Not bad for somebody in their debut season. When Phil Taylor won the World title in 2000, he received £31,000. This not only shows the growth of the sport but also underlines the phenomenal work that PDC chairman Barry Hearn has done for the sport.

The overall prize money has risen from £500,000 to £15 million since Hearn took the PDC hot seat. He has managed to take a pub game to the second highest rated TV watch of 2017. The sport is in good hands, and with big sponsorship deals continuing to come into the sport, the growth is only going to continue to rise.

The sport is ideal for fans now. Not only is the quality at outrageous levels, there is no longer rules where you must sit down and behave yourself. It is perfect to watch world class talent whilst enjoying a beer (or 10) with others. Barry Hearn once quoted “Darts is the only sport that has a partnership of excitement of a party and world class sport. I don’t know another sport that creates atmosphere on that basis.”

Professional Darts Corporation (PDC), German Darts Grand Prix (GDGP)
Party atmosphere at the darts ©Sven Mandel

This is evident almost every Thursday in the winter when the Premier League is being played. The crowds are outstanding, sell outs every week at venues all around Europe. Wayne Mardle of Sky Sports often reminds viewers of the sell out crowd of 400 people at Stoke’s Kings hall. Well just a couple of weeks ago, the Mercedes Benz Arena had a world record darts attendance of 12,000, underlining the rapid growth of the sport.

The crowd is often very much like it is at football, with chanting often taking place as well as jeering and whistling. But unlike the football, the involvement of the crowd at darts is genuinely always in good spirit. Chants of “boring boring tables” and “feed the stands” are often sung back and forth during the World Championships at the Alexandra Palace. There are rarely any malicious songs chanted during the games, and players are usually given a huge amount of respect whilst playing.

Whilst crowds begin to grow at venues, the amount of viewers watching on Sky Sports has also increased. 960,000 people watched the 2015 World Darts Championship final played between Van Gerwin and Peter Wright. This was 75,000 more than the Premier League football match between Chelsea and Southampton on the same day.

Whilst many still see darts as a pub sport, there is no denying that it has fast become a sensation, especially throughout Europe. Just how long will it take before it becomes a worldwide hit, and we see more money come from countries such as China to develop the sport further.

For the time being, darts is in a good place, and for the immediate future it will continue to be watched by millions and the party will continue.

Jack Witham .png

How important being home is for the Gibraltar national side

After decades of struggle to be accepted as a football nation, Gibraltarian football celebrates in style.

Jack Douglas

After decades of struggle to be accepted as a football nation, Gibraltarian football celebrates in style.

walker celebrating
Walker celebrates his winning goal ©Gibraltar Football Association

The Victoria Stadium held its breath. Finally in their proud home, Gibraltar’s homecoming in international football was deadlocked against Latvia.

With the game heading into the final minutes destined for a draw, the home side were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box. Step forward Liam Walker. With a wicked deflection the ball trickled into the Latvian net sparking scenes of pure jubilation.

The Reds held on to record a deserved, historic win. Their first as a FIFA nation, their second as a UEFA nation and, more importantly to the proud Gibraltarians, their first victory on home soil.

The Victoria Stadium, with the Rock as its stunning backdrop, opened in 1926 and was rebuilt in 1971 by the Royal Engineers. When Gibraltar were finally accepted by UEFA in May 2013, the stadium was not deemed to be of sufficient standard for competition. On 13th May 2016, the Rock could finally boast a FIFA affiliated team after endless attempts, intervention from the Court of Arbitration for Sport and intense Spanish opposition.

Forced to play 247 miles away in Faro, Portugal, Team 54 (the nickname given after becoming UEFA’s 54th member) faced Slovakia in their first official international match, managing a superb goalless draw.

A Kyle Casciaro volley gave the side their first official victory as his effort was enough to see off Malta in June 2014, again in Portugal.

Gibraltarian side Lincoln Red Imps ensured they went down in football history by beating Scottish giants Celtic in the first leg of the 2016/2017 Champions League second qualifying round. Gibraltarian football was put on the map to an extent. The Daily Record (1) ran with: “Take a look back as Hoops lose to minnows in Champions League qualifier” before going on to call the result “incredible”.

udbruibfr.png
The famous Rock of Gibraltar dominates the landscape ©Revolutionary War and Beyond

The 1713 Treaty of Utrecht resulted in Britain securing Gibraltar. Captured by an Anglo-Dutch fleet nine years prior, control of the Rock was finally ceded to Britain to ensure they withdrew from the War of Spanish Succession.

Ever since, Spain has highly contested the sovereignty of the Rock. The Siege of 1727 and the French backed Great Siege of Gibraltar (1779 – 1783) failed and Gibraltar remained under British command. Located at the gateway to the Mediterranean and at a naval choke-point, Operation Felix was a Nazi plan to capture the strategic Rock, but the invasion never materialised.

In the Gibraltarian sovereignty referendums of 1967 and 2002, 99% and 98% of Gibraltarians opted to remain British respectively. Throughout endless conflict and claims of sovereignty, the Rock of Gibraltar has stood tall and proud; and more importantly, proud to be British.

With plans to build a UEFA demanded Category 4 stadium at either two sites on the peninsula (Europa Point or Lathbury Barracks) coming under severe scrutiny and opposition from Gibraltarians, the GFA purchased Victoria Stadium from the Government of Gibraltar in April 2017 and began to develop the venue.

victoria_stadium_gibraltar15.jpg
Victoria Stadium ©Stadiony.net

This meant that the scene was set for Gibraltar to come home. With a festival of international football lined up and a commemorative kit being launched, the 32,000 strong population were elated.

With Gib’s Under 21 side losing 6-0 to an experienced Serbian side and then 5-0 to Russia, all pressure and expectancy lay on the first team; and in particular on the shoulders of Notts County’s Liam Walker. Gibraltar’s number 10 and joint top scorer signed for County after having previous spells with Portsmouth and Lincoln Red Imps after teenage trials with Manchester United, Aston Villa and Everton. One of only two professional players used against Latvia, Walker found himself lining up alongside policemen and customs agents.

With a population of 1.9 million compared with Gibraltar’s 32,000 and a world ranking of 131, 75 places above Gibraltar down in 206th, Latvia offered fierce competition. When experienced defender Joseph Chipolina pulled up during the warm up and with goalkeeper Kyle Goldwin making his international debut, punters could have been forgiven for backing the Latvians.

Lee Casciaro, brother of the previously mentioned Kyle, curled a shot just wide of the despairing Andris Vanins’ post which ended In the Gibraltar number 7 tweaking a hamstring and being unable to continue. Walker’s freekick finally gave the home side their much deserved goal in the 88th minute.

Walker was delighted with the victory in an interview with GBC (2) following the game: “Obviously we were going on the counter attack. I wanted to bring the ball inside and change the orientation on the ball. We won the foul. It was at a good distance and as soon as the free kick was given I knew I was going to go for goal and yeah, buzzing it had gone in.”

Being back home at Victoria Stadium is something Gibraltar and Walker were delighted with: “It’s absolutely amazing! It’s just what we wanted, to be on our home ground in front of our people because apart from us being on the pitch they are the ones who deserve this. The whole game they were supporting us and you can see when they are here it’s a plus for us as well so yeah, really happy with it.”

It has been quite the rollercoaster for FIFA’s newest nation. Sepp Blatter denied Gib’s membership claim because they weren’t an independent nation, despite the four home nations and the Faroe Islands having membership. UEFA accepted Team 54 despite strong opposition from the Spanish. In 2007 Spain threatened to withdraw all of its teams from UEFA competitions should Gibraltar be given membership.

When the sovereign territory were finally, and rightfully, accepted into world football they were subsequently forced to play at the Estádio Algarve in Portugal. So to be playing football back on home soil shows that the light at the end of the tunnel has been reached.

Whilst they will most likely never reach a major tournament, friendlies like the Latvia fixture will give the side good competition and reasonable fixtures. Gibraltar will face Macedonia, Armenia and Liechtenstein in the UEFA Nations League which starts later this year.

So let’s all hope that for a territory famous for a rock and monkeys, the national football team can start making its people even prouder to be Gibraltarian.

Jack Douglas

Sources:

Daily Record: Lincoln Red Imps v Celtic RECAP: Take a look back as Hoops lose to minnows in Champions League qualifier. 12th July 2016.

Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation: Gibraltar v Latvia – Post Match Interview with Liam Walker. 25th March 2018.

The Effectiveness of Sports Supplements – Part 2

The second part of our sports supplement series looks at individual products, specifically the benefits and pitfalls that comes with them.

Josh Williamson

The second part of our sports supplement series looks at individual products, specifically the benefits and pitfalls that comes with them.

IMG_5740
Does whey protein equal muscle growth? ©Sportexamined

In Part 1, which can be found here (https://sportexamined.com/2018/03/19/the-safety-and-effectiveness-of-sports-supplements-part-1/), the safety of sports supplements was questioned.

From individuals simply wanting to look better naked, to world class athletes, the growth of supplement use has been exponential. Both nationally and globally, billions are spent every year for that ‘magic’ pill to get even a 1% improvement. However, has anyone ever stopped to ask, ‘do these products actually work?’

The number one question any individual should ask themselves before purchasing a supplement is, ‘will this product benefit me?’. To answer this question, the individual must consider the evidence-based effectiveness of the product, but also, is it relevant to the individuals specific goal. The scope of this article is to highlight 4 key supplements which are research-backed.

It is outside the remit of this article to cover all supplements, and thus readers are directed towards Examine.com. This is a database of pretty much every supplement in existence which includes studies on products, usage, dosages, side effects etc. Only when individuals have considered the safety, effectiveness, and if the supplement is needed for their specific goals, should they consider purchasing said supplement. Here, I have outlined 4 of the most common supplements which have scientific evidence to support their effectiveness.

Whey Protein

“Little Miss Muffet, she sat on a tuffet, eating of curds and whey”

This very common nursey rhyme refers to the two proteins found in milk; curds (casein) and whey. The whey is the water-soluble part of the milk and is used for whey protein supplements. Despite the popular belief that protein supplementation itself enhances muscle growth and repair, this is not entirely true. If daily protein targets are achieved through dietary intake, supplementation is unnecessary. A high-protein diet combined with a specific resistance training plan, will support a biological environment for putting on muscle mass. The rationale for using a protein supplement is either to supplement your protein intake from food, and/or convenience. This rationale applies to all protein supplements in general, such as protein milk, protein bars, protein ice cream, protein bread etc which are all so common now.

It is also important to point out at this stage that whey supplementation, or high-protein diets in general, do not cause damage to the liver or kidneys in healthy individuals. If you have any underlying kidney/liver conditions, protein intake should be increased under the guidance of a medical professional.

 

Fish Oil

Fish oil commonly refers to two kinds of omega-3 fatty acids: EPA and DHA, which are typically found in fish and animal products. Fish oil exhibit a number of health benefits including enhancing mood, reducing disease factor risk, reducing inflammation, and is associated with reductions in triglycerides.

With relation to dosage, the American Heart Association recommends 1g per day; however, this reflects a combined total of EPA and DHA. Ideally, this should be achieved through a balanced diet; nevertheless, if individuals don’t like eating fish, this can be achieved through a fish oil supplement, or an algae supplement if you don’t like that fishy aftertaste that can come with some products. With fish oil supplements, it is important to read the nutritional label; for example, the label may state a combined total of 400mg per serving of EPA and DHA which would require 2-3 servings to achieve the recommended dose.

Creatine

If you are currently involved in sport, or even gym culture, you will no doubt have heard of creatine supplementation. Creatine is potentially the single most studied supplement in history; and has endless evidence to support its effectiveness, and safety. Creatine is naturally occurring in some foods such as meat, eggs and fish, however the dosage provided is usually insufficient to provide a desirable outcome. To put this into context, creatine powder is usually consumed in dosages of 5-20g per day; this equates to 1-4kg of meat!

Typically marketed as a ‘muscle gain’ product, creatine essentially acts as a source of energy for your cells. Despite the marketing claims, creatine does not increase muscle mass per say; however, there is concrete evidence to support the use of creatine for high intensity exercise, power sports, and repeated sprint ability. This means weightlifters, bodybuilders, football/rugby players and basketballers to name a few, would benefit from creatine supplementation. There may be some research potentially supporting the use of creatine supplementation for endurance performance and it also shows promise on cognition.

With regards safety, it should be noted that there is no research demonstrating negative effects of creatine supplementation on either kidney or liver function of healthy individuals. On the other hand, individuals with pre-existing or underlying kidney or liver conditions should use caution if using a creatine supplement and do so under the supervision of a medical professional.

pexels-photo-111085.jpeg
Being out in the sun is the most enjoyable way of getting vitamin D

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and is essential for many biological functions. The most enjoyable source of this vitamin is obviously lying on a beach somewhere in the Maldives; however, it can also be consumed through dietary sources such as fish, eggs, and fortified foods.

Despite the excessive media attention on vitamin D deficiency, the majority of the population are not deficient in vitamin D, or we would have a rickets epidemic on our hands. However, there is a stark difference between minimum threshold, and ideal amount. Most of the research on vitamin D status and populations demonstrate that most people are not in the ideal range; as a result, supplementation is a viable option. Vitamin D supplementation is associated with increased cognition, immune health, bone health and overall well-being, thus individuals should be aiming to consume the ideal amount; especially if in cold or overcast areas. Individuals should aim to consume a Vitamin D3 supplement anywhere in the range of 1000IU-10,000IU per day; preferably along with meals.

Note; All information in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice or instruction. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition. For specific medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, consult a professional.

Josh Williamson

Top 10 practical nutrition tips for marathon preparation

Whether you’re preparing for a marathon, or simply looking to get the best out of your morning run, this guide will help you achieve your goals.

Ted Munson

Whether you’re preparing for a marathon, or simply looking to get the best out of your morning run, this guide will help you achieve your goals.

jogger-jogging-sport-marathon.jpg
Professional marathon runners
  1. Prepare: If you’re heading out for a morning run, prepare your breakfast the night before. Foods like overnight oats are ideal choices and allow you to get up and get fuel on board. Likewise, if you’re heading out after work, make sure you have your recovery shake or meal ready. I recommend taking on both carbohydrates and protein within 30 minutes of finishing a run to fuel adaptations and assist recovery for your next session.

 

  1. Complex carbohydrates: These will help fuel your runs and include foods like bread, pulses, legumes, rice and pasta. This will release steadily into the bloodstream to provide sustained energy. It’s recommended to consume these around 2 hours pre-run to allow time for digestion, helping to prevent unwanted gastrointestinal issues. Combine complex carbohydrates with a source of protein like meat, eggs, fish or cheese for the ideal pre or post training meal.

 

  1. Carbohydrate load: Carbohydrate is the main fuel for performance and will fuel you on the road. You should aim to take on around 8-10g of carbohydrate per kilo of your body mass per day for 48 hours before your race. This should be implemented along with a taper in training. This does seem like a lot of food, so consider using high energy carbohydrate (maltodextrin-based) drink between meals to increase carbohydrate stores.

 

  1. Hydration: It’s not always practical to carry a bottle and drink during long runs. Pre-hydrate effectively by drinking an electrolyte solution. The sodium will help the body retain and absorb fluid more effectively. Electrolyte tabs are a convenient way to increase sodium intake both pre and post exercise. Don’t forget you will usually have access to water on race-day, so it is important to learn to drink while running! How much you drink depends entirely on your sweat rate. Weigh yourself pre and post session and work out toughly how much water you’re using through sweat. Aim not to lose 2% of your body mass. From my experience, this usually works out as consuming 250ml – 500ml per hour during longer runs (half marathon +) When training, you could run loop past your house and practice taking on small amounts of fluid during the run.

 

pexels-photo-122803
Hydration is key
  1. Fuel for the work required: We use both fat and carbohydrate as a fuel source during endurance exercise. Fuelling for the work required involves training sessions with reduced energy intake (e.g having breakfast after a morning run) and training sessions where your race- day fuelling strategy is practiced (e.g fuelling with 60g per hour during a run, using energy gels). Quite simply, fuel longer sessions with carbohydrate (perhaps your long weekend run?) and fuel shorter sessions with low carbohydrate. It’s always important to refuel effectively post run, especially if undertaken in a fasted state.

 

  1. Practice your nutrition strategy in training: It’s important to train the body to utilize carbohydrates and tolerate sports nutrition during running. Our digestive system works differently when we exercise, so It’s important to practice using gels, bars and drinks during training runs. I recommend starting off using 1 gel immediately before a run and progressing to 1 gel during a run. Eventually, you should be able to easily consume enough food during runs to take on 60 g per hour. The worst thing you can do is try new forms and amounts of carbohydrate on race day!

 

  1. Have your ‘pre –run’ meal around 90 minutes before: When preparing for a race or a long training session, aim to have a carbohydrate meal around 90 minutes before. This will ensure that you start your run with ‘topped-up’ energy stores. This goes for both training and race day. Practice your pre-run meal and consume what works for you. Keep it the same for race day. Note that marathons often start early and you may have to have an early start to take on your breakfast!

 

  1. Don’t neglect protein: During endurance exercise, our muscle protein still breaks down, which is detrimental to adaptations (the purpose of training). We also need to consider the mitochondrial adaptations! Aim to take on 1.2-2g of protein per kg of your body mass per day top help muscles adapt and provide key amino acids to help make new muscle proteins. Ideally, take on protein at a rate of 20-25g every 3-4 hours throughout the day, as well as before and after training.

 

TH96Run 2017-7
©JMsportpix
  1. Recover: Recovery isn’t just about protein, we need to consider that tough endurance exercise depletes energy stores and can impair immune function. I recommend taking on a meal within 30 minutes of finishing your training runs. This should contain around 60% carbohydrates (including vegetables) with a lean source of protein. Although, many runners do not want to eat immediately post-exercise. Here, a recovery shake can provide a convenient protein and carbohydrate source. I always recommend that if you have a recovery shake, always aim to take on a full mal within 1 hour of finishing.

 

  1. Avoid: In the 48 hours before your event, it’s a good idea to avoid certain foods that might upset your stomach or what you’re not used to having. Key foods that may (or may not) cause problems are both spicy and high fat foods. I would also recommend having low-moderate fibre the day before your race. Make sure you’ve practiced your pre-race nutrition strategy and most importantly, never try anything new on race day!

Ted Munson