THE SIDELINE EYE with Sports Editor Denis Howard

Denis Howard

Denis Howard

Welcome to the Sideline Eye.

After a 27-year battle for justice by the families of those killed in the Hillsborough tragedy in England, a jury has finally found the 96 victims were unlawfully killed.

On that fateful day in 1989, 53,000 Nottingham Forest and Liverpool fans converged on Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough Stadium to watch an FA Cup semi-final between the two sides.

What ensued rocked sport, especially in the UK, to its foundations. 

As if the tragedy of the 96 victims who died, and the more than 700 who were injured in the human crush, was not enough, there are allegations of police cover up in the original inquest.

That inquest found the Liverpool fans were to blame for the disaster, something which has haunted the club ever since.

In light of new evidence, the inquest was re-opened and last week found that the Liverpool fans were not to blame.

Instead, they found the crush was caused by “catastrophic institutional failings” involving South Yorkshire Police.

Sheffield Wednesday Football Club was also found to be at fault due to defects at the club's stadium contributing to the disaster.

For years Liverpool supporters have campaigned for justice for the 96 who died, and that has finally arrived.

Families of those who passed are launching class action lawsuits in the hopes of bringing to justice those responsible.

Andy Burnham's powerful Hillsborough speech

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Our own Scott Westcott is being forced to endure an enormous amount of obstacles to make his Olympic marathon dream come true.

Firstly, Scott had to run a time under 2:19:00 to be eligible for the Rio games in August.

He has done that.

Secondly, he had to be one of the top three fastest qualifiers in the allocated period to be considered by Athletics Australia (AA) for the three-man team.

Scott was third fastest qualifier.

He was then nominated for the team by AA and everything looked to be finally going Scott’s way.

Before the 2008 games in Beijing, Scott was the second fastest Australian qualifier.

His time of 2:13:36 was outside the Australian A time of 2:12:00, but well inside the international standard and Australian B qualifying time.

Athletics Australia decided to only take one male marathon runner, to go with the three women marathoners, and Scott missed out on selection.

If you wanted to be harsh, you could argue that Scott did not run the A time and therefore selection was not warranted.

If every athlete who did not meet the A standard had not been selected then that could be a viable argument.

Scott dealt with that disappointment and looked to be winding his career down before he ran an A qualifying time in Berlin last year.

Finally Athletics Australia saw fit to select him and put his name forward for the Rio team last week.

Now a non-nominated athlete has appealed not being selected.

That has set the announcement of the team back a fortnight and I am sure it is also giving Scott sleepless nights.

The athlete who has appealed is believed to be the fifth fastest qualifier.

That’s right, not even the next fastest, but the one after that.

How ridiculous is this appeal process anyway?

Why should someone not selected be allowed to appeal?

If it is true that the fifth fastest runner is the one appealing, and it is upheld, what is to stop the fourth fastest runner from appealing his selection?

What a mess!

I understand an athlete wanting to do everything they can legally within their power to try and make the Olympics.

It is something I, like most others, can only dream about.

I believe the system that allows an appeal based on selection is flawed.

Why not just set a benchmark time and take the three fastest qualifiers under that time?

It is that easy.


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