The English Football Association have just appointed Baroness Sue Campbell as their new head of women’s football. Now I have a lot of time for Sue, who has been one of the most formidable, influential and successful females in British sport.
As chair of UK Sport for over a decade she presided over Team GB’s record Olympic and Paralympic medal haul at London 2012; she has also been similarly effective in running the Youth Sport Trust, 20-years as chief executive and chair since 2005, and remains a strident voice for the advancement of women in sport.
She is, arguably, the most experienced female sports administrator in the land. But she is now 67, and the question needs to be asked: where are the new, up-and-coming Sue Campbells?
Who could replace her when she eventually has to step down?
The same question applies to sport both domestically and internationally, male and female alike.
Why does its governance have to be almost exclusively the domain of senior citizens: predominantly male and usually white (although that’s another story)?
Look, as a still scribbling septuagenarian I’m certainly no ageist but it does concern me that there are so few – if any – young sports administrators who might one day head up a governing body of sport.
I use the redoubtable Sue as an example of a someone of more mature years given a new leading role only because hers is a relatively new appointment.
And compared to some of the doddery dinosaurs in blazers on their dysfunctional committees – admirably summed upped by the Daily Mail’s spot-on sports diarist Charlie Sale as being more interested in feeding their faces than football – she is a relative spring chicken.
Doubtless she will do this job as spectacularly well as she has the others, but should not the FA be looking now for younger administrative talent to eventually replace the bold Baroness?
Given their history it seems doubtful that they are likely to recruit someone a couple of decades younger to take over from 68-year-old chairman Greg Dyke when he steps down next year.
Indeed can anyone remember when an FA chairman wasn’t a pensioner?
The FA surely are typical of sports organisations who need to be taking a younger, fresher look at things.
Even giving a top job to someone in their fifties would be a bonus these days. And yes, I appreciate the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) have done so by electing as President Lord Coe, who just scrapes into that age group as he will be 60 in September.
But just think. His crooked predecessor Lamine Diack, who ruled for 12 years, is now 82 while his opposite number at FIFA, the similarly discredited Sepp Blatter, reaches his 80th birthday in March.
His predecessor and crony in corruption, Joao Havelange, now nudging his century, clung on to the office until he, like Diack, also was a decrepit, deceitful 82 year-old.
Picked at random, Sir Craig Reedie, the old pro who heads up the World Anti-Doping Agency, is 74 and Dr C K Wu, reformist head of The International Boxing Association, is 67.
Both are carrying out their duties with commendable spirit and efficiency, but that cannot, and should not, be forever. Where are the young lions of sport, the movers and shakers who one day might take their places and those of others who currently head up global sports authorities?
The International Olympic Committee have attempted to redress the balance by fixing the membership age limit at 70, except for members co-opted between 1966 and 1999, for whom it is 80.
However, it does little to dispel the notion that it is still an old folk’s club.
For the record, current President Thomas Bach is 62, veritably younger than springtime by IOC standards.
I know and understand the argument that with age comes experience, knowledge and (sometimes) worldliness, and that those of a certain vintage usually have more time on their hands than their youthful counterparts.
But wouldn’t it be refreshing to hear of someone aged 40 or thereabouts being given a prominent role in the stewardship of sport?
Which is one reason why I would back Prince Ali of Jordan to become the new president of FIFA. Just 40, he is easily the youngest of the candidates.
I am not suggesting this is the most crucial criteria for the job but he has energy, an enquiring mind, is an excellent networker, genuinely loves the game and is untainted by any hint of scandal. Can we say the same about all the others?
Having reached the old buffer stage myself – although some of my acquaintances prefer to spell buffer with two Gs in the middle – I say it is time sport gave youth a chance. Not only to play it, but to run it.