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Executive Meddling / Sports

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Most owners of sports teams/leagues aren't athletes themselves, but that doesn't stop them from messing around with things that don't go their way.

  • On October 1, 1961, in the fourth inning of the last game of the season, New York Yankee right fielder Roger Maris hit his 61st home run of the season, breaking Babe Ruth's single-season home run record. The problem was that Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick declared that, because eight games had been added to the baseball season between Ruth setting his record and Maris breaking it, the record would indicate that it took longer for Maris to break it. In addition, Ruth's record would be retained in the books. Frick's reason for doing this was simple: he'd been one of Ruth's best friends, and didn't think an "arrogant little nobody" like Maris was worthy of breaking such a "great man's" record. What makes this worse is that, at least at the time, all baseball records were "officially" kept not by the MLB, AL, or NL offices but by third party publications like Baseball Encyclopedia and The Sporting News, which Frick had no official authority over. Even worse: Maris was finally recognized by MLB as the sole holder of the single season home run record in 1991. Unfortunately, Maris wasn't around to see it as he had died in 1985.
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  • Ford Frick's appointment to the baseball commissioner's office was essentially a result of executive meddling by the club owners, who by 1950 made it clear they were running the game and the commissioner would be little more than a figurehead under their control. The owners were forced to appoint an authoritarian figure in 1920 in Kenesaw Mountain Landis to help clean up the game's image in the wake of the Black Sox Scandal; when he died in 1945, the owners hoped Albert "Happy" Chandler would be such a figurehead. He was not, as he blocked trades he felt were not in the game's best interests, levied fines against owners and dared allow the color barrier to be broken against many owners' wishes. But when it was discovered he was looking to ban Yankees owner Del Webb and Cardinals owner Fred Saigh for associating with gamblers or other shady activities, Webb struck backroom deals with the other owners to get them to agree to not renew Chandler's contract. Webb was appointed head of the search committee to fans Chandler's replacement after suggesting baseball perhaps needed someone with a business and/or legal background - and then selected Frick, a former sportswriter and NL PR chief who had neither.
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  • In the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games, Brazilian triple jumper João de Oliveira had at least three valid jumps, one of which would break his own world record, annulled by the referees so they could give the gold (and silver) to a Soviet. Some even argue that sponsors Adidas and Mizuno had a hand in it.
  • When construction businessman Florentino Pérez was elected as president of Real Madrid in 2000 he was determined to turn the team into the perfect money making machine. Iconic players were sold off and foreign stars brought in, no matter the cost or even if their position was already filled; anyone who had just won an award and was all the rage in the sports press had. to. be. in Real. No exceptions. This in itself wasn't a bad thing: indeed, Real won La Liga and the Champions League twice under his helm between 2000 and 2003. The actual disaster came when Pérez decided to let coach (and lifelong Real man) Vicente del Bosque's contract run out without renewal in 2003 and bring in Manchester United's assistant coach Carlos Queiroz as his replacement. The rumour was that Pérez had done this mainly as a marketing ploy, the Harrison Ford-lookalike Queiroz being more suited in his mind to lead a team with the likes of Beckham, Figo and Zidane than the charmless, quiet, walrus-like del Bosque. Needless to say, Queiroz lacked the experience to lead a team as big as Real Madrid, let alone one with as many egos as Pérez had collected, and the team took an immediate nosedive. Real Madrid were eliminated by Monaco in the Champions League quarter-finals, lost the Copa del Rey to newly-promoted Real Zaragoza, and finished fourth in La Liga after losing all of their last five matches. Real would go then through 8 coaches in six years, and disappointing result after disappointing result, until José Mourinho took the helm in 2010. That same year, the walrus-like del Bosque guided Spain to victory in the World Cup for the first time in the country's history - beating Quieroz' Portugal side along the way.

    Then Mourinho was sacked in 2013, and while Real did win the Champions League the following year under Carlo Ancelotti, a second-place La Liga finish in 2014-15 led to Ancelotti getting sacked and rumors immediately spreading that Mourinho would be brought back to replace him. Those rumors rekindled in late 2015 after Mourinho was fired from Chelsea, but didn't come to fruition as he was instead named manager of Manchester United. note 
  • Owners of football (soccer) clubs are particularly prone to this, usually because they're the men (and they usually are men) with the money. Aside from Pérez, examples include:
    • The owner of Newcastle United, Mike Ashley a.k.a. the most hated man in Newcastle, owner of notoriously penny-pinching business Sports Direct, took over in 2007. The club had been challenging for the prized Champions League places at the very top end of the Premier League, even challenging for the title five years before Ashley took over. While they'd had a bad year the season before he took over, they had still finished 13th, a mid table position and were considered to be a tough team. Two years and several managers later, one of whom, the well-respected Kevin Keegan, complained that the board was not providing sufficient financial support and implied that players were being forced upon him, they were relegated, the ultimate humiliation for a Premier League club. While they bounced back immediately afterwards and did enjoy a 5th-place finish in 2011/12, they ended up nearly being relegated the following season and have spent their time trying to avoid relegation - before biting the bullet again in 2016 - as Ashley sold valuable and influential players, pocketing most of the proceeds and buying up untested players in cut-price deals. While this was sometimes effective in the case of cult hero Fabricio Coloccini and midfielder Yohan Cabaye (the latter of which was sold on for a notable profit a year or two later), it was usually worse than ineffective. To add insult to injury, Ashley even renamed the iconic St. James' Park "the Sports Direct Arena". However, even the BBC stopped bothering to call it that after about two weeks and everyone still refers to it as St. James' Park.
    • Roman Abramovich, the Russian oligarch owner of Chelsea FC, is likewise infamous for this, firing even successful managers if he dislikes the way they play or if they fail to win the trophies that he wants. The only manager who lasted more than two years under his stewardship was José "The Special One" Mourinho, who seemed to broadly enjoy Abramovich's favor.note 
    • Vincent Tan, owner of Cardiff City, brought about a number of unpopular changes to the club during Cardiff's maiden Premier League campaign in 2013/14. Cardiff City's traditional colors are blue and white, and their nickname is the Bluebirds. Tan's favorite color is red, and he was attempting to try and develop a market in southeast Asia, a la Manchester United, so he changed the colors to red and changed the crest to feature a large Welsh dragon on it instead of a bluebird. In addition to this, he also knew next to nothing about the game (he once criticized his goalkeeper for not scoring enough goals) and was known to jeer his own players during matches. The fans revolted, and in 2015, Tan was forced to cave to their requests. However, in a surprisingly happy ending, they reached a good compromise, where the crest would return the bluebird to the forefront, the welsh dragon would be on it as well although smaller, and the blue and white home kits returned while red kits would be their new traditional away colors. When all of this happened, the first game back with the new colors saw record-breaking attendance.
  • David Stern was widely accused of this during his tenure as NBA commissioner. He was accused of rigging the 1985 Draft Lottery to ensure that Patrick Ewing, the top draft pick, went to the New York Knicks. The '90s Chicago Bulls dynasty was widely believed to get favorable calls from the referees in order to ensure success for Michael Jordan. That accusation has spread to later teams, including the early 2000s Los Angeles Lakers and the early 2010s Miami Heat. Concerning the former, the 2002 Western Conference Finals were allegedly rigged by the referees to ensure that the Lakers, who are in a larger media market than their opponents, the Sacramento Kings, went to the NBA Finals. This became apparent afterwards when referee Tim Donaghy was investigated for betting/rigging games. His defense claimed that Game 6, which featured twice as many free throws by the Lakers (most in the 4th quarter) in their 4-point win, was rigged.
  • NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is booed in every single arena he walks into. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. During his tenure, he has brought about three lockouts, one cancelling the entire season and the others cancelling half, and has continuously defended franchises like the Florida Panthers and the Arizona Coyotes, whose home arenas are eternally empty, when numerous cities in Canada, and to a lesser extent the Northern U.S., could easily support a hockey team and are really desperate for an NHL franchise (Quebec City is the glaring example, but Hamilton, Saskatoon, and Seattlenote  are also open markets). This becomes even more puzzling when, after his numerous other cash grabs, he never seemed to notice how moving another such team from Atlanta to hockey-hungry Winnipeg resulted in the franchise receiving a massive revenue increase. Said move also brought about criticism of the administration when Winnipeg were kept in the Southeast Division for two years, with many blaming the Jets missing the playoffs-especially in their first year-on the tiring travel schedule brought about by this. And then when the NHL next expanded, it placed a team in Las Vegas, snubbing Quebec City for the time being.note 
  • In mixed martial arts, UFC lobbied to end a tax on the purchases of pay-per-views by Oklahoma residents, regardless of where they took place. As a result of their lobbying, Oklahoma decided to ban all combat sports in 2012, including professional wrestling, to shut them up. However, this ended up being an Averted Trope, as the state redrafted the law in question within a month to make it clear that only events held in Oklahoma were subject to that state's tax, which satisfied UFC.
  • In 1999, Manchester United won both the FA Cup and Champions League, the latter meaning they qualified for the inaugural World Club Cup, which was being held in Brazil at around the same time as the round of the FA Cup where they would have entered. In an attempt to secure the 2006 FIFA World Cup - for which they were bidding for - the FA pressured Manchester United into withdrawing from the FA Cup so they could compete in the Club World Cup without distraction. This backfired big-time, as (a) Germany were awarded the 2006 World Cup and (b) United's withdrawal has been cited as a reason for the decline in interest in the FA Cup.
  • An averted example of this - in 2016, NBC requested (though it would later deny that it did so) that the Parade of Nations in the Rio 2016 Opening Ceremony be carried out in English rather than Portuguese, claiming viewing figures would be affected by an early appearance by the United States of America (they would be coming out early due to their name being "Estados Unidos da América" in Portuguese). The IOC refused this request, as it ran contrary to their rules stating that the countries come out according to the host nation's language. (Granted, there have been exceptions to that, due to either the host nation's requestnote  or because of political sensitivitiesnote , but neither of those applied here.)
  • Augusta National Golf Club, an iconic and exclusive club in the US state of Georgia that hosts the Masters Tournament, one of the four major men's golf championships, fell hard into this trope. The course designers—club co-founder and golf legend Bobby Jones, and famed designer Alister MacKenzie—were heavily influenced by the Old Course at St Andrews, the most iconic venue for another major championship, The Open Championship (aka British Open). Jones and MacKenzie intended for the ground game (approaching the green with low-trajectory shots, often running along the ground for considerable distance) to be central to the course design. Unfortunately, the club's other founder, executive director Clifford Roberts, didn't like the ground game, and sought to change the course almost from its opening. The designers resisted, but fate intervened. MacKenzie died a little more than a year after the club opened; a few years later Jones left to serve in World War II, and not long after coming back to Georgia was crippled by a rare spinal cord disorder, giving Roberts a free ride to remake Augusta National in his own image. Unfortunately for the course, Roberts' changes left it extremely vulnerable to advances in golf technology, resulting in countless other changes over the following decades. Nowadays, at least from a golf standpoint, little is left of the original Jones–MacKenzie design except its routing.
  • In the British Touring Car Championship's 2016 season, Team BMR wanted to use the Subaru Impreza as their car of choice. Subaru, seeking the marketing opportunity, made them choose the Levorg (an estate car not available in the American market) instead. Surprisingly, this went pretty well: although the car was occasionally a victim of Crippling Overspecialisation (the centre of mass made it excellent on technical circuits, but it struggled on tracks more focused on acceleration), it put Subaru fifth on the decade's manufacturer podium standings in the championship despite ten other manufacturers completing more racing laps, and it was even the car driven by 2017 driver's champion Ashley Sutton.

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