BBC BLOGS - Gordon Farquhar

Poppy crisis averted

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Gordon Farquhar | 14:56 UK time, Thursday, 10 November 2011

Papaver rhoeas. Who would have thought something so elegantly simple could cause so much trouble? The corn poppy, perhaps better known as the Flanders poppy, has bloomed everywhere this week.

Front and back pages, television and radio bulletins, Twitter, blogs and websites. It was even a topic at Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons - while a future King of England wrote a letter about it and some protesters took to the roof of Fifa House in Zurich.

We all love the poppy - according to David Cameron - except, perhaps, those gardeners conversant with its latin name and who treat it as a weed.

Nonetheless, there was a palpable sense of righteous indignation when the Football Association's desire to have the emblem embroidered or printed on the team's shirts for Saturday's friendly against Spain was thwarted by Fifa president Sepp Blatter and the rest of the Fifa crew.

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Dramatic day as Pakistan trio face sentence

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Gordon Farquhar | 22:27 UK time, Wednesday, 2 November 2011

You can't spend more than 20 years in journalism without seeing the inside of a court room. I'm no battle veteran, perhaps a Corporal with a few campaigns under his belt, but to continue the military analogy, this was a proper bombardment to surprise a Brigadier or two. Mitigation hearings surely don't come more dramatic.

Court Four at Southwark has been busy throughout: on Wednesday it was rammed, with solicitors and journalists squabbling over chairs and people straining to hear the judge's words in the public gallery at the back.

On the previous day former Pakistan captain Salman Butt and fast bowler Mohammad Asif were both found guilty of conspiracy to cheat and conspiracy to accept corrupt payments for arranging the deliberate bowling of no-balls in the Lord's Test against England last year.

Left-arm seamer Mohammad Amir and the players' agent, Mazhar Majeed had already pleaded guilty, but with reporting restrictions in place we hadn't been able to tell you. Now they appeared in court for the first time.

By the time proceedings began around 1100 GMT, pet theories had all been talked out by the sizeable gathering of journalists, the ranks swelled by the presence of some specialist cricket correspondents, including at least one former England captain, but I bet with all his inside knowledge of the gossip around match fixing even Mike Atherton was taken aback by what was to come.

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The FA defends its anti-doping policy

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Gordon Farquhar | 10:38 UK time, Tuesday, 13 September 2011

One of the more absurd things I've heard Sepp Blatter say is that football doesn't have a drugs problem.

It was a while ago that he offered that observation, at the time when Fifa and World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) were wrestling over compliance with the world anti-doping code, and how they would manage disciplinary measures. I was never convinced that football had actually embraced the code fully, but Wada seemed satisfied in the end.

Blatter's remarks seemed to be entirely based, at the time, on a lack of positive drug tests at successive major tournaments. (Before, incidentally, the recent Women's World Cup where five members of the North Korean team failed tests for performance enhancing drugs, resulting in the team's ban from the next competition in Canada in 2015.)

It's an absurd remark because football and footballers are no different from any other sport, in that where there's financial reward for success, there's doping. To deny that because no-one's been caught is meaningless. We all know sprinter Marion Jones never failed a drugs test, but by her own admission, was a cheat.

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