Alan Hubbard

Clinton v Trump it is not, but 16 days after the gruesome twosome vie for the Presidency of the United States on November 8, election fever will hit a vital corner of British sport in London’s Charlotte Street.

Again, a couple of contrasting candidates will fight it out, though with none of the seediness or nastiness that has dominated the spiteful scrap between America’s political protagonists these past few months.

It is a far more gentlemanly affair in every sense with the Chairmanship of the British Olympic Association (BOA) up for grabs at the organisation’s annual meeting on November 24.

Who will succeed Lord Sebastian Coe at what is a crucial time for the BOA, with the Tokyo Games looming and an agenda committed to further enhancing the wondrous performances from Britain’s Olympians in London four years ago and this past golden summer in Rio?

As I reported here last month, it seemed Coe had deftly paved the way for a smooth transition with the appointment last year of his personal and one-time political pal, the former Sports and Olympics Minister Sir Hugh Robertson, as his vice-chair.

The immensely personable Sir Hugh seemed a shoo-in.

However, it was recently confirmed that Olympic hockey gold medallist Richard Leman, president of GB Hockey, will stand against him.

Sir Hugh Robertson had been considered the favourite to succeed Sebastian Coe as chairman of the BOA ©Getty Images
Sir Hugh Robertson had been considered the favourite to succeed Sebastian Coe as chairman of the BOA ©Getty Images

A member of Britain's gold medal-winning hockey team in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, 57-year-old Leman had been Coe’s predecessor Lord Colin Moynihan's choice to succeed him when he stood down after London 2012.

But Leman sportingly withdrew when it became known that Coe, Olympic track legend and prime architect of London 2012, was also up for the job.

In the circumstances, Coe’s election rightly was a no-brainer.

Subsequently, Coe saw Sir Hugh as his own heir apparent but it now emerges that there are a number of constituent members of the BOA from governing bodies who do not see it that way, indicating that the next chairman should come from within the ranks of Olympic sports rather than politics - particularly right-ish wing politics.

But are there sufficient numbers to eliminate Robertson, who remains favourite?

Some are certainly not in favour of another Tory knight and Member of Parliament following two Tory peers in Coe and Moynihan, both former Sports Ministers.

Sussex-born Leman’s own political leanings are not known. But his public school education at the prestigious Gresham School in Holt and his close friendship with Moynihan hardly suggest he is a Corbynista.

Both Robertson and Leman have been taking soundings among the BOA electorate about their chances, as have their respective corner-men.

GB Hockey President Richard Leman is the other candidate in the two-horse race ©Getty Images
GB Hockey President Richard Leman is the other candidate in the two-horse race ©Getty Images

Moynihan has been particularly busy on behalf of Leman, and in a way this election is as much Coe v Moynihan as Robertson v Leman; it is no secret that their Lordships have not been rubbing along as well as they once did following some strong differences of opinion during the latter stages of the preparations for the 2012 Games.

Coe has not been quite so active on the ear-bending front, largely because of his huge commitments to his new role as President of the International Association of Athletics Federations.

But I know he believes 53-year-old former Army major Robertson would be an ideal choice.

I have to agree, though both seem really decent blokes.

What Leman does have going for him is a highly successful business background as well as a sporting one, a particularly useful asset when financial and commercial viability is so essential for the non-Government funded BOA.

Voted hockey player of the year in 1984, in his business career he has founded several enterprises in the recruitment sector and his first company, Olympian Consultancy, was eighth in the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 companies for 1999.

In the same year, Leman won the Durlacher Executive of the Year Award and was also runner-up for the Sussex Businessman of the Year Award.

He is currently chairman of Gold Group Recruitment, a technology and engineering recruitment firm working with companies across the globe.

Sir Hugh Robertson and Richard Leman are bidding to replace IAAF President Sebastian Coe as BOA chairman ©Getty Images
Sir Hugh Robertson and Richard Leman are bidding to replace IAAF President Sebastian Coe as BOA chairman ©Getty Images

Before entering Parliament, Robertson, a club hockey player, cricketer and Chelsea supporter, was an officer in the Life Guards from 1985 to 1995, seeing active service in Northern Ireland, Cyprus, The Gulf War and Bosnia, where he commanded the British detachment in Sarajevo during the siege of the city. He also commanded The Household Cavalry on the 1993 Queen’s Birthday Parade and The State Opening of Parliament.

After his substantial tenure first as Shadow and then as Sports and Olympics Minister, he became a Foreign Office Minister with responsibility for the Middle East and counter-terrorism. So he knows the political ropes and is also well-known himself in the increasingly byzantine world of sports politics.

However he is now out of real politics as head of the London office and director of international relations for PR outfit Falcon and Associates, specialising in the Middle East.

These days the BOA head honcho needs to be considerably more than a figurehead, cognisant with international sports politics and the nuances of doping, corruption and other assorted ills with sport featuring as much on the front pages as the back, and frequently headlining TV news bulletins.

It could be argued that Robertson, experienced as a public figure, is best equipped for that.

But this election, like the septic showdown across the Atlantic, is by no means a foregone conclusion.

At least we can be sure it will be a democratic vote contested with dignity, decorum, and above all good sportsmanship - plus a handshake at the end because happily there is no Trump card.