Alan Hubbard

Twenty-fifteen: The year in which the high and mighty fell to earth with a resounding thump.

From Sepp Blatter to Wladimir Klitschko via Jose Mourinho and Lamine Diack, the walls of the corridors of power have been tumbling down, burying some because of their own foolishness or vulnerability; others caught with grubby fingers in the till of corruption on a massive scale.

The line between crassness and criminality becomes increasingly obscure.

Of all sport’s sensations since men and women first began exercising their physicality on the playing fields and inside gymnasiums, few scandals have stunned the world as gob-smackingly as the decline and fall of the FIFA empire.

It has culminated in arrests, extraditions and now the eight-year suspensions imposed on President Sepp Blatter and his chief henchman and dollar-laden bag carrier Michel Platini.

Fistfuls of collars have been felt, with the most apposite acronym in international football no longer FIFA, but the FBI.

And if you think it’s all over- oh no it isn’t. The best (or worst) is yet to come in 2016. The soccer surface may have been merely scratched.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter was banned from football for eight years
FIFA President Sepp Blatter was banned from football for eight years ©Getty Images

Hard on the dirt-encrusted heels of FIFA's corrupt moguls galloped the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), whose venerable retiring overlord Diack, that dodgy judge from Senegal, has apparently coughed to the French cops, admitting that he turned a blind eye to the massive doping programme in Russian athletics in exchange for a bagful of dollar-convertible rubles.

In some ways this is a scandal even bigger than that engulfing FIFA, where there is growing evidence that successive World Cups have been bought and sold.

For it involves a world superpower, with Russia brutally exposed as a sporting fraud and in danger of losing its Olympic status in Rio - though don’t bet against Vladimir Putin pulling a few strokes - and a few strings - to ensure that doesn’t happen. 

The malady lingers on in a sport which forever will be tainted, as is football, with large scale corrupt practices; however we are assured new incumbent Lord Sebastian Coe knew nothing of the skulduggery of Diack and some of his associates while serving at the side of the man he called his "spiritual leader".

That’s quite possible of course. But was he asleep on the job, otherwise distracted or simply, and uncharacteristically, naive?

Coe no doubt realises he has not helped himself, and cannot deflect all the opprobrium that has been flung at him by a media he alienated by his initial stubbornness to accept the irrefutable proof that cheats were prospering in his beloved athletics on a gigantic scale (as indeed they are in doping in an increasing number of sports, rugby and boxing to name but two).

Moreover, it transpired that the fleet-footedness Coe displayed in his days as such a supreme athlete was oddly absent when it came to eschewing his seemingly compromising connections with Nike.

Now there is even more grim tidings to embarrass him. He faces increased pressure after an email was leaked showing that his own newly-promoted right-hand man, a fellow Brit, knew about a number of Russian doping cases in 2013, and discussed a secret plan to delay naming those involved before the World Championships in Moscow that year.

In the email published by the French newspaper Le Monde, Nick Davies - the IAAF deputy general secretary - also allegedly suggested that athletics’ governing body might use Coe’s political influence and his sports marketing firm Chime Sports Media as an “unofficial PR campaign” to “stop attacks planned by the British press towards Russia”.

Davies has denied any wrongdoing.

Jose Mourinho was sacked as Chelsea manager after their poor start to the Premier League season
Jose Mourinho was sacked as Chelsea manager after their poor start to the Premier League season ©Getty Images

Even so, there is little doubt that Coe remains the best - perhaps only - hope of salvaging the fast-sinking hopes of athletics and must be allowed to get on with the job.

Back in football, at the home of the club Coe supports, there was more sound of falling timber; the Special One turned out to be not quite so Special after all, Jose Mourinho being sacked by Chelsea as they floundered near the relegation zone of the Premier League.

Yet as they say, it’s a funny old game. More than likely Chelsea’s lost leader will wash up at Manchester United, another of those toppling sporting mammoths of 2015 alongside their Mancunian neighbours at the Etihad Stadium.

Leicester City topping the Premier League over Christmas! Who’d have thought it outside the faithful of the King Power Stadium - and the editor of insidethegames, an ardent follower of the Foxes, I believe...

But whether Wladimir Klitschko, second only to Joe Louis in longevity as world heavyweight champion, can recover from the shock of being out-thought and out-fought by British bruiser Tyson Fury is a question that  will be answered back in Germany in 2016.

Fury’s triumph was on an seismic scale equalled only by what James ‘"Buster" Douglas inflicted on Tyson’s namesake Iron Mike, in Tokyo 25 years ago.

You may not like the potty-mouthed pug but you have to admire his tactical nous and self-belief.

Tyson Fury shocked boxing with his upset win against Wladimir Klitschko
Tyson Fury shocked boxing with his upset win against Wladimir Klitschko ©Getty Images

Another major boxing upset was the defeat by an unknown Frenchman this month of hitherto unbeaten Olympic lightweight champion Luke Campbell, though his 2012 stablemate Anthony Joshua thunders on in the heavyweight division, his pride-and punching power thus far avoiding a fall that would be catastrophic for the sport here.

And should you think that what has been going in sport during the past 12 months is not quite cricket - well actually it is. The leaders of English, Australian and Indian cricket have been accused of carving up the international game in their own interests.

Last month International Cricket Council chairman Narayanaswami Srinivasan was forced out over conflicts of interest in his business dealings.

I suspect even more prominent heads will roll in major sport next year.

As for 2015, it has been the year in which sport fought for its soul, and lost heavily on points while only just staving off a complete KO.

Finally the whistle has blown on an astonishing year - with the whistle blowers themselves the main players in shaming those who haven’t been playing the game.