Potential sporting highlights for 2013
Predicting the future is a thankless task - just ask the Mayans, who were inclined to doubt whether newspapers beyond 21 December were strictly necessary. 2013 should, by rights, be a hangover sporting year, since the Olympic flame has guttered and died, but it might be worth hanging on for.
Subject to the usual terms and conditions (the value of your emotional investment can go up or down) these are the potential highlights of the next 12 months:
Andy Murray wins the Australian Open in another classic five-set final against Novak Djokovic. The Lawn Tennis Association buy the Robinson's Barley franchise and promote themselves as the Scot's “performance partner”. Arsène Wenger is co-opted on to the Bank of England's monetary policy committee, who raise interest rates to 15 per cent. Kanu is among 13 players bought by Harry Redknapp before the transfer window closes.
Roman Abramovich offers Neymar £400,000 a week, the governorship of Chukotka and a timeshare on his superyacht after he scores four of Brazil's six goals against England at Wembley. Rafa Benitez is sacked as Chelsea can only beat Bradford City 7-0 in the final of the League Cup. He is replaced by Bobby Campbell, who last managed the club in 1991. Alan Curbishley, the initial favourite for the job, refuses to undergo an interview.
The Premier League respond to the failure of UK teams to reach the Champions' League quarterfinals by announcing a series of 39 knock-out matches across Asia. The Three Wise Monkeys Trophy, sponsored by Thaksin Shinawatra, will become an annual event. Wales take the wooden spoon in rugby union's Six Nations' Championship after being beaten 36-11 by England. The Wales coach, Warren Gatland, resigns, but keeps his British and Irish Lions job despite having signed a pre-contract agreement with the Queensland Reds.
Ian Poulter wins the Masters by five shots, and launches the Lime Green tie-dye range of replica jackets. The Abu Dhabi Tourist Authority buy Sir Alex Ferguson Inc for £150 million and unveil the Scot as Manchester City's new “executive consultant strategist”. Uefa say this respects the spirit of their Financial Fair Play rules. Michel Platini conducts the press conference in a cryogenic chamber to promote his vision of a Winter World Cup in 2020.
Uefa are concerned about “suspicious” betting patterns as Shakhtar Donetsk beat Barcelona following a floodlight failure in the Champions' League final at Wembley. Health and safety officials order the temporary closure of the Emirates stadium after a mummified pigeon is found at the back of the trophy cabinet in the boardroom. Rich-ard Scudamore resigns as chief executive of the Premier League to work alongside Bernie Ecclestone in Formula One on the day Millwall win the Championship play-off final. He claims this is coincidental.
Andy Murray's first-round defeat by a Mongolian qualifier at Wimbledon is blamed on food poisoning, traced to tainted caviar at an LTA reception. Gavin Henson launches a range of male grooming products to coincide with the British and Irish Lions tour of Australia. Jose Mourinho is named as Manchester United manager after a boardroom putsch results in the departure of Sir Bobby Charlton.
Shane Warne sets the tone for a difficult tour as part of Australia's Ashes squad, confronting paparazzi outside a cosmetic surgery clinic in Harley Street. Colin Montgomerie, having lost five stones on the Atkins diet, wins The Open at Muirfield. He retires to build a mausoleum in Tobermory. Bradley Wiggins reaches No 1 with a cover of Paul Weller's “Peacock Suit”, and helps Chris Froome win the Tour de France.
The British swimming team blame their failure to win a World Championships medal in Dubai on a lack of warm-weather training in temperature-controlled pools. Neils de Vos, CEO of UK Athletics, refuses to resign after a similarly dismal display at the athletics World Championships in Moscow. “Our opponents have new spikes,” he complains. “By anyone's standards that is technological doping.” Scotland's friendly against England, the supposed centrepiece of the Football Association's 150th anniversary celebrations, is cancelled on police advice.
Brendan Rodgers leaves Liverpool to become a life coach. Damien Comolli is inducted as a druid. Kenny Dalglish launches a new career as a stand-up comic. Andy Carroll retires to run a fleet of 35 mobile fish 'n' chip vans. John Terry's debut for Zenit St Petersburg against CSKA Moscow is halted by Pussy Riot sympathisers.
David Price wins the world heavyweight title by beating Wladimir Klitschko and is signed to a 30-year contract by the Ukrainian brothers. England fail to qualify for the 2014 World Cup after being defied by the Polish goalkeeper in a one-sided draw at Wembley. The FA sack Roy Hodgson in echoes of Sir Alf Ramsey's demise, and are forced to deny that they may default on the stadium's mortgage.
Organisers of the rugby league World Cup are embarrassed by an attendance of 47 for the self-styled “Punch-Up in the Pacific” between Tonga and the Cook Islands at the Leigh Sports Village. They insist the Cup has a vibrant legacy: local schoolchildren record “Te Atua Mou E”, the Cook Islands national anthem, to raise money for Sport Relief. Terry Wogan receives the royalty cheque, for £7.68, at the final between New Zealand and Australia.
The Premier League buy St George's Park from the FA and announce a complementary deal to take control of the national coaching strategy, sponsored by BishBosh, the new betting website. The 2014 Commonwealth Games organisers come under pressure to reverse their decision to offer deep-fried Mars Bars as a menu option at the Glasgow Athletes' Village. England retain the Ashes Down Under, two days before Christmas, by winning the first three Tests. Freddie Flintoff goes out for a drink and is never seen again. – The Independent on Sunday