Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

On the plus side…a rant

LeicesterLeicester City today or next week will win the English Premier League. Good for them. The league does not lie and it is so refreshing to see a real team challenge and win. On the downside, my team, Hull City, trying to get back into the Premier League (having been dumped out of the league by Leicester’s failure to be relegated last year) cannot even beat an already relegated side in the run-off to the play-offs in the second league. For non-English readers, worry not, this is all irrelevant to life in general. However, it is clear that my team’s coach cannot motivate his squad of players like Claudio Ranieri can his. Lessons there.

Good also for the mis-named junior doctors striking in the UK. The amount of vile verbiageJeremy_Hunt_Official coming from the British Government at the moment against doctors is par for the course, but good on the doctors for standing up for principles – their’s and our’s. The British Government is dismantling the National Health Service and handing it over to private sector cherry-picking businesses. Jeremy Hunt (right), the egregious English health minister accused the doctors of making the strike political. If I am not mistaken, his government has outlawed political strikes, so by virtue of it happening at all it cannot be political. Equally if anyone has made it political it is Mr Hunt. This is turning out to be a battle of wills between right and wrong. Next thing we’ll find armed police trying to break through pickets just like Thatcher did in the 1980s against another class of workers fighting for their rights and livelihoods.

southernTalking about strikes, last week those of us in the south of England had our journeys to work disrupted by a strike by conductors on the trains. A 24 hour strike straddling two days caused chaos and major inconvenience. Just like strikes are supposed to do. Good for the conductors trying to block attempts by the train company to change their terms and conditions and turn them into revenue protection officers rather than train managers – responsible for safety and customer service on board. As a season ticket holder on Southern, I favour the conductors absolutely. This is a company that treats its customers with utter contempt. By that measure, employees must be utterly despised.

There is a new phrase going around at the moment like a bad smell. I’ve heard it from my own employer and people involved in the junior doctors’ strike. To paraphrase: “This is a democratically elected government, so…”. To translate, this Government led by a bunch of thieving, self-seeking, lying white men, can do whatever they want because they secured 37 per cent of the national vote a year ago. Please, democracy is not just a vote every 5 years. Democracy is a process. A manifesto commitment is not law. We have two chambers of Parliament, scrutiny committees and courts to test the robustness and fit-for-purposeness of proposed laws. Bad law is untested law and comes from Parliamentarians who do not understand process or those who are self-serving. Or both. It is a duty to oppose poor law whether it was in a manifesto or not.

Ched Evans – rape and re-habilitation

WH_webI was not going to comment about this case. I’m not particularly qualified in terms of the law and the crime, but three things in particular have prompted this post. First, some background for readers not familiar with the case. Ched Evans was a footballer for Sheffield United, a third league club in England. He was convicted of rape in 2011 and sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. He served half of his sentence and is now ‘out’ on licence and seeking to relaunch his football career. It is clear that his old club was keen to take him back, but sponsors pulled out and the negotiations ended. Oldham football club then took up the case and was offered guarantees against losses incurred if sponsors pulled out by Evans’s future father-in-law, Karl Massey, a rather wealthy businessman. That has now fallen through after pressure on the club and its employees. The precise details are unclear. Evans insists he is innocent of rape. He had not offered apologies to his victim whose identity has apparently changed 5 times since the crime. Since the Oldham contract fell through, Evans has now apologised for the effects of his actions, but still protests his innocence. Then yesterday some extraordinary things happened. First, Gordon Taylor, the head of the Professional Footballers’ Association – the trade union for footballers – likened the case, wrongly, to victims of Steve_Brucethe Hillsborough disaster where 96 people were crushed to death because of police incompetence and then blamed for it after a police cover-up. Taylor has since apologised. Then the Manager of my club, Steve Bruce (right), inexplicably waded in saying that he had looked at the evidence himself and he thinks that there is a case for appeal. Mr Bruce, Hull City are in trouble at the bottom of the league. Concentrate on that, and leave well alone of Ched Evans. And then to make matters worse, a so-called academic – wrongly claiming to be from my university – engages on a debate on the issue and not only advocates for Evans but also says that people from ‘lower classes’ are more likely to engage in criminal acts. On the former he is quoted as saying in the Argus newspaper “it would be ridiculous to allow the conviction to ruin Evans’ career”. All of these three men have one thing in common. They do not get it. At the very least, can I suggest all three listen to the clip from BBC Woman’s Hour. And then listen to it again. I’m not a great fan of Hadley Freeman from the Guardian, but this is as good an exposition as I have heard or read.

. Pictures: top – screen grab from Woman’s Hour website; Steve Bruce: Ronnie Macdonald

World Cup, 2014

Oliver_on_FifaReaders of this blog know that I am a football fan. The World Cup always provides an opportunity to plug the gap left by the closed domestic season; it also serves as an occasion to watch (and listen to descriptions on radio commentaries) the world’s best players do their magic. usually that does not include England, of course.

The World Cup in South Africa four years ago brought to the fore some of the less seemly elements of the competition. The concept belongs to FIFA, not to the host country. And like most intellectual property, the lion’s share of the value does not go to the manufacturer, but to the ‘owner’. Moreover, it is so prestigious that countries are willing to suffer penury in order to win the competition to host and then to build the often inappropriate (un)necessary infrastructure (e.g stadiums). Sovereignty is also compromised with changes in tax laws. Equally troubling are the FIFA courts with the ability rapidly to convict individuals for infringements related to the competition.

The defence of South Africa was its importance for a continent. The first time the competition had been held in Africa. I bought that. For Brazil…well, Brazil is football. For Russia (2018)? For Qatar (2022)? It is increasingly clear that this whole event is designed to look after the interests of a detached – and extremely wealthy – elite in Zurich rather than the sport of football globally.

As is often the case, critique is best left to satirists. John Oliver’s (picture above) is one of the best. It can be seen here .

My response this time is, as best I can, to ignore the competition. Even if that means forfeiting the final commentaries on the radio of the great Mike Ingham who is retiring from the BBC after the competition.

FIFA stinks and we should not patronise it.

The Olympics

Time to say my piece as the whole thing ramps up.

The London Olympics is pure folly. Sporting competition is one thing, deploying the army to ‘protect’ us whilst the event is on suggests that something is not quite right.

The athletes seem to me to have been grossly exploited. Parading around in kit made by global brands strikes me as being cheap. Appearing on advertisements for global oil companies propping up nasty regimes, equally so.

The allocation of tickets is beyond comprehension. Bidding for tickets to events in which one has no real interest in the hope of getting tickets for the 100m final is exploitation.

Advising employees to stay at home for the duration because the infrastructure cannot cope beggars belief.

What is it about the flame? How extraordinary is it to light a flame in Greece and then fly it still alight to Cornwall? Or to take it up Snowdon (in the hands of Chris Bonnington) on a train?

Television and radio coverage is uncritical and tedious.

Today we discover that Visa has exclusivity on ATMs – meaning that mastercard holders cannot withdraw cash. They are actually turning off rival ATMs at the Olympic venues to enforce exclusivity!

We’ll see about the legacy.

I could go on…

Brighton and HA v Hull City at the Amex Stadium

It is a while since I last went to a football match. Getting to Hull is not that convenient, but BHA’s promotion to the Championship presented an opportunity to see Hull City away. Tickets £24 and a scarf for a tenner, we were in business as bona fide away supporters (there is no point in being in the opposition’s side – it is just not possible truly to ‘support’ as I have found out to my peril).

Bearing in mind this is the Championship and not Premier League, it was a bit scappy. Fortunately, it was BHA that provided the majority of the scappiness, particularly in the first half. We contributed to the scrappiness in the second half, but only after countless attempts on goal thwarted either by the goalkeeper or the woodwork. The shots off target shouldn’t have been. 0-0.

The experience was great. The Amex is modern and confortable (the seats are actually padded). But more importantly, witnessing a match demonstrates in my mind just how futile and silly is the game. Mostly I consume football on the radio or on big screens in pubs and bars. There, commentators and summarisers take it all so seriously. One forgets that it is really only 22 men kicking a ball around for 90 minutes. It is a hoot of a game. A great afternoon out. Would recommend.

Test Match Cricket

Yesterday I was at the Rose Bowl for Day 3 of England v Sri Lanka. The logistics of the Rose Bowl are impressive. They have a pretty efficient park-and-ride system served by delightful first generation Leyland Olympian buses. Worth it by itself.

The day was hugely frustrating with constant showers that built up whilst the ground staff were mopping the outfield after the previous shower. We lost a whole session, though it being June, they extended the final session to 1930. Good to see Kevin Pieterson and Alistair Cook batting well. Great experience. It is still the elite form of the game.
One other point of note is the amount of fancy dress groups that attend. This day was populated by a wide array of thematically dressed groups of males. Bananas do seem to be ever-popular. Also the 118118 men are relatively easy. Teletubbies, pirates, crabs, fishermen (in oil skins, appropriately for the weather) and my favourite, Dickie Birds.
However, as the alcohol flows and the play gets delayed even further, the groups start taunting one another for want of something to do. We are all on the same side, but it feels a bit like rival fans in football.