Latest: Dateline 29.9.17


Museum goes underground to secure new exhibit
Excellent news for everyone (and we all know who we are) who might have slipped from their long-promised healthy eating ambitions. Discussions are reported to be taking place between the Museum of London and Thames Water regarding the possibility that a small part of the latest ‘fatberg’ to appear (perhaps coagulate) in the sewers below the streets of London could become one of the museum’s exhibits. The details of the artefact in question will no doubt be familiar to readers of the Leisure Review – its as long as Tower Bridge, it weighs as much as Wales and smells like 120 double-decker buses, or something – but of more interest to the inquisitive leisure professional will be the practical details of how the exhibit is to be created. How, we wonder, does one go about carving off a slice of an estimated 120-tonne mass of gunk and how would museum professionals meet the challenge of presenting something that might rate high on the list of things museum visitors would least like to find in a museum. Sharon Ament, director at the Museum of London, told the Guardian: “Our year-long season, City Now City Future, explores what the future holds for people living in urban environments. It is important for the Museum of London to display genuine curiosities from past and present London. If we are able to acquire the fatberg for our collection I hope it would raise questions about how we live today and also inspire our visitors to consider solutions to the problems of growing metropolises. This could be one of the most extraordinary objects in any museum collection in London.” At La Flamme Rouge we’ll do our best to keep you posted.

Glorious past points to glorious future for football
Once again it has been a glorious year for the strange but fascinating land we know as Planet Football. With the season 2017/18 now in full flow, memories have already faded of some of the sport’s significant achievements and the expertise shown by the governing body in responding to the challenges of shaping and steering what some still fondly refer to as our national game. The highlights reel of the last twelve months might include the launch of an independent inquiry into the allegations of widespread abuse at all levels of the game and the bemusement displayed by many senior figures that such an inquiry might be required. The late Graham Taylor, a highly regarded and much-loved figure in professional football, became the latest name to be dragged into the headlines amid allegations that numerous cases of abuse were systematically denied or ignored. Other highlights involved David Moyes, once highly regarded but never attaining much-loved status, being fined £30,000 by the FA for threatening a reporter after a post-match interview. Moyes had warned BBC reporter Vicki Sparks to “watch yourself”, that she “still might get a slap even though you’re a woman” and to be “careful the next time you come in” after she asked a question he found difficult or inconvenient to answer. It took the FA a mere two months to decide the incident required a fine. His employer, Sunderland AFC, waited until the team’s relegation at the end of season to sack him. Another big name that flashed across the horizon was Sam “Big Sam” Allardyce, who briefly became the FA’s highest-profile appointment before leaving under a cash-related cloud almost before a ball had been kicked by the England team supposedly under his leadership. Meanwhile, the England women’s team brought genuine joy. With tournament success and live coverage on the BBC, the England team made the women’s game a high-profile feature of last season, their success reflected by a huge growth in media coverage and public interest. Making a negative out of such a situation took some doing but, as ever, the FA was up to the task. England team manager Mark Sampson was finally relieved of his duties in the midst of an enquiry into allegations of racism and bullying. However, with growing interest from the sports minister and the Commons culture, media and sport committee regarding the FA’s handling of the allegations, the FA decided that other allegations dating back to 2014 regarding Sampson’s conduct while a coach at the Bristol Academy were suddenly grounds for his contract as national team manager to be terminated. Thus a safeguarding issue that had already been the subject of an internal FA investigation was the final straw rather than the accusations of racism that had kicked the whole thing off. What a year it has been but what to look forward to on the football horizon? Looming largest are the FIFA world cups of 2018 and 2022, in Russia and Qatar respectively. Given the England men’s team’s record for qualifying for major tournaments, surely nothing could go wrong there? On the pitch the only problem might be England’s record once they actually arrive at the tournament: it is dire and nothing deflates public interest in the national team quicker than a dull draw, a narrow defeat and an irrelevant victory before a flight home. Plus, with the England team one of the FA’s major cash cows, another piss-poor performance could have a real financial impact. Off the pitch, the concerns loom rather larger. Russia’s national approach to human rights and a tendency among some Russians to forcefully illustrate their intolerance of, well, almost everything should be grounds for concern even for the FA. What should really be ringing alarm bells is the prospect of a month-long tournament in Qatar where, among other interesting attitudes to individual and collective freedoms, it is illegal to be gay. It is therefore fortunate that the FA had the foresight to put in a series of procedures and guidelines to ensure principles of access and tolerance, safeguarding and anti-discrimination are hard-wired into everything the organisation does. See you in Moscow!

Time to pull the plug
Mention of David Moyes and his now-infamous “You were just getting a wee bit naughty at the end there” interview technique prompts one more (the last one, we promise) footballing question. Moyses’s rather pathetic attempt at intimidating a journalist was not only just another example of the institutional, bone-headed, antediluvian, tiresome, unending, puerile, ingrained sexism within professional football – that goes without saying. For La Flamme Rouge the issue was not even about the explicit threat to someone reasonably and professionally going about their job, a job that involves interviewing managers who are obliged by the competition organisers to make themselves available. The Moyes affair was also about why broadcasters and print journalists continue to waste their time interviewing players and managers after the game. Such conversations are never informative, never mind illuminating. They are always dull and self-serving, with no attempt to seek or offer insight or perspective. With threats to journalists and various football clubs banning particular news outlets from their grounds, it is surely time for the National Union of Journalists and other bodies involved in news gathering to boycott organisations and individuals that threaten their members or undermine the right of the public to receive news free from intimidation and coerced conflicts of interests. With regard to the pre- and post-match interviews, it is time to pull the plug on the grounds of tedium and the unedifying spectacle of watching someone use a microphone to flog a dead horse.

Sporting idiot not in football shock
Not that football is the only sport to have idiots among the professional ranks of its players and administrators. Back at the start of the summer when the professional cycling season was in fulll swing, Team Sky found that the latest cloud added to an already very overcast outlook was allegations that Gianni Moscon, one of their riders, had racially abused one of his fellow pros. Team Sky’s response was robust and unequivocal – six-week suspension, formal written warning, diversity awareness training and clear instruction that any repeat will result in sacking – in the manner of what many might consider proper employment practice. Whatever ordure Dave “Sir Dave” Brailsford might have hanging over his head, it seems the team’s HR department is still functioning.

Henny Penny: wait for it…
That bucket precariously balanced over the door of Sir Dave’s office does seem to have an awful lot of slop in it. The editor is currently working on an article exploring the implications of Team Sky’s off-road performance but we keep hearing the distinctive ‘zzzzip, crunch, thump’ of paper being pulled out of the typewriter, scrunched up and thrown in the bin. We’ll keep you posted.

If you build it they will come (and arrest you)
Farewell then, London’s so-called Garden Bridge, a project that finally fell off the drawing board when the company set up to bring it to fruition was wound up. The whole scheme will serve future students of design and government as an interesting study of how political influence and the access to public finance that goes with it are obtained, held and wielded; and how so often so little oversight is applied. Having apparently emerged from a couple of champagne-assisted conversations at a couple of society events, a project that included the investment hundreds of millions of pounds to build a massive piece of unnecessary infrastructure in the middle of one of the world’s most populous capital cities got up to speed amazingly quickly and, to the gratitude of many not involved in the original dinners, disappeared almost as fast. But not fast enough to avoid spending some £50 million of public money or avoid raising some fundamental questions regarding the funding and planning systems that allowed it to get as far as it did and the political judgement of the then mayor of London. As few need reminding, this was not the mayor’s first brush with the investment of massive amounts of public money in projects that combined questionable functions and pisspoor design; step forward the Routemaster bus, the cable car across the Thames and the ArchelorMital Orbit, the Olympic park’s own multimillion-pound twisty-slidey tower thing. It is fortunate for all concerned that after such scandals the mayor in question, a certain Mr Johnson, disappeared from public life completely never to be heard of again.




Mrs Smith



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