Edition number 12; dateline 1 February 2008

Belated wishes and all the rest
A belated Happy New Year to our reader. 2008 promises much with monthly changes to the name (if not the actual appearance) of the culture secretary, three weeks spent watching Chinese people hang gold medals on each other and a constant stream of stories about bickering British sport grandees. If you can bestir yourself to send us your news please do; bearing in mind of perhaps that Sideliner subscribes to the view of US newspaper proprietor William Randolph Hearst that “News is something someone, somewhere, wants to suppress. All the rest is advertising.”

Six Nations, three feathers
A new year, a new Six Nations and a new coach but the same old self-deluding twaddle from beyond the Severn bridges. New Zealander Warren Gatland had always previously impressed as a thoughtful and knowledgeable coach to whom, when he spoke, people listened. However, after barely a month spent in the Principality he has adopted his new charges’ tendency to ignore the facts and fashion an alternative, far more sequinned, reality (q.v. Gavin Henson). The measure of how badly he has been infected by “The Welsh Disease” was evidenced at the launch of the 2008 Six Nations tournament where he proceeded to tell anyone who would listen that Brain Ashton’s position was something less than secure: “It must be quite difficult for Brian having only been given a one-year contract. He probably feels under a bit of pressure to get some results. That must be hard for Brian.” The sad part is not that his information was incorrect (Ashton is on an indefinite contract that is formally renewed each year) but that he actually believes that such childish attacks would be noticed let alone heeded by anyone from the England camp. From respected professional to performing seal in one short step, Warren, all by the addition of three white feathers – and a bowl of sequins.

Tall orders for GB volleyball
All at Row Z would like to congratulate both the gigantic young people who are now at Phase 3 of UK Sport’s Volleyball Sporting Giants talent identification programme and the people who made it possible. Taking absolute tyros and turning them into Olympians is a tall order but the stuff of dreams that will surely capture the imagination of the masses and bring the 2012 dream that bit closer to the woman stuck on the M25. Meanwhile the current GB squad is quartered in Holland and playing in the Dutch national league as Club Martinus. After a shaky start they are now winning games and when they take on the Danish national team in May in Glasgow or Sheffield or somewhere Sideliner will be applying for a press pass. Sadly, however, volleyball insiders are already predicting that this home grown talent and the hard work being done with them will be washed away on a tide of foreign volleyballers with Northern Irish grannies such as our newest recruit Mark Plotyczer, late of the Brazilian national squad. 

A weather eye and an old fashioned approach
Speaking of the Olympics Jacques Rogge and his fellow IOC members will no doubt be contemplating Galatians Chapter 6 verse 7: “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” as Chinese paranoid authoritarianism begins to meld seamlessly with their obvious disregard for Baron de Coubertin’s Olympian ideals. According to our Beijing correspondent,  or at least The Guardian’s Digger column, the Chinese authorities have confiscated a piece of meteorological equipment from the GB sailing squad, made up a law that retrospectively makes the use of such weather predicting kit illegal and passed on ‘official’ meteorological data that may or may not be 100% accurate. Given that Australia and America have also suffered similar indignities the Chinese clearly have no confidence that their sailors can deliver across the board sailing golds and have decided, therefore, to cheat.

Good people doing something
Those of us who work with or as volunteers in sport, the arts or anywhere in between will no doubt have noted the findings of the Commission of the Future of Volunteering published this week which in précis says that too many people are being put off volunteering by bad managers and bureaucratic hurdles. The report argues that the volunteering infrastructure is “not fit for purpose” and calls for an overhaul of the bureaucracy that is crippling the third sector: “Organisations at all levels may have lost sight of the purpose of some of the measures that were introduced as safeguards… Good people are deterred by avoidably slow and inflexible procedures.” And they quote security checks, insurance cover and health and safety requirements as some of the administrative demands placed on volunteers by professionals who are supposed to be helping them. Sideliner looks forward to the response of the people responsible for club accreditation schemes within our beloved local authority sports development units, county sports partnerships and national governing bodies of sport.

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