Edition number 16; dateline 28 March 2008

Avast: disappointment
Picture this, if you dare. A full-size ocean-going clipper under full sail crewed by “young people, artists, philosophers and students” ploughing through the seven seas  carrying “a cargo emblematic of the UK’s cultural riches”. Launching this August, The Olympic Friend was due to sail the world so that “through dialogue and exchange, creativity and sharing, the UK will use this voyage to redefine its relationship to world cultures and celebrate London's new role as host city.” Now forget it. Apparently the Olympic Friend-ship will not be setting sail as the London bid book promised and the first of what we expect to be many over-inflated Olympic promises has gone to Davy Jones’ Locker.

Working with CSPs: a view from the shires
After months of waiting for the findings of their latest review, Sport England have issued what in the world of entertainment would be called a ‘teaser’. Jennie Price’s statement, which was “agreed by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport”, is revealing in what it conceals. Trendy expressions like “direction of travel” have clearly been included to remind us that Ms Price is very much of the private sector and the designation of the three reviewers of the apocalypse as the “External Challenge Group” is an exquisite piece of re-mastering of which George Orwell would have been proud. But interest must surely focus on the word ‘would’, slipped neatly into the last sentence: “Sport England will have a strong national team, regional teams with a tighter focus and would work with county sport partnerships who will deliver specific outcomes.” What can they mean? “Would”? Not ‘will’; or ‘can’? We checked with the Sport England media centre but they are under orders to “leave the statement at that” so Sideliner looked up an old friend in a world where the difference between ‘would’ and ‘will’ could mean people’s jobs. They agreed that it was indeed “an ambiguous word”. Bruce Kelsey, when he’s not running marathons, runs South Yorkshire Sport, one of the 49 County Sports Partnerships. “South Yorkshire Sport chose to put on hold its own strategic planning, while awaiting the outcome of the Sport England review,” he told Row Z. “This has meant stalling partners and has led to a general growth in frustration waiting for the national agency to make its pronouncements. I think we all recognize that changing the course away from adult participation towards a world class system of community sport is a big challenge in such a short space of time. The problem we face is balancing the more prominent role that the NGBs [national governing bodies] will now have in developing this new system with the needs of our local partners, who are still very much interested in increasing participation in sport and physical activity across the board. While the statement assures us that CSPs [county sports partnerships] ‘will have a role in delivering specific outcomes’, we are no nearer understanding exactly what those outcomes are.  I would have hoped to see a stronger and more unequivocal endorsement of the future role of CSPs in the agreed statement. After all, NGBs do not have the necessary infrastructure to engage with local community sport structures but working with and through the CSP we can use the local delivery systems we have all been building over the last two years to ensure the difference of the new approach is felt at the very local level.
South Yorkshire Sport believes that Sport England should have faith in its own delivery system and ensure that all CSPs are given an early indication of how their role will pan out.” And not a ‘going forward’ to be seen!

Open for business: stake your claim
And talking of strategic voltes-face, The Leisure Review has bowed to pressure and is now “open to offers” from commercial concerns hoping to hitch their wagon to TLR’s upwardly mobile star. We tracked down managing editor Mick Owen, “the business brain behind the nation’s most successful independent magazine for sport and leisure professionals” (his words), and sought elucidation. “In our first year we were keen to keep the site and the image of TLR clean and sharp. We believe that having established ourselves in the market we are now in a great position to offer sponsors exposure not just to the right amount of people but to the right type of people. Our readers are intelligent, discerning senior sport and leisure professionals who look beyond the obvious and will not be fooled by this outrageous attempt to flatter them.” The question now, of course, is which pages will attract the most advertising and will the ever-popular Row Z be forced to accept the worst excesses that the marketing department can dream up? Sideliner has already said that he draws the line at product placement and will be using his red pen (available from Staples at 79p for three) liberally on offending pieces.

Sideliner takes a stand
Following Row Z’s decision to boycott the Beijing Olympics, there is fantastic news that other bodies are getting behind this column’s protest. The latest in what we hope will be a long line of copycat, non-violent actions was the disruption of the torch-lighting ceremony in Greece this week by Reporters Sans Frontieres. With any luck at all the progress of the flame through twenty countries including the UK will be accompanied by protests at China’s record on human rights, its activities in Darfor and the subjugation of the Tibetan people. And in an unprecedented move Sideliner has issued a call to all eighty of the London Olympic torchbearers to follow the example of Narisa Chakrabongse — one of the Thailand's six torchbearers — who has decided against taking part in the relay to “send a strong message to China that the world community could not accept its actions”. Some come on, Duncan Goodhew. If running alongside Linford Christie on 6 April wasn’t shameful enough, you are in danger of supporting one of the most corrupt regimes on the planet; and upsetting the work experience lad.


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