Row Z edition 31; dateline 29 April 2009

Countdown on the up
The recession is no subject for levity with even the sport and leisure industry having been hit by redundancies and business failures. But some of the by-products of the downturn can make even the glummest of mouths turn up at the corners now and again. One such is the impact of job losses on day-time television scheduling. Channel 4, which leads the terrestrial channels’ 2pm to 6pm viewer-capture stakes with two million sad souls to their name, reckon that the number of ABC1 couch potatoes increased by 2% in the January to March period. You can see it can’t you? Spot of job hunting, spot of Diagnosis Murder; I’ll just revise the CV and then I can reward myself with David Dickinson flogging cheap tat – and I might even learn something about negotiation skills. The good news for those of us who work from home, of course, is that there’ll be fewer incontinence-related advertisements marring our enjoyment of Murder She Wrote and Jeremy Kyle will be shouting at posh people’s pregnant, drug-addicted daughters rather than those from the poor end of town.

Absence makes the nerves get jangled
All of which could be avoided if the government would just heed the many friends of Sideliner currently besieging the DCMS public consultation at and list Test cricket as one of the nation’s sporting crown jewels. The damage caused to the equanimity of self-employed, home-based sport and leisure writers by the selling-off to Murdoch of the nation’s favourite summer game (played by eleven men in white long trousers) has been called “incalculable” by a member of the National Union of Journalists. Since the loss of televised bat and ball the team here at Row Z have doubled their intake of Test Match Special and have been on the look-out for ‘Geoffrey Boycott patches’. These pseudo-scientific devices release limited amounts of self-regarding Yorkshire naff hat salesman into the bloodstream to help the wearer cope when the Windies start cuffing our brave boys, unseen. Withdrawal? Paddy Macguire doesn’t know the meaning of the word.
[Sideliner would like to apologise for the tenor of this piece and the gratuitous Shameless reference in the last sentence. As part of the new apprentice’s learning agreement she has to have one article published per month or we don’t get the cash. And this was the least scurrilous of her offerings.]

Methinks he doth protest too much
We live in a digital age where news is old within 24 hours and comment needs be instant if it is to carry weight. Why then did it take nearly a week for anyone to complain about Welsh rugby skipper  Ryan Jones – or ‘Jones the Eight (sorry Six)’ as he is surely known up ‘the valleys’ – being omitted from the South African jaunt? And then why was the outrage only expressed by Neath/Swansea’s assistant coach i/c forwards, Jonathan Humphreys, and not by anyone who knows his eight from his elbow? Two options present: one, he isn’t playing terribly well at the moment and didn’t deserve to be picked; and two, one J Humphreys, hooker of that parish, was similarly not picked for a Lions tour when he was captain of Wales.

Sidey takes sides
Kickball isn’t a Row Z favourite, it must be said, but the fate of Southampton Football Club has caused Sideliner to offer some dyspeptic comment and take a stance. It is clear that greedy businessmen have scuppered a once proud – if not very good – football club; so far so not uncommon in the post-Ken Bates era (please tell us we are post Ken Bates). What is not common, or right, or proper, is exactly when the perfectly understandable ten-point deduction is to take place; this season if Saints survived the drop, or next if, as happened, the effort proved too much for them. How can a punishment for financial irregularities be dependent on league standings? In how many courts does the sentence start with the word “If”? It’s unjust. It’s unconscionable. It’s corrupt. It’s English football as we have come to know it.

Taking sides again
Glossop North End at Wembley. Who'd have thought it. We're tipping the Hillmen for victory in the FA Vase now that the Cockneys have relaid the pitch so that the Peak District's finest will have a decent surface upon which to play.

Charlatan alert: credit where it is due
At Row Z we don't like to say “We told you so”, mainly because we don't often get the chance. But our colleagues at World of Leisure have pointed out that back in June last year they spotted the charlatan Allen Stanford for what he is. We quote:“11 June 2008: Those who thought Lord’s to be last bastion of sporting integrity are found weeping in the streets of St John’s Wood as Sir Allen Stanford launches his Twenty20 competition stood next to a perspex box containing $20m in cash.” The only thing missing from this prescient piece was the inverted commas round the ‘Sir’, although Sidey has asked when and why Stanford started using them. Is he, like Bob Geldorf, not English enough to be a knight of the realm or did he just change his name by deed poll to Sir Allen Stanford. And while we’re on about Sir Alans, the woman who pops in to do the books two mornings a week reckons the blonde will win and our new apprentice wants to know when she can design a cornflake packet.

Drawing a veil
This month we shall be pointedly avoiding drawing attention to: the Chennai Super Royal Kings; the rumours (only rumours note) of senior peoples’ teacups being thrown around Sport England’s ‘pitch’; Susan Boyle; the UK Coaching Summit to which we weren’t invited; the formation of the Institute of Sport and Education on 22nd April at Stoke Mandeville Stadium – how many does that make now?; the media ubiquity of the Little Baron and the empty corporate gobbledegook he spouts; Wycombe Wanderers’ increasingly creaky attempts to achieve automatic promotion (although we do hope they make it, obviously); the opportunity to buy a Lions home shirt; and UK Sport advertising a gymnastics job that will require the holder to “formulate the weekly lesson plans in addition to personally teaching approximately 60% of the curriculum-based classes to children” but for which a “background in developmental gymnastics and a coaching qualification are desirable [but] they are not essential.”


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