Row Z edition 33; dateline 26 June 2009

You’re sacked. Oh no I’m not
Our sympathies go to the staff at troubled coaching agency Sportscoach UK. Just under a month after Sideliner first heard that “Pat Duffy has been sacked” the staff had still not been given a proper explanation of their leader’s precipitate departure. Was it linked to the resignation of management team leader Ian Stafford a short while before or to the ‘culture review’ that was so damning that it had to be suppressed? This column – not known for balance – also has a deal of empathy with a board of volunteers who made the strong, if difficult, decision to part company with their chief executive only to find the gentleman’s not for leaving. And on top of all that, how gutted were we on a personal level – Pat’s officially a Friend of The Leisure Review after all – to hear that the man dubbed ‘Britain’s head coach’, albeit only by us, will no longer be leading the line on the UK Coaching Framework? It’s a stramash and no error. We just hope that it finds a resolution quickly. The project, which is now in the safe, although some say “rapaciously commercial”, hands of  Dr Tony Byrne, is key to the success of the sports system in the UK. Baroness Campbell, who championed Pat’s appointment, is said to be far from pleased.

Blue-air thinking
The air at the Row Z offices has been intermittently blue and the company cat has been kicked so many times that it thinks its been playing for the British and Irish Lions since the words ‘World Class Payment Bureau’ appeared over Sideliner’s horizon. The cat got a particular shoeing on the morning it was revealed that Sport England’s chief executive took 21 months to spot the bank account carrying that soubriquet; 21 months to spot a £20 million pound hole in your accounts! As reported in this issue’s News in Brief, an investigation has been commissioned by Sport England’s chair, Richard Lewis, which will be led by Tim Dutton QC and known as ‘The Dutton Investigation’. Well, best of luck, Timmy boy, but Sidey suspects that like so many other Sport England initiatives it will amount to a high-profile launch, a glossy brochure, some grandiose language and no perceivable effect on the ground, no real solutions and nobody in sport being able to say what it was for. Ever Thought Of Sport, anybody?

Floats like a butterfly, spins like a PR
Sideliner likes to acknowledge excellence and nobody could deny that Promote PR is one of the leading public relations companies operating in the sport and leisure market. Indeed were Row Z to be the recipient of a Rosie Webster style windfall*, we’d be beating a path to Maidenhead even before we ordered the champagne. But even their best man will struggle to spin what looks like a bit of foot-shooting by new clients the English Volleyball Association. Doubtless the new regime will put an end to ghastly punning headlines such as, say, “Can you dig it?” but a quick look at this month’s TLR article on god’s own sport (oh yes, we love volleyball round here) will show that the game in Britain is struggling following severe Olympic funding cuts. How then will relatively new chief executive Lisa Wainwright justify adding a high-end PR company to the marketing mix being stirred by netball’s former head seller, Mark Pritchard? We await the application of the Anstiss stardust.
*Arbitrary apprentice-led Coronation Street reference. Sorry.

A baron landscape
No doubt the committee, members and cricket-followers of Lancashire CCC will be chuffed to their Uncle Joe’s mint balls by the news that the Sports Council for Wales is following the Little Baron’s lead when it comes to getting the best legacy from the theft of the Old Trafford Test.  SCW’s website is alive with news of facility related grants to South Walian cricket outfits. As Seb, the Paul Daniels of sport, may well have said: “If you build it, they will come. And that’s legacy.” Where’s my box, Debbie?

Prime-time sports development
Row Z was delighted to find itself witness to a good forty-minute discussion on the subject of sports development on prime-time BBC One. It was day three of Wimbledon and, with the sun shining and play visible through the studio windows, Sue Barker was leading an increasingly heated debate that would not have been out of place during the good old days of the National Sports Development Seminar. John Lloyd and Tim ‘Tim’ Henman were full into the fray, all prompted by the disappearance of all but one British competitor in each of the women’s and men’s competitions. It was all entertaining stuff with some genuine questions being asked about the LTA elite development programme, grass-roots development and what on earth the LTA does with all its money. While Henman half-heartedly defended the millions spent on the new tennis HQ at Roehampton (“I’d have loved to have access to facilities like that”), the general consensus seemed to be that a wider base of participation was needed and that too many of the players being hot-housed by LTA have it too easy. Sad to report that as we reached the three-quarter hour mark on a discussion that had added more to the quality of debate on the subject of sport than several series of Inside Sport, the producer decided that they had to go back to the tennis.

Drawing a veil
This month we will not be giving the oxygen of publicity to: media tart and LTA head honcho Roger Draper; the demise of soccer’s golden goose, Setanta; irregular betting patterns in lawn tennis matches; National School Sports Week being held when every self-respecting PE teacher is on a school trip to Lanzarote or touring South Africa with a cricket/basketball/parkour team; FINA’s pusillanimous approval of new swimsuits that are “totally covered with polyurethane to aid buoyancy” or “buoyancy aids”; F1 – yep, still not paying attention to that nonsense non-sport; Duckworth and indeed Lewis; Michael Vaughan’s central contract – central to what exactly? – and the end of Phil Vickery's international career.

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