Row Z edition 34; dateline 24 July 2009

Digger and Sidey: a deadly pair
Dateline: 17 July. Location: The Digger column of the Manchester Guardian’s sport section. Top story: the confusion over the status of Sportscoach UK’s chief executive Dr Pat Duffy. Weeks behind Row Z: three. But they did add the suggestion that the new interim chair Philip Kimberley of English Hockey was being brought in to give the organisation a root and branch review. If anyone would know about what an organisation in meltdown looks like it would be someone from that particular sport. A bit like getting an MP to check the petty cash!

Hills of Hampshire: now alive with the sound of music
Much yodelling in the offices of Row Z as Southampton FC is saved by Swiss businessman Mark Liebherr who believes “we have a superb opportunity to rebuild this great club” although as even he has spotted “this will require resources, planning, hard work and patience”. Mind you his admonition that: “We should not expect instant success” shows he may not understand the psyche of the average Saints fan and stakeholder –  amongst which we number all here bar the new apprentice – who were not expecting any success whatsoever. Question is, when manager Mark Wotte takes his team of teenagers and veterans back into Division 2 on a wave of Toblerone-inspired excitation will he be given a cow, with or without bell? Climb every mountain, dude.

Tightening the soubriquet to staunch the bleeding
Gossip oozing out between the breeze blocks that form Ispal Villas has it that the latest attempt to corner the professional institute market in our sector will include the brand new qualification ‘Chartered Sports Manager’. It has been Sideliner's wont to refer to the Reading-based collection of consultants as “the institute formerly known as ILAM” but as Messrs Mann and Sutton progress on their merry way to a sports-only institute the soubriquet is fast becoming an insult to the plethora of good people who made ILAM a force in the industry. Sidey will not be using it in future. Meanwhile, at the heart of the sports system up in Loughborough, Ralph Riley must be almost glad that the would-be chartered institute won’t be including him on its letterhead as the shallying, shillying and backstage manoeuvrings further devalue the history and traditions of both the baths managers and the parkies.

Roll up, roll off
The Youth Sport Trust has been “looking to appoint an experienced communications professional to a new role of Head of Press”. Apparently the lucky post-holder will have to “develop, lead and evaluate a press strategy that engages with journalists, deepens understanding of our work and delivers high value, impactful coverage”, as well as “raising our visibility and ensuring we maintain the highest standards of reputation management”. They will also be looked on “to provide advice on media handling and generate innovative strategies that connect us with new audiences, particularly national print and broadcast journalists”. Let’s hope whoever gets the job can also speak fluent bollocks or they won’t know what they are supposed to be doing. Sideliner did not apply.

Throwing the toys into the pram
Earlier this month the old bloke who does the garden made his way to the Great Wen to watch a day’s play at the home of cricket – or Thomas Lord’s Ground as he insists on calling it – and came back with some observations:   (1) Lord’s is to Manchester United’s ‘Hypermarket of Dreams’ as Cartier is to Ratner. Leg room in the cheap seats, the spectator circulation spaces and the gentility of the toilets were all cited in evidence. (2) When the ex-work experience lad who is now working in the Smoke fetched up in the lunch interval and asked from behind a floppy fringe for a student discount the old buffer in the pay booth nearly had an apoplexy. (3) If Middlesex and Surrey are in the second division and Owais Shah, Mark Ramprakash and Mark Butcher are all involved, how bothered would you be about promotion? And (4), while it was warming to see hordes of school children on the playing surface at lunchtime, the tannoy announcement telling them that they were “invited to perambulate around the outfield” may have lost something in translation.

Claps on backs
And while we are on cricket, the column would very much like to clap Peter Ackerley, head of development at the ECB and friend of The Leisure Review, firmly on the back. Not only was Ackers on the second bus into Trafalgar Square, he has now been captured in print by The Manchester Guardian. No less a scribbler that David Conn has been looking at the legacy of the 2005 Ashes win and Mr A is front and centre in the resulting piece, which readers of Row Z might be able to find at the Guardian site if they haven’t archived it. It’s good. Not Row Z standard obviously, but good.

(Sic) making in the name of sport
The woman who comes in two mornings a week to do the books has a pal who delights in sending her circular email humour (sic). The pal works for a council so you can see she’d be bored. This week she sent a series of “cute” quotations from primary school children who answered the question: “How do you decide who to marry?” Alan, aged 10, put men, women, the Americanisation of our culture and the Youth Sport Trust’s mission to galvanise our youth into perspective when he answered: “You’ve got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like, if you like sport, she should like it that you like sport, and she should keep the chips and dip coming.”

One and Other, something and nothing
When the government lumped culture, the broadcast media and sport together and then the Chief Leisure Officers Association added “Culture &” between its first word and its second, Sideliner tried terribly hard to understand the farthest flung corners of the newly defined industry. Having been brought up on a strictly limited diet of team sports – mainly those that Britain had given its Empire – coming to terms with Radio 1 at one extreme and Salvador Dali at the other was something of a challenge. But Antony Gormley’s One and Other has defeated our venerable leader. Rather than reproduce the rant verbatim and risk upsetting our reader we offer only this quotation from Deaf Sentence, an amusing treatise on modern life from the keyboard of David Lodge. His protagonist attends a preview of an exhibition of some particularly modern modern art and opines: “Nothing could illustrate better my thesis that much contemporary art is supported by an immense scaffolding of discourse without which it would simply collapse and be indistinguishable from rubbish.” They’re just people standing on a plinth for goodness sake. And shouting.

Putting on one's plinth holes
And while we're breathing the rarified air of the art world, it seems that Sideliner is not the only one with reservations regarding goings on at the fourth plinth. During a press view of a new exhibition at the National Gallery in the first few days of the One and Other someone cheerily asked Nicholas Penny, the NG's director and august figure in the what we might term the traditional art world, whether he would be taking to the plinth himself. Mr P pulled a face of horror and disgust, before explaining why he thought it would be bad for the mental health of those taking part. "No one realises how small they are until they get up there," he said. "It's totally humiliating." As our picture shows, the fourth plinth currently sports an impressive bit of safety netting, presumably to save those tempted to hurl themselves into oblivion.

Gentlemen taking one for the team
The Harlequins faux injury affair, or Blood-capsule-in-his-sock-gate as we will doubtless be required to refer it, shines a light into the world of professional rugby that may have as much effect as telling a Liverpudlian that you don't like his taste in music but somebody has to waggle the torch. Consider this scenario: you are a young bench-warmer in a professional outfit who can run quick and dodge but can't kick for toffee. You are brought on to replace your team’s kicker when he is injured – sorry, tactically substituted. Your team get to within one point of a famous victory and everybody on the ground knows that one good kick will win it for you. You decide, of your own volition, to take one for the team. You feign injury. A physio comes on and you use the hiatus to pop a blood capsule you had secreted in your sock against just such an eventuality into your mouth and are substituted – it’s a blood injury after all – for the kicking but limping chap. You are banned for a year – although had you tried to take somebody's eye out the ban would have been about a quarter of that – and your club is fined heavily for employing you. But the physio, the medic who certified your injury as genuine and your coach are all exonerated. At Row Z we revere Dean Richards as a back row legend partly because as a player he cheated as well as he did everything else a good Number 8 should do but on this one he has let himself down. But not nearly as badly as the disciplinary committee that decided on these penalties has let rugby down. Rugby is a game where you cheat if you can, but in a gentlemanly way and take any penalty that comes your way. Eye gouging? Not gentlemanly. Playing fast and loose with a silly rule about tactical substitutions? Gentlemanly. Letting some kid take your punishment? A bit of a southern hemisphere trick.

Drawing a veil
This month we will not be mentioning: selling test cricket to Wales for £3m; Skulk Berger (that’s how it’s pronounced), Peter De Villiers and the South Africans’ sad, sad act of wearing armbands “in support of” supposedly wronged supposed hard man Bakkies Botha; Texans on bikes who disrespect the world’s greatest sporting event; irony-free, pot-black Ricky Ponting’s po-faced tirade against England’s use of tactics that contravened the spirit of cricket; Sport England’s revamped website, which breathlessly promises it will be “providing a swift communication channel to share the very latest news and information promptly” (quicker, guys, quicker); poor old Tom Watson running out of puff; and British sprinters being lectured on their work ethic by Jamaicans.

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