Row Z edition 38; dateline 2 December

Bibacious Iberia
49.4% of the Row Z team would like to thank – over and over again – regular reader Oliver Booth (pictured) who shared the great news from Spain that “drinking alcohol every day cuts the risk of heart disease in men by more than a third”. The researchers tracked 41,500 people over 10 years and found that in men who drank anything from three units of alcohol up to more than 11 units each day, the risk of heart attack worked out an average of 50% less. Drinking less than three units was only 35% effective. The work experience lad and the lairy graphic designer say: “Whoop de doo! ¿Dónde está la cerveza?”

Coals to Newcastle?
It’s that time again as we scour Sport England’s The Latest from the Pitch newsletter for something which we can take at face value. Ah! Here we go. Sport England have announced their Community Club Volunteer of the Year and she’s a woman. Well, she would be because Sport England were only sponsoring a category in the Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year awards and sending along Richard Lewis (he’s their chairman, we think) to hand over the gong. Nothing wrong with that, but the male half of the volunteering population are going to be miffed that their gender prevented them even being considered for the CCVotY accolade. As will anybody who has given more than a year to their community, their club or even their community club as the winner was given the trophy for the grand total of 11 months’ effort.  It seems she had the ground-breaking idea to take some drinking pals for a run to help them “get fit and tone up” this January. Drawing on her “innovation and tenacity”, the Nottinghamshire woman linked with the borough council and the governing body, held a beginners course, recruited and trained some leaders, adopted a constitution and started charging; although possibly not in that order. Readers will doubtless recognise this “innovative” progression from The Idiot’s Guide to Sports Development circa 1990. But the most effortless slap in the face for volunteers in sport delivered by Messrs Lewis, Price and Co. was not revealed in the SE report but is there, loud and proud, on The Times’ own website: “[The woman, who we are not naming to save her undeserved embarrassment] from Nottingham, who works full time for the sports development team at Loughborough University, [our italics] has managed to oversee and maintain this dramatic progression… [blah blah blah].” As our very own old gaffer, a man who has volunteered in sport since 1978, albeit without the benefit of a university degree in sports development, and currently works in the garden of Row Z, says: “That’s a kick in the gardenias for voluntary sport and no error.”

Phwoar: what a swimmer
And while we are on The Times’ web-site and checking out who else won big at their Sportswoman of the Year awards our eyes are drawn to linked stories from other parts of the virtual newspaper. Heptathlete Jessica Ennis, gymnast Beth Tweddle, the drugs cheat Ohurugo and Scottish swimmer Fran Halsall are all featured. This last is by-lined by ping pong ace turned controversialist Matthew Syed and is either a piece of sustained irony of such exquisiteness that we are too coarse to appreciate it or a sustained insult to Halsall, Syed’s own life partner, British Swimming and the readers of The Times who must have thought they’d strayed into another of Murdoch’s titles. It opens: “The first thing to tell you about Fran Halsall is that she is beautiful”. The second, which follows something akin to the oeuvre of Jeffrey Archer (we imagine), is that she swims a bit. And the third “thing to tell you about Halsall – and by far the most important – is that she possesses one of the most fascinating and inimitable of personalities.” Lastly he offers the surprising – to him – information that the lass is interested in philosophy and capable of discussing aspects of it.

So farewell then, Ralph, old friend. All those years with your finger in the dyke and the minute your back is – some say forcibly – turned the once-great institute that gave the world the No Petting poster and endless advice on grout is to be subsumed into the London-centric megalith to Peter Mann’s ambition and Richard Caborn’s inability to understand the sector he served that is the putative chartered sports institute. No good will come of it for the pool managers of our great nation and once again you will be proved correct. Your judgement in these matters was only ever exceeded by your sartorial perspicacity. Sideliner’s eyes are red and watery, not because some idiot had got the pH reading wrong again this lunchtime but from a deep sense of professional and, let’s face it, personal loss. Does anyone know if Sean Holt plays golf? Loughborough’s not too far from the Belfry, is it?


Drawing a veil
This month we shall be cutting dead in the street all references to:

The CCPR survey which says “community sports clubs are thriving despite the economic downturn”, which contradicts their previous announcement (in May) that “6,000 sports cubs could sink in economic storm”; Sport England’s recruitment of “football freestyler” Billy Wingrove – a man recently described by a CSP board member as “just a cabaret artiste” – to the post of sporting ambassador to inspire kids on the ill-starred Sports UnLimited programme; Ireland being “cheated” out of the soccer world cup by legionneur d’honneur Thierry “va va voom” Henry; the interminable wait for Sportscoach UK to complete its strategic review and replace Pat Duffy as chief executive; Martin Johnson’s autumnal stumblings as England’s rugby supremo; Gerry Sutcliffe’s expectation that bookmakers will make voluntary donations to Sport England just because he asks them to; F1.


At the Arts End

Shirley? Not!
As Shirley Bassey (72) joins the likes of Neil Young (64), Leonard Cohen (75) and even Vera Lynn (92) in the affections of the record selling industry (Big Disc?), we are invited to applaud the talent that conquers age. The “pop” industry, like computer network sites, is being claimed by the grey population as the likes of Eric Garland, head of online media measurement company BigChampagne, have spotted. “Younger music fans will invest time and passion into music,” he reckons, “but are much more likely to reach into their wallet for a video console than music.” Pop music belongs to the young, not the superannuated and music industry moguls would do well to remember that genetic engineering of the sales charts will lead to freakish aberrations, like Rolf Harris’s Christmas collaboration with Status Quo.

Mr French acts out
Congratulations must go to Lenny Henry for reinventing himself as a Shakespearean actor after years in the celebrity shadow of wife Dawn French and winning the incongruous best newcomer award presented by the London Evening Standard. Apparently the West Mildands comic, who once scared the living daylights out of the woman who comes in to do the books by looming out of an early morning Cornwall mist, was tempted to give the world his Othello by the luvvie’s luvvie Barry Rutter.

Cultural Olympiad draws fire
Sideliner must confess ignorance as to why the words of “composer and broadcaster” Michael Berkeley would carry more weight than those of other arty people’s but for the fact that Mr B used a platform at the Paul Hamlyn awards (no, clueless here too) to declare that the Cultural Olympiad “has been a complete and utter shambles – a fact that has been privately acknowledged to me not only by those who lead the cultural agenda, but by the most senior politicians, too”. The TLR editorial policy on the London Olympics has been to steadfastly support its potential for being the catalyst of positive change but, with fewer than 1,000 days left to glean the soft legacy benefit, far too many people share Berkeley’s perspective and we are starting to worry that Seb Coe’s Singapore smoke and mirrors are about to be revealed for what they were: flummery of the first order.

Farewell, Tel
By the time you are next able to visit the Arts End of Row Z approximately six million people will no longer be listening to the Radio 2 breakfast programme as Sir Terry takes his leave at the end of the year to be replaced by the archetypal wannabe Chris Evans. Mr Wogan [Surely ‘Sir Tel?’ Ed] has been part of Sideliner’s life in one form or another for a number of decades and our leader has hit on a coping strategy for the bereavement that has the work experience lad exultant. The office will open two hours later and the entire team will stay under the duvet until Ken Bruce comes on. Cheers, Terry, and remember, just because you’ve been made redundant doesn’t mean you’re past your best.

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