Row Z edition 41; dateline 31 March 2010

Vacant expressions
Mandarins at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) have been struggling to recruit five new members to the Sport England board and have had to extend the application deadline “to ensure a diverse range of applications”. Part of the problem might be that the leaders of industry being targeted to join Karren Brady and four other high-powered people you haven’t heard of tend to only come in shades of white. Quite why the DCMS wants to add five more people with “significant experience of leadership at either an executive or non-executive level” and the “the skills and experience to influence decision making at board level” when the organisation’s mission is “to create a world-leading community sport system” has Sideliner beggared. The people the DCMS needs are the ones delivering the current supposedly not-world-leading sports system and putting in a working week as volunteers, not just a shift. The voice that should be heard at Richard Lewis’ table belongs to the people out there on the ground, at the grass roots, at the sharp end and in the front line, not sitting in board rooms “influencing” each other.

Daal Wars
Word reaches us that Mike Gatting OBE is to lend his not inconsiderable weight to a fund-raising “curry night” for the Lords Taverners on 28 April in Amersham. Our correspondent suggests that having to fight the guest of honour for every mouthful might not encourage an atmosphere of bonhomie and joie de vivre but we can give you the contact details of the optimist handling bookings if you want.

Auxes armes, citoyens!
Having dipped a toe in the over-heated tin bath that is industrial relations last month, the entire Row Z commune, standing foursquare behind Comrade Sideliner, are now asking both regular readers to put their shoulder to the wheel of confraternal co-operation. So scared are the BBC Trust trustees of the consequences for the national broadcaster of an election victory for the “foetus-faced toffs”* of the Conservative and Unionist Party they have pusillanimously proposed to do the Tories’ work for them and have proposed the closure of 6 Music, the Asian Network and a tranche of web pages. Jobs, quality broadcasting and the organisation’s self-respect all gone in one fell swoop. Unless of course YOU write to the Beeb and tell them it’s just not on. One minute of activism and a clear conscience is yours. Just go to and follow instructions and be able to sleep at night.
*copyright the blessed Hadley Freeman, Guardian Media 24.03.10

Overture and beginners please
As Martin Johnson manages to pull one of his cojones out of the fire* by picking a side according to who wasn’t injured, Sideliner pondered the wisdom of employing as coach or manager a person with no coaching or managerial experience. There is none. The England rugby team and its long-suffering supporters are currently on a learning curve. The problem is that it’s not the squad’s learning curve, it’s Jonno’s. Picking your mates, not giving clear direction to your coaching team and refusing to make changes even when you are demonstrably wrong are all the traits of beginner managers; as indeed is publicly moaning at the referee after the game. Just as England should be building for next year’s World Cup we are in the metaphorical hands of a toddler, not one of the game’s giants. Doubtless when he has learned his lessons Martin will be fit to lead an international sporting set-up but at the moment Team England are bumping along the bottom, better only than poor sides like Wales, Scotland and Italy. And that’s just not good enough, Martin!
*This metaphor was mixed for you by the work experience lass.

Rusty RIP
It is with very real sadness that we have to announce the death and acknowledge the life of Rusty Murphy, dog of this parish. The old chap went to chase cats, rabbits and indeed all other dogs in the great beyond earlier this month and will be sorely missed, especially by the woman who comes in once a week to do the books. Rusty’s role at Row Z Towers  was to get under foot, bark when staff were on the telephone and make sure the sparrows that populate the grounds never got above themselves. Gone, but that odd smell still lingers.


Drawing a veil
This month we shall be treating the following impostors just the same:
Carlisle United’s agricultural opposition to Southampton FC’s total football in the Somebody’s Paints Trophy final; giving tax relief for video games industry but not for sports clubs; Emma “I am” Bunton; F1 (can you believe it’s started again?); UCI keiren commissaires incapable of recognising a Lithuanian out of her lane when they see one; self-satisfied Mancunians in mufflers; Labour’s last-ditch attempt to curry ballot box favour with an unlikely promise to give football clubs “back to fans”.


At the Arts End

That Adam Smith, he’s a card
When The Leisure Review introduced its new occasional feature, A Modest Proposal, we did not expect to be flattered by somebody copying us. But the august Adam Smith Institute, apparently “the UK's leading innovator of free-market economic and social policies” has published its own homage to Dean Jonathan Swift’s 1729 spuriously argued pamphlet. Big Adam’s spoof considers Arts Council England funding which, it says, “distorts producers’ incentives through corruption, politicisation and arbitrary criteria”. The paper’s conclusion is that government should instead give everybody an £11 voucher to spend on culture. With Swiftian vitriol they conclude: “The arts council system of government support for the arts is an outdated, centrally-controlled, bureaucratic nightmare, that is expensive, unfair, and ineffective. The objectives of arts subsidy would be fulfilled far more efficiently by a post-bureaucratic solution, that empowered citizens, and compelled the arts establishment to meet their needs.” Funny, funny stuff, Smithy.

Are you taking the positive?
According to one of Chris Evans’ Radio 2 morning programme colleagues, he worries incessantly about whether people think him “a tosser”. Well stop worrying, pal, we can assuage your doubts. Sideliner and 85% of the Row Z team think just that and we appear to be in good company with leaked figures showing an 800,000 drop in listeners since Sir Terry Wogan waddled away. Looking on the positive side, it’s not as bad as Sidey predicted in December’s Arts End with the deathless “approximately six million people will no longer be listening”.

Uma God, as they say in Wigan
Producers of the Uma Thurman movie Motherhood have been asking themselves how it could have done so very badly in UK cinemas on its release weekend. They could blame the fact that they insisted on “experimenting with new release models” and simultaneously released the work on DVD and in the cinema, or they could question Thurman’s pulling power. However, since Kill Bill 2, according to The Times Online website, “made £14.2 million in America on its opening weekend in 2004” perhaps they should look elsewhere. Back to Mr Murdoch’s still-free online offer and the clue might just be in the line, “Motherhood managed to gross £9 from the lone viewer who turned up on the debut Sunday.” £9 to watch a film? Once? Even one with Thurman, Jodie Foster and Minnie Driver? Nay lad!

Bill killed
To some people television continuing dramas do not constitute art. At Row Z we disagree and will do so violently should anyone press. They all have writers, they all involve people acting their little hearts out and there is a great deal of craft invested in their production. Which means we are allowed to include a discussion on the merits or otherwise of the decision to axe 27-year-old ITV oeuvre The Bill in this feature of this column. So the modern apprentice surveyed the staff as part of his module on market research and the overwhelming response was: “Oh, are they? Never mind, eh?”

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