Row Z edition 44; dateline 1 July 2010

World Cup disaster? Pas du tout
The farrago that was the English Expeditionary Force to South Africa will not have escaped many people’s notice and students of schadenfreude will be enjoying the extended post mortem but here at Row Z we shall not be joining in the inquest. As with most things, the French do these things with so much more style and we await with interest Spinmeister Cameron’s response to the development that saw President Sarkozy instigating his very own investigation of Les Bleus’ implosion. Writers seeking to explain the French debacle have hinted at institutionalised racism (initiated by Sarkozy himself), likened it to the French surrender in 1940, referenced Albert Camus and reckoned the country is in existential crisis. Meanwhile, in England it seems that where a one-paced, one-eyed Gerrard was deployed is the crux.

The boy Line-Acre done bad*
And since Capello’s tactics mean we’re talking about laughable things at the football, here’s a funny one, as the actress said to the bishop. When is it amusing that Greek people have multi-syllabic names which people brought up in the UK have difficulty pronouncing? The answer, as the bishop is duty bound to point out, is when a panel of football experts discuss a World Cup encounter involving the national team of Greece. The experts laughing at the man who marked Messi out of the first half of their respective teams’ group decider were Lineker, Hanson, Redknapp (H), Dixon and Motson who, for the uninitiated, are all white. Whether they would have been quite so ribald had Emmanuel Adebayor, the BBC’s token African, been present is moot or even if one of the other not-white draftees Seedorff or Viera, Dutch and French respectively, had been given a run out. Is the casual racism behind the banter used on both terrestrial broadcasters a factor of football’s or television’s unreconstructed attitude to diversity? Could be a bit of both but with no black manager in the top flight, no black coach in the South African England set-up and no regular black pundit on Match of the Days 1 or 2 , Sidey’s money is firmly on the former.
*Apparently this headline is a reference to country boy Mick Channon’s mispronunciation of Gary Lineker’s name on the occasion of the jug-eared one’s England debut although only the old boy who does the garden can vouch for this.

Where’s Woger?
Apart from that marathon match, it has not been a classic Wimbledon. Thanks to the football, the Championships were not the subject of the febrile pre-publicity designed to get hapless viewers in from the garden or away from repeats of Come Dine With Me that we have become used to. Thanks to the LTA development department, there were no English men in the draw and the women that did turn out wasted no time in getting back to Roehampton to put their feet up. And thanks to the weather, we haven’t been able to grumble about, well, the weather. But the single most notable lack has been a prolonged absence of Roger Draper. The dapper man’s dapper man, Roger is usually wont to pop up on radio and even television as early in proceedings as possible but not this year. Even when Pat Cash attacked the former head of Sport England with “I actually think Roger Draper should have gone years ago. He should have had the guts to say, ‘Look, I've under-performed. I'm embarrassed to have done so little’ and leave”, the great man failed to materialise and it was left to “an LTA spokesman” to plaintively cry: “Investment in grass roots is our priority.”

What’s in a name?
The staff at Row Z Towers were amused to be forwarded a copy of an ISRM newsletter recently which proves that, no matter what the marketing men say, you can’t copyright the English language. We, for example, will be using the words Olympic, London and the number 2012 in any and every combination at will between now and the 2012 London Olympics and be happy to meet LOCOG, the ODA or even the Little Baron himself in any court in the land to defend our right so to do. With this kind of cavalier attitude, of course, nobody within the TLR family would have a leg to stand on if they were to try and holler “Stop thief” after ISRM’s business development manager Ian Wakefield as he legs it off down Baroness Campbell Way or whatever their new address is. After all, just because the good people in the main office choose to use the word ‘Insights’ to describe their innovative series of CPD events does not mean that The Leisure Review, TLR Communications Ltd nor their partner the Sports Marketing Network own the word, the brand or the concept. We know that. Of course we do. But it still hurts when only weeks after the launch after said Insights Sessions and with bookings flowing in through the events page [go on, click; you know you want to] we find that ISRM, people who we think of as friends, people to whom we have extended the courtesy of a Spotlight on the People page for their new chief executive and people with whose PR company we are on first name terms should invite colleagues “to check out our forthcoming ‘customer insight’ SportExcel seminar”. Et tu Ian? Et tu?

A Corinthian passes
Sideliner took time this month to mourn the passing of Andy Ripley, the eccentric English Number 8 who also won Superstars, ran the 400 metres at the Commonwealth Games and became world champion at indoor rowing as a veteran. It was not Ripley’s sporting ability which set him apart – although a British Lion when we still had British Lions he was kept out of the Test team by Mervyn Davies – it was his appearance, attitude to sport and his drive to meet new challenges. As a player he was a lanky cavalier, a maverick, a pirate in a game played by able seamen. Off the pitch he was similarly idiosyncratic and when professionalism entered rugby union he railed against it: “Friendship and loyalty have been smashed. Rugby has lost its heroes.” And of the players’ pursuit of money simply for a spot of egg chasing? “It devalues them. It means they are marionettes, puppets, manipulated by people with money.” Ripley died of prostate cancer, having been awarded the OBE for his work as an ambassador for the fight against the disease, a typically flamboyant but caring response to what turned out to be his final challenge.

Drawing a veil

This month we shall be knocking these tactically bereft nations out in the second round:

The £10 million being wasted on some kind of schools’ Olympics; Jeremy Hunt’s Hillsborough insult; the coaching summit, who knew it was this week?; the jaw-cracking results from the Active People survey; country gent Hugh Robertson; the FA’s response to Capello’s first attempt at managing a team at a major international tournament; Olympic Day on 23rd June; Queen Elizabeth II at Wimbledon; F1.


At the Arts End

Unfortunately the young person who collates this feature has yet to report back for work having been sent to cover the Glastonbury Festival. Should she return, with or without the lairy graphic designer, we hope to include At the Art’s End as usual next month.

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