Row Z edition 45; dateline 30 July 2010

Robertson unveils the UK Sport England Trust
Spotting anomalies in the words and deeds of this coalition (sic) government (double sic) is as shooting fish in a barrel but when the subject matter is the governance of the sector – and the jobs of many of our readers – we are prepared to pay attention. So it was then that reaction in the Row Z office to the announcement that UK Sport and Sport England are to be merged brokered three responses. First, the woman who comes in to do the books collected her winnings in the “what will Jeremy do about the sports system” sweep but then she was always going to. Then the old gaffer who does the garden opened a book on the outcomes of the impending Jennie Price versus Sue Campbell contretemps. The smart money is on the Baroness wiping the floor with the former barrister and anyone else who tries to tell her what to do with her national elite sports agency but some business has been had on “political infighting deferred till we see how long this administration lasts”. And lastly we suspended further debate when we read a report at which reported verbatim the interview responses of sports secretary Hugh Robertson immediately preceding the DCMS release being released. Robertson exclusively told insidethegames that in his mind UK Sport, Sport England and the Youth Sport Trust should form a new body. The inclusion of the third leg of the stool will confuse many who thought that the trust is just that, an independent charitable foundation and not one of the government’s arms-length bodies. This either escaped Robertson or he has a way round it as he said: “It is our intention to bring them together under one roof into a new body that will have three separate divisions that will exactly replicate the existing functions of UK Sport, Sport England and the Youth Sport Trust.” Speaking on the record to Duncan Mackay from the website, he added, “It will be one body that has an elite high-performance division, community division and a school sports division.” Apparently he even drew a diagram to illustrate his plan.

Maisie makes her case
Speaking of marketing excess, and we will be, the good people at the London 2012 Shop have kindly offered Sideliner the chance to “celebrate the 2 years to go countdown to the London 2012 Olympic Games with your very own mini-Wenlock to keep you company”. And because Sidey is special the “limited first edition 30cm boxed” collectable is exclusively priced at only £25.00. The primary purpose of any soft toy, of course, is the comforting of babies and small children so who better to test the Wenlock than TLR’s only six-month-old subscriber, a young lady whom we shall call Maisie in case her mother finds out her dad has let her be experimented on. Since nobody in their right mind would pay £25 for a stuffed toy (would they?) we showed Maisie a picture of Wenlock cropped to exactly 30cm and folded round a bit. She gave the image lengthy consideration, pulled the face she uses when anyone feeds her pureed pears and switched her attention to the logo of a long-since defunct rock band on her father’s T-shirt. Conclusive, don’t you think?

In praise of optimism
With Jeremy Hunt crashing around the sport, leisure and culture landscape like a Bullingdon Club member in an Oxfordshire pub, smashing to smithereens family heirlooms and cheap tat with equal ignorance, the staff at Row Z stand to applaud the efforts of colleagues at The Leisure Review who seem intent on risking their shirts on their 31 March and 1 April symposium. To the sound of quangos burning and public purses being snapped shut the men behind the magazine have launched what they insist on describing as “an opportunity for senior practitioners and thought-leaders within the sport, leisure and culture sector to explore the future of the sector within the context of national policy and funding priorities”. Having applauded their chutzpah – and applied for press accreditation – Sideliner wondered idly how many far-sighted public employees will be booking places on the grounds that the chance to rub shoulders with some of the sector’s leading thinkers and do-ers should be regarded as one of the most effective jobs fairs ever organised.

And opportunism
It seems it’s not just the people behind the TLR symposium that are seeing the current circumstances as laden with opportunity when all around them are putting up the blackouts of doom. A small number of the sport, leisure and culture sector's leading lights are confessing to be “thoroughly enjoying themselves” as chaos reigns. Such interesting times are, it seems, just the occasion to be making a big impact. As one of them put it, “Never waste a good crisis.”

Hang on a mo
We may be reading too much into some in-race antics, a European gold medal and a cheery radio interview thereafter but Mo Farah seems like an inordinately better role model for our nation’s athletics-inclined young people than the oft-scowling, not oft-competing Christine Ohorugu. Is there time for the marketing men who blithely ignored Ohurugo’s drugs ban when positing her as “the face of the 2012 Games” to splash Farah’s fizzog all over Stretford and environs? We hope so. And while we’re on drugs cheats being allowed to wear the British vest, whose idea was it to let thrice-indicted Linford Christie anywhere near the Barcelona base of Team GB? Doubtless it cheered fellow cheating sprinter and failed rugby league player and failed gridiron player and failed person, Dwayne Chambers, who predictably made much of his role model’s presence but it chilled Sideliner’s blood.

Red faced and ranting
The self-important little man’s self-important little man, Alex Ferguson, has chosen to offer us a pearl of his wisdom vis-à-vis the midwinter break his commercial colleagues require to flog Brand United in the Far East. He claims England were such a sorry bunch of soccer boys in South Africa because they had to play too many games before their seven-week break before the World Cup. Had he anything more than self-righteous indignation and spleen fuelling all his public utterances he might have noted  the sprinkling of premiership employees in the Spanish and Dutch teams that contested the final and drawn some inferences from the statistics on qualified coaches in the respective nations. The modern apprentice has calculated that while Spain has one UEFA B, A or Pro licensed coach to every 17 people who play the game England boasts a ratio of 1 to 812.

Pleasant Yarpie shock
Sideliner was buoyed to hear from the Golf Foundation that Open winner Luis Oosthuizen is a thoroughly stand-up guy. Apparently before the South African  had even hit a ball in anger he was helping the future of the game by supporting the Golf Foundation’s Golf Roots programme in the tented village at St Andrews. Word is that despite foul weather on the Wednesday of the week that ended in his victory Luis was happy to “walk over the course in pouring rain” to the R&A Swingzone to offer his support. His verdict on the child-friendly games? “I wanted to grab that plastic club actually because it felt so nice. It was fun doing that and you could see the kids having a lot of fun with it.” He went on: “Youngsters need encouragement to get into golf and I was really pleased to help the Golf Foundation.”

Guerrillas in the mix
Last month Sideliner may have had a daunder around the vexed subject of brand theft but the stories that continue to seep out of South Africa about Sepp Blatter’s heavy-handed efforts to prevent guerrilla marketing at his world cup are far from funny; especially as what Blatter does in 2010 the Little Baron might be tempted to copy in 2012. Stories of small traders being arrested for wanting to embrace FIFA’s tournament are legion with some more vexing than others. The lairy graphic designer, for example, always flees his desk when Sidey gets started on the publican threatened with prosecution for inviting drinkers to watch the World Cup at his bar and nobody is safe when the women in orange and supporting Holland are “discussed” by our leader. The latest word from Seb’s south London fastness – and Canary Wharf is elvish for Minas Morgul after all – is that for the duration of the games no one will be allowed to use the word ‘five’; but we may have just made that up.

Brand new brand for NGB
National governing body Volleyball England has completed an overhaul of its image as part of a “brand repositioning” exercise that aims to boost participation and awareness. A new logo and colour scheme has been unveiled as part of the revamp, which will be rolled out across the organisation over the coming months to help attract a wider audience to complement the Go Spike campaign. London-based consultancy Thinkfarm was appointed to lead the scheme to rebrand Volleyball England, which is the national governing body for all forms of the sport in England, including beach and sitting volleyball. And where’s the joke that usually finds it way into our reportage? Good question.

Drawing a veil

This month we shall be leaving the following domestiques trailing on the slopes of  the Tourmalet:

The 50 metre swimming pool planned for Bangor in Northern Ireland will not now be ready in time to catch the London Olympics legacy wave; Andy Murray bidding to be the punchline of the joke, “Who’s had more coaches than National Express?”; GB’s Olympic volleyball squad feeling constrained to do a sponsored bike ride to raise money to pay for their 2012 training; Alberto Contador’s reinvention of riding away from the mechanically hamstrung yellow jersey; the fact that after a decade of “working with schools in England to create a world-class PE and sport system for all young people” the Youth Sport Trust is only now ready to “tackle the huge shortage of coaches working in school sport”.

At the Arts End

You say Acker Bilk, I say Miles Davis
Staff at the Arts End were surprised to find that not only do we have a National Culture Forum to advocate for the sector but as of this week we seem to have acquired a Culture Forum as well. The latter, we understand, is a “unique, unified voice for the whole cultural community”, whereas the former is the “representative voice for a large proportion of professionals involved in the culture, sport and leisure sector”. Rather like differentiating between two different forms of jazz, picking the winner out of these two gets harder the closer you get to the noise and, like jazz, if we must have it at all surely the fewer varieties the better. As the pub landlord might shout: “Colin Tweedy. Richard Hunt. Sort it out!”

Beam me out, Goneril
When is a live theatrical performance not a live theatrical performance? Possibly when it’s being beamed from the tiny Donmar Warehouse in London to 300 cinemas around the country. Anyone wishing to see Derek Jacobi in Michael Grandage’s King Lear now has two choices; either to experience the performance in the intimate theatre for which it was designed and rehearsed in dodging distance of the principals’ spittle or to join the milling throng at your local multiplex and, doubtless with popcorn in hand, watch a televised version where your focus of attention is determined by a third party and your reaction anticipated and therefore impaired. Even when you spill out, the choice between the Tube or the ring road will colour your experience. Having seen Sir Del give his Prospero at the Crucible and rubbed shoulders with the cast in the bar afterwards, this correspondent will forgo this proffered treat.

Restraining Rupert
Campaigning group 38 Degrees are claiming a measure of success in their attempts to stop Rupert Murdoch expanding his control of the UK media. Murdoch’s News Corp was set to take the next step in its bid to gain 100% of BSkyB but has apparently hesitated in the face of public disapproval. The Murdoch team had been expected to lodge its plans with the European Union but, according to Hannah Lownsbrough of 38 Degrees: “We've just had it confirmed – Murdoch’s delayed submitting his takeover plans to Brussels.” She went on: “There's been no public explanation. But it seems likely that our pressure has had an effect.” 38 Degrees are currently collecting signatures and cash in an attempt to stymie the Australian media magnate permanently.

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