Row Z edition 49; dateline 3 December 2010

Imagine there’s no World Cup
Even Cameron at his most emetic – “every day would be a beautiful day” – and Beckham cack-handedly recruiting his own dead grandfather, apparently called Joe, have failed to produce a 2018 soccer World Cup on these shores. Was it the Panorama programme, the rioting Birmingham supporters or the fact that our bungs went to the wrong back pockets? Who cares? We’ll be spared the simpering smugness of the unelected first minister, the frenzy of expectation and perhaps, just perhaps, the people who run and, more importantly, the people who play and love the game might have to face the fact that structurally, financially and ethically football in England is a corrupt and wheezing boil on the backside of the sports system which should be lanced, lathered in Germolene and covered up (and ignored) while it heals.

Ale drink to that
We are indebted to the British Beer and Pub Association (BPPA) for bringing to our attention, ironically we hope, one of the more tenuous attempts to make money on the back of the williamandkatewedding farrago. Row Z is of course a republican heartland and all staff will be required to work whether David Cameron extends his ‘nuptials as smokescreen for ineptitude in government’ tactic to include a bank holiday or not, but even Sidey might be tempted to take the advice of a company called Beer Genie to toast the “happy couple” (and we are contractually bound to refer to them as such) in beer, the nation’s favourite tipple. Searching for a justification for this flagrant piece of self-promotion, the boys at Beer Genie reckon: “When Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer in 1981, 147 Royal beers were brewed to celebrate their marriage.” One for every day of fidelity then?

Power to the people
The Leisure Review is, of course, a closed shop with all its staff writers and editors card-carrying members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ). Thus we were privileged to receive the heart-warming news that in support of NUJ members’ industrial action against the BBC last month, FA Cup would-be giant killers FC United of Manchester showed solidarity with their journalistic brothers and sisters by refusing to be in BBC’s Football Focus programme.

Autumnal manoeuvres in the dark
Originally just a bit of an early season treat, the odyssey to these shores of the southern hemisphere’s finest rugby players (or at least those of them that can still stand) is now an established fact of televised sporting life. With Argentina, Samoa and Fiji thrown into the mix alongside their Tri-nation counterparts and France joining the four home nations and Ireland’s bi-national outfit as hosts, it is increasingly difficult to make any sense of the four-week period in which north sticks south. Scotland beating the South Africans and Wales beating nobody are both causes for celebration but do they take us any further forwards? Who will win the 6 Nations and far more importantly who will win the world cup? Sidey says “England” and “not England” respectively, and the entire office says “Please not Wales” for either but one thing only remains set in stone: it doesn’t count if you win it in your own backyard, my little Kiwi muckers.

Gavin, Gavin, Gavin.
And speaking of Welsh rugby players who won’t be taking home any silverware any time soon, a Monday night appearance on It Takes Two is edging ever closer for Gavin Henson whose ballroom appearances have veered from embarrassing to average. Clearly the people of the principality have been voting in their droves for the newly signed Saracen but even the woman who comes in twice a week to do the books has admitted that Gav’s guns are no match for the actual dancing skills of the bloke from Countryfile, the two East Enders and the 61-year-old Antipodean psychotherapist. Mind you, as none of them will beat former hairdresser Anton Du Beke, it’s all moot. Word is that Du Beke has been nominated for a BAFTA already in one of the comedy categories. Sidey takes sides on this with Craig Revel-Horwood: Ann Widdicombe should be fucked off the farm before the season is damaged irreparably.  End of, darling.

Mind the AGAP
The chief executive of Portugal’s largest health club chain has warned that up to a third of health clubs in the country could be forced to close due to the government’s decision to increase VAT on fitness from five to 23 per cent. The raising of the levy reverses the government cut on VAT on fitness and all supervised physical activities from 20 per cent to five per cent from two years ago and, according to Pedro Ruiz, “Hundreds of fitness clubs are already closing doors and I expect at least 30 per cent of fitness clubs to close doors during 2011.” Of course the only point to this story is the name of the Portuguese fitness association Associação de Empresas de Ginásios e Academias de Portugao. FIA, eat your heart out.


At the Arts End

Liz lets rip

Facing a 50% cut in funding and aware that local authorities are targeting arts spending for cuts, Arts Council England chair Liz Forgan was combative and convincing when she spoke at the Tate Family conference. Quoting Marshal Foch, she said, “My centre is giving way, my right is in retreat. Situation excellent. J’attaque!” and laid into the decades of pointless conflict between London and the regions over funding and resources which have forced “false choices” and weakened the sector. “London and the regions. Excellence and participation. These are not rivals in some foolish hierarchy of value. They are all essential parts of the ecology of a creative nation. They are different parts of the same creative story. They feed and refresh each other. They challenge and enrich each other. The bigger and more diverse the talent pool the better the art,” she said, ending with praise for arts leaders who “have set about finding the most resourceful solutions possible, from sharing functions with partners to extracting more artistic value from every penny of investment. Far from allowing a black cloud of destructive despair to hover over us, people are picking themselves up, determined to work together to keep creativity and risk-taking alive and to keep the essential infrastructure in shape to flower again when recession is over.” We like her.

Progress of sorts
Our regular reader knows only too well how much Sideliner likes to play the professional northerner and espousing Coronation Street over East Enders is an essential part of that act. However, even when pretending that the southern soap is gash, in truth one has to respect the BBC’s best continuing drama. Indeed when the time comes for the gong season and award awarders follow the London-centric pattern of all media Sidey would normally smile, clap and save all carping for the taxi home. Unfortunately it seems neither “Stenders” nor “Corrers” will be winning Best Continuing Fictional Narrative at any of the major ceremonies this year with all the smart money being placed on the nose of the Take That franchise. Robbie back, Howard unhappy, Gary fat and Mark grinning inanely* all serve to keep soap fans – who can suspend disbelief as easily as Sarah Beeney can ceilings – agog for the next internecine episode.
*According to the work experience lass, there’s a fifth one but nobody can place him.

Bookish response, underwhelming, shock
With everybody from Cornish sea swimmers and school sports partnerships to students starting up an SOS Us page on Facebook, recruiting celebrity supporters on Twitter or simply rioting in the streets, it is reassuring to hear that the people who care about libraries are taking a more restrained approach to fighting Cameron’s cuts. In response to a survey showing that 74% of users praised their library service and a staggering 59% of NON-users thought we should keep them, chair of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), Sir Andrew Motion, said: “As councils grapple with difficult decisions about where to allocate shrinking funds, this timely research highlights the value attached to library services, even unselfishly among people who are not current users. We all appear to recognise that as individuals there are times we need libraries and times when we might not, but as one community, we benefit from them all the time.” On the MLA website. That’ll do it, Andy.


Drawing a veil

This month we shall, like FIFA, be ignoring the rightful claims of these English bids:

Flip-flopping Tory policy on school sport; the frenzied adulation for unfunny, funny woman Miranda Hart; the unimaginative and uninspiring awards at scUK’s coach of the year awards; the BBC’s turgid sports personality of the year thing; the CCPR rebrand; the Green Flag Awards people response to the government’s Healthy Lives, Healthy Parks white paper which they (Green Flag) have packaged as “news” when everyone knows that anyone “welcoming” anything is a sure sign of “me too” publicity-seeking; and Green Flag’s spurious claims for the efficacy of parks, which include claiming that since “those who live furthest away from parks and green spaces are 27% more likely to be overweight or obese” is proof that parks keep you fit whereas such a statistic is surely a function of poor people having to live in urban jungles with hardly a playground to vandalise let alone Windsor bloody Great Park to take Tarquin and Esmerelda to for a lovely impromptu picnic.

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