Row Z edition51; dateline 31 January 2011

That accursèd CEO
Regular readers of this column will both know that one of our favourite sports development people is the head man at the Lawn Tennis Association, the dapper man’s dapper man, Roger Draper. Bookmakers love Roger because as a bellwether of the fortunes of British tennis he is infallible. In early rounds  of Wimbledon as Ann Keothevang gets close to beating a woman with a name we recognise, he is there. When Great Britain are drawn against one of the lesser European principalities and at least one Murray is available, Roger is courtside. And when the younger of the two Scottish curly-tops is set fair – with Federer and Nadal both eliminated – to win our first grand slam tournament since Adam was a lad? Voila. Mr Draper is front and centre with William Hill gaily offering tempting odds knowing that the hand of Rog is about to reach down and turn another British world beater into cack.

All those for, say “aye”
There are times when even Sideliner cannot tell the difference between a canard and sophistry but Radio 5 Live’s late evening debrief of their school sport debate on the evening of Thursday 20 January was so awash with conflation, misdirection and solipsism it risked alienating rather than recruiting the undecided. The excellent Eleanor Oldroyd was joined by swimmer Steve Parry, runner Katherine Merry and herself, the Baroness Campbell of Loughborough. All were impassioned, all made their case and Eleanor read out one dissenting email every half hour to maintain the illusion that a discussion was in progress. The problem from where Sidey was sitting (which was on a motorway on the way back from an evening with 25 coaches and other volunteers who couldn’t tell the difference between a PDM and a CSP and cared less) was that the case for PE in school was very well made but not the case for school sports partnerships. Herself may have been modelling the meaning of the word ‘disingenuous’ when she implied that the improvement in the standard of PE from when she was delivering it is down to the good works and influence of the Youth Sport Trust (YST) but PE types, not as a breed known for their subtlety, will be in high dudgeon when they work out what she was getting at. Her claim that sport improves the nation’s health conflated ‘sport’ and ‘physical activity’ and is again not entirely accurate. And the suggestion that Michael Gove’s attack on the school sports partnership (SSP) network is an attack on PE in schools is sophistry, which for the PE-trained means an argument which the person making knows is not entirely true. John Eady got it right when he wrote: “SSPs were much more bureaucratic than they needed to be and suffered from government- and YST-driven ‘initiative overload’. Their tendency to insularity was also exacerbated when what we used to wryly call the silent ‘CL’ (club links) of the PESSCL strategy was airbrushed out and, in its second iteration, it became the PESSYP (young people) version.” Nobody hates the SSP system and nobody wishes it entirely away but the case should have been made locally and nationally some time since and getting Oldroyd to conduct a symphony of unchallenged praise was too little, too late, too obvious and far too cloying.

Wrong Andrew wronged
That Rob ‘Squeaky’ Andrew has come under pressure following John Steele’s early spring clean at the Rugby Football Union is of only passing interest to Sideliner. The man who poached half the Wasps first team for his new employers in the north east when professionalism came to rugby union will be able to look after himself, whatever Clive Woodward cooks up behind both Squeaky’s back and the scenes. But the fact that in the same announcement Steele let out that Andrew Scoular had already left the building, doubtless with black bin bag in hand but without benefit of a leaving do, is a cause of real annoyance. What do we know of Mr Scoular, other than he made his bones in Glasgow, one of the best sports development units in the UK, thanks, in part, to him, and that he is widely regarded as a proper sports development person? We know that the push must have come as something of a shock, given that on the RFU website, days after the announcement, Scoular was still being quoted as “looking forward to the Rugby World Cup in 2015”.

How to promote your business?
With little to do but watch You Tube clips of Sky Sport’s presenters being sexist and occasionally check that the woman who comes in to do the books’ chickens haven’t been had by a fox, the team at Row Z like nothing more than perusing the many, oh so very many, ‘newsletters’ being pushed out by companies from pool plant suppliers to arts and culture consultants, often with the help, and possibly at the behest, of an expensive PR company. For the most part the content of these missives bear as much resemblance to actual news as the round robin maunderings some people see fit to foist on friends and family when they send the duty Christmas card and what they are, in fact, are lame attempts to garner attention. Only someone with a Canute complex would attempt to stem this particular tide but if you are going to send them, and Sarah Watts of Alliance Leisure we are talking to you here, for goodness have them checked by someone competent in the use of the English language. “It is now time to rid the negativity surrounding the CSR, and look to the opportunities on the horizon” is not a sentence and although we know what you mean, we also now know that you are a little bit slapdash; which is not at all the impression you pay your new PR company all that money to create, now is it?

Language, Timothy.
With Messrs Keys and Gray paying the price for not being sufficiently covert in their chauvinism the subject of sexism in sport has dominated radio discussion programmes, online forums and the pages of the nation’s newspapers. Given less coverage in contrast is Sport England’s investment of £10 million of lottery money in the inspirationally named Active Women project. It is 20 projects actually and its hard to cavil about what is being funded, although the award of over £1 million to get “over 12,000 women back on the court” seems a tad expensive and a little tokenistic. However, when it comes to finding grey linings in silver clouds Row Z leads the field and, without really trying, has come up with this. A project in Nottingham will get £180,000 to “tackle the gender gap in sport” and will do this by “providing sports master classes, access to sports clubs, events, volunteer opportunities and training”. As Andy and Richard would doubtless tell the good people at EPIC, or at least their PR people, language is very important and implying that only men can be good at sport by using the sexist term ‘master class’ is a dropped ball. 

Saints-line not saint-like
The FA Cup is a great leveller, a fact lost it seems on the Southampton FC groundstaff who insist on keeping the St Mary’s pitch in pristine order so that when pampered premiership outfits come to visit they are, well, pampered. Indeed all thoughts of an upset were lost when it became clear that Nigel Adkins’ side were intent on playing a 21st century version of football which forgoes that old favourite of putting the dancing winger into Row Z. Fans of the Saints with clear memories of 1976 were buoyed, however, just before the end of the match against Manchester when full-back Danny Butterfield scythed the legs out from under one of the visitors’ mascots. Narner, we think his name was, will not recall Peter Rodrigues but now he knows what it must have been like to play against him. Good lad, Danny.

At the Arts End
Now that the editor of The Leisure Review has taken to commissioning proper luvvies to do proper play reviews Sideliner is taking umbrage and refusing to comment on recent months’ happenings in the culture sector; although if you fancy some gallows humour try working out what Jeremy Hunt is playing at with News International and the BSkyB monopoly thing. Would there words enough and time…


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Face in the crowd: claim your prize for spotting Roger Draper in Melbourne
Image of Uncle Rog courtesy of Smart Sporting Images, who can be found on Flickr. The lensman in this case is none other than The Leisure Review's man down under, Martin Sheppard.

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