Row Z edition 56: dateline 4 July 2011

Blazers win Pyrrhic victory
It is impossible to score an own goal in rugby union unless, of course, you are the Rugby Football Union, who have made such a cod’s of appointing a performance director that it has cost them a chief executive. To ensure that nobody ever gets to the bottom of how exactly they managed this their chairman and now acting CEO, Martyn Thomas, has appointed a committee to look into it. Suffice it to say that Clive Woodward was implicated but Sidey is fairly sure that few people beyond rugger really care so offers only two conflicting views on the sacked John Steele’s competence. Fran Cotton, former England prop forward and a man born to wear a blazer and pontificate, called for Steele’s removal, claiming: “He has shown he is not up to the job.” Contrast this with the words of Baroness Sue Campbell, chair of UK Sport where Steele was chief executive for five years during which time he oversaw a huge increase in the funding of Olympic sports without a single breath of criticism for the way he went about his business, who said: “As CEO at UK Sport for five years he was inspirational, highly professional and a huge success in driving change and leading people. British sport is incredibly fortunate to have a man with talent, principles and high integrity like John Steele.” In the end though it was Martyn Thomas’ view which prevailed and lest anyone think he is unable to correctly distinguish between his arse and his elbow we should all be reassured by his pronouncement that: “Guys like Bill Beaumont don’t tend to make mistakes on things like that.” Beaumont will be remembered for his playing career in the second row and his time on A Question of Sport, where he came across as a great pudding. Steele is well rid of them, says Sideliner, and will surely have no trouble finding a new job, possibly at the Scottish Rugby Football Union whose CEO was also sacked peremptorily by a blazer-wearing buffoon within the same week that saw Steele shown the door.

Open goal offered to council bashers
You have to hand it to the parkies at York City Council who have balked the trend for town hall dismay and gloom to produce an amusing piece of  municipal left-hand-not-knowing-what the-left-hand-let-alone-the-right-hand-is-doing tomfoolery from the old school. It seems contractors installing a playground on playing fields at Heyworth built a fence that went through the goalposts at one end of a football pitch, thus putting any diving goalie at risk of concussion and requiring corner kickers at that side to walk all the way round to the gate. Council bosses have admitted their error and Dave Meigh, City of York Council's head of parks and open spaces, has even had the hutzpah to say: “We recognise that the failure to relocate the goalposts is a real own goal” before adjusting his military-style cap, telling a dog walker to get off the grass and chasing Dennis the Menace and Oor Wullie from behind the floral clock.

Copycat approach proves wrong alley for RFL dogs of war
You could hear the titters from Twickenham over the sound of the traffic on the M62 when Sport England announced their cut in funding for the Rugby Football League. So obsessed are the kick-and-clappers with the 13-a-side game’s persistent coat-tailing (as they perceive it) that even with their senior management in disarray and with a one-million-pound hole in their own finances they exhibited an unholy level of schadenfreude when the national agency for sports development sliced £956,188 off the Leeds-based governing body. Whether anyone laughed when they heard that the English Golf Partnership had also “agreed” to lose £107,023 has gone unrecorded.

Debating the All Black Dog
The awful weather which almost ruined Hampshire’s first attempt at hosting a Test match brought one surprising benefit when the BBC replayed a quite remarkable discussion on depression which apparently first went out on Eleanor Oldroyd’s evening programme. It must have been broadcast originally when Sideliner was in the land of nod or watching Coronation Street as Ms Oldroyd is a favourite at Row Z Towers, however, the unlooked-for repeat allowed Sidey to realise both how common the illness is among big name players of a variety of sports as well as the general population and how little is known and acknowledged about it. In-depth interviews conducted by Michael Vaughan with fellow Yorkie Matthew Hoggard and former All Black and Greek god John Kirwan illuminated a frank studio debate involving the most high-profile sufferer – the depressed sportsman’s depressed sportsman? – Marcus Trescothick. We doff our corporate cricketing cap to the BBC on this one and find ourselves hoping for a spot more rain this summer if this is the fare Test Match Special has in its locker.

Image wrongs for scUK
Sportscoach UK’s latest newsletter is publicising a number of events and publications but we worry that some messages may have become mixed. The panel advertising their long-term athlete development (LTAD) workshop carries an image which one presupposes is intended to represent what LTAD is or what LTAD does. The person whose image the design team at Armley have chosen to use is none other than Danny Cipriani, a young man whose development has involved night clubs, alcohol abuse and fisticuffs. Cipriani, who can’t get a game for any of England’s representative squads because of his bad attitude, is sojourning in Australia, where he can’t get a game because of his bad behaviour. We know the national agency for coaching has a take-it-or-leave-it approach to communications but what message should we take from this gaffe?

What price the corporate conscience?
According to Dan Brown’s latest tome, it is possible to weigh a soul. Brown, of course, writes fiction and being able to allocate an avoirdupois to something as conceptual as the human essence seems improbable. However, thanks to research carried out by Heart of Midlothian Football Club we can place an exact figure on the price of a conscience. The “jam tarts”, as they are affectionately known, said on 24 June that their disgraced 20-year-old defender Craig Thomson would not be sacked, despite pleading guilty to charges of “lewd, libidinous and indecent behaviour” with two underage girls on the internet and being put on the sex offenders’ register. On the 27 June a club sponsor, MacB Water, having described themselves “as a company with strong family values”, felt they had “no choice but to terminate our relationship” and suddenly the Edinburgh club were £5,000 worse off. On 28 June the club announced that “Craig Thomson is suspended with immediate effect”. The shame of it is that if Thomson had played for cross-capital rivals Hibernian FC he could have easily found alternative employment in the Roman Catholic church but now faces a future with no future.

At the Arts End

Bright ideas from the rainy city
Both regular readers of this column will know that we have a tendency to quote the Manchester Guardian slightly more often than other national newspapers and for this we make no apology. Not only is the Guardian the only truly independent title in the marketplace, it also has a slightly jaundiced world view which chimes with Sideliner’s own and it regularly comes up with some very funny stuff. Next Monday, go into a newspaper shop – not a supermarket – engage the newsagent in conversation and buy the paper of choice. Then, instead of throwing away the media section, check out their Benrik Pitch cartoon, an ongoing series of outrageous marketing ideas. On the second Monday of Wimbers the Pitch chose to offer a suggestion to Roger Draper the CEO of the LTA. The idea is to introduce branded grunting to the sport. With Serena Williams managing to get a swoosh on to the shoelace-thin hair-band she modelled on the day she succumbed to the unknown smiley German, how long can it be before instead of an indeterminate “Arghhhhhhhh” on every point she, and others, start to cry “Nnnike”? You heard it here first; well, second.

When is a Gallagher not a Gallagher
The idea that the Chatsworth Estate could be relocated to the USA may have appealed to Manchester City Council but it failed to chime with aficionados of the anarchic television series Shameless and the word is they were right. The American version of the programme has received a lukewarm reception back in Blighty which can have surprised nobody. Knowing, self-referential and twee it may well be, but, at least in the early days, not only were the story lines about a recognisably, dystopian reality but they were acted out by players of the quality of James McEvoy and Ann-Marie Duff. What chance a few jobbing American actors of recreating that?

Best of luck with that, Jacques
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) have issued guidelines (well they’re more like a codified set of instructions really – see pirate films passim) to athletes at next year’s London jamboree. Jacques Rogge’s apparatchiks have stated that Olympic competitors should “post, blog and tweet their experiences” but warned that if rules are broken it will withdraw accreditation, shut down online operations or even start legal proceedings. The IOC also stated that athletes cannot use the platforms for commercial or advertising purposes or to share videos filmed at Olympic venues. Significantly, “Postings, blogs or tweets should be in a first-person, diary-type format and should not be in the role of a journalist.” We wondered if they actually understand the nature of social media and/or young people as they also require that posts should “be dignified and in good taste, and not contain vulgar or obscene words or images”.


What have we learned?

In this, the first of another of our ground-breaking features, we consider the question “What have we learned from…?”

Wimbledon: that the LTA’s player development department, if put in charge of organising a boozy celebration having been offered a functioning brewery in which to host it, would probably fail; that Andrew Murray is a very good tennis player; that the person who suggested Richard Bacon as host for the Radio 5 afternoon coverage should be sent to Siberia, let alone Salford; that at least one of the BBC television producers has an unhealthy obsession with young female ball girls and their skirts; that Brain Moore is a patriot; and that Roger Draper’s attempts to channel Roger Federer’s stylish insouciance are not working.

The Women’s Football World Cup: that whenever men talk about women’s football they sound patronising and smug; that one of our squad was so keen to emulate male professional soccer players that she became an alcoholic and had to be treated at Tony Adams’ addiction clinic; that Marta is some player.

Glasto 2011: that Michael Eavis has jumped the shark; that Jo Whiley is a very bossy lady; that no matter how many times someone tells you something is fabulous you really need an independent view or two before making your mind up; that if you get a chance to go and see Janelle Monáe you should take it!



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LAUGHING IN LOUGHBOROUGH: While Sideliner admires a little bit of cheek now and then, the brass neck of the marketing department at Loughborough University in “opening” their Sport Park last month beggars belief. In January 2010 the purple-clad purveyors of spin gleefully announced that “SportPark welcomed its first residents this month”. Following a quick check with the numerically gifted intern, we can reveal that that was 17 months ago. Mind you, this piece of spin is as nothing compared with the outright deception they perpetrated with one of the photo-opportunities on the “great day”: Seb Coe playing ping pong with the boy Daley. We can confirm that those tables are not full size and there is a very good reason he’s known as the Little Baron.

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