Row Z edition 61; dateline 12 December 2011

Active excuses survey
It seems like intruding on private grief to offer a comment on the latest Active People survey results but Sport England are by definition the public face of a failing sports system so we’ll do it anyway. Local authorities, the commercial sector, national governing bodies of sport and every single “agency” from Sportscoach UK to Skills Active are to blame for the falling participation figures which, if the definitions had not been manipulated, would have looked much worse. Luckily for the lot of them, someone has sought to blame the economic situation but the drop in participation has occurred against a backdrop of Sport England apparatchiks manoeuvring for position when they are taken over by UK Sport, local authority managers scurrying to keep jobs as the axe swings their way and setting up back-bedroom consultancies “just in case”, commercial operators looking after number one and agencies focusing all their staffing effort on writing management reports instead of doing their jobs. No wonder the leadership, imagination and sheer bloody hard work required to sustain this industry has been missing. Too many placemen, too many platitudes, too much pontificating. Happy new year.

This time next year, Rodders…
With the days getting shorter than the odds on a man winning the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year Award, Sideliner has been musing on how to refer to the incoming Olympics now that the phrase ‘next year’s Games’ is about to lose its utility. ‘This year’s Games’ fails to carry the same tension, while ‘the Games later this year’ is simply over-long. We have never been able to buy into the official ‘the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games’, especially when ‘Paralympic’ always sets the spell-check off in a paroxysm of wavy violet lines and someone – possibly the Little Baron – once told us that the Games were for the whole nation rather than just for Boris Johnson and his pearly king pals. As an aside, which nation was Seb referring to? The Scots don’t want next year’s Games as they have a bacchanal all their own booked for 2014 and the people who could not afford the investment required to secure even so much as a handball ticket have been brushed off and cheesed off nem con. Did he mean Middle England, which by current calculations means former members of the Bullingdon Club, their chums and former butlers only? Whatever he said he clearly meant something else – as indeed he did when he said ‘legacy’ but clearly meant ‘buildings’ – so we’ll just revert to calling them ‘the London Games’ until someone tells us that they have copyrighted that title and we are going to be sued. Which is how democracy works.

Wenlock and Mandevile to be hung from tree
And speaking of the London Games, have you seen the merchandise LOCOG are pushing out from their Mordor-on-Thames fastness to ensnare the more foolish folk of Middle England, including a London 2012 Christmas tree with the games logos re-imagined as baubles? The lairy graphic designer, who applied for cycling tickets when he drunkenly convinced himself he might get one or two, has discovered that taking part in the biggest con on earth [Surely “Fairly applied ticket application process”? Ed] entitles him to receive, at no extra cost, a string of emails flogging London Games tat. He was going to try to make them stop but often in these straitened times the only laugh we get in a week is wondering who on earth is likely to purchase a “London 2012 Union Jack picnic blanket” for £12 while pondering the fate of the design assistant who managed to make a £7 Pride the Lion eight-colour pen look like the cheapest sex aid ever offered on the internet.

Proud to be British but only if the price is right
The lairy graphic designer whose desk is closest to Sideliner's office was on the floor under it when the Titan of Row Z Towers heard that Paula Radcliffe had called any increase in expenditure on the London Games' opening and closing ceremonies "frivolous". She wants to see the money spent on grassroots sport instead, thus completing the missing of the point that a great many more poor people will be involved in the Cultural Olympics than the Games, an Olympics for which she'll be flying in from her home Monacco while ignoring any suggestion that if she and other fat cats like her stayed in Britian and paid their taxes we might not be in the economic hole we seem to be now.

Ho bleeding ho
Did we forget to say Happy Christmas? Naturally everyone at Row Z is keen to wish advertisers, contributors and both readers the compliments of the season and to look forward to 2012, the fifth year of our current incarnation, which we hope to enjoy in the company of you all, if we’re spared.


At the Arts End

RIP Poly Styrene
As the year grinds to its end the Sunday papers have taken the opportunity to fill a few pages with rehashed obituaries of luminaries who left us in 2011. Save Ballesteros and Henry Cooper; Elizabeth Taylor and Googie Withers; Amy Winehouse and Betty Driver. Legends all but the one which caught Sidey’s moistened eye was 53-year-old former punk princess Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex who provided the soundtrack to many a Friday evening’s pre-pub preparation in student flats in the late 70s with the shower scene backed by the immortal lines: “She’s a germ-free adolescent, cleanliness is her obsession, Cleans her teeth 10 times a day. Scrub away, scrub away, scrub away the SR way.” Wailed, it’s genius.

Olympic beauty beheld, from a safe distance
The woman who comes in twice a week to do the books was the first of the Row Z team to run an eye over the Olympic Park in person although, true to her lights, she did so from within the nearby Westfield shopping centre. She thought the handball centre looked ugly, that the velodrome is a funny shape and confused Anish Kapoor’s £19 million Orbit with one of the builders’ cranes. She was, however, far more exercised by the “pretend water” within the mall. Apparently it looked a bit like water, sounded a bit like water but wasn’t water. Art or artifice? A blooming great idea or complete bollocks? You decide.


The following section may be as funny as Jeremy Clarkson but, like him, it has developed a belief in its own job security, which sadly allows it to keep beggaring on:

 What have we learned from...

Southampton FC still leading Division 2: that a well-run football club, with the right backer, will find its level; that unfashionable does not mean incompetent; that neither Portsmouth nor Brighton & Hove Albion need pretend to be the “pride of the south coast” any longer; that no matter how long the Sainty Boys stay on this unlikely roll the BBC and the various print media will continue to ignore them, choosing instead to focus on London-based West Ham United, or Pornographers-R-Us as Sidey has it.

Twickenham’s current travails: that few things are as badly governed as a badly governed governing body; that gentlemen farmers and multimillion pound enterprises are best kept separate; that the considered opinion of the average rugby player is largely worthless; that Nick Easter should consider a career as a stand-up comedian; that Rob “Squeaky” Andrew (as in squeaky clean) wasn’t given that nickname for nothing.

The FA’s forthcoming trip to the Ukraine: that the Polish town of Krakow is about to spawn a host of unfunny jokes based around onanism and authentic pronunciation; that what suits a multi-millionaire football kicker on expenses makes life very difficult for the average football kicking watcher; that Spain are about to become the first nation to win three major tournaments in a row, unless they don’t.





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