Row Z edition 63; dateline 1 March 2012

Don’t get your ribbons in a twist dear
Doubtless the national journalist whose copy we copy for Row Z left some of the minutiae out when he (and it was TLR subscriber Owen Gibson) did a piece explaining why and how the GB rhythmic gymnastic squad were excluded from representing their country at their country’s home Olympics but from what he wrote there is a only one conclusion to draw. The girls who dance – sorry, perform complex acrobatic and athletic moves – with ribbons, balls and hoops are all amateurs in the Corinthian sense, having moved into Bath University for six months entirely at their own expense to prepare for the qualifying event. They were told they had to achieve a score equivalent to 84% of the world’s best by Day 2 of the test event at the Millennium Dome. On Day 2 a ribbon got knotted and they missed their target, but not by much. The woman who comes in to do the books two mornings a week calculated – through tear-fogged readers we might add – that their score was 0.6% adrift. On the morning of Day 3 they aced the qualification target, clearing the metaphorical bar by 4.4%. And British Gymnastics made some patronising comments and told them they still couldn’t go. Colin Moynihan’s people at the BOC – perhaps stung by criticism in Row Zs passim – reckoned they could fit the girls in, after all the cost of accommodating and kitting them out would be covered by one morning’s profit on the sale of bottled water in the Olympic aquatics centre, but BG were adamant. The criterion they, BG, seem to have invoked is that home nation places may only be taken up if the competitors show they “can compete at a level that will avoid embarrassment”, and also have a coherent legacy story. The only people who should be embarrassed in all of this are the wonks from Lilleshall and they should hide their heads in shame.

Turf Wars II: the next explanation*
We are indebted to Walsall South MP Valerie Vaz for trying to make sports minister Hugh Robertson explain what on earth has been going on between UK Sport and Sport England, two organisations which we all thought were merging any time soon. First, in a reply to Vaz in which she asked about “plans to merge”, Robertson sought to intimate that the bodies themselves wanted to become one, saying, “The project board set up at the request of UK Sport and Sport England… has identified four key benefits blah blah.” Having made the point that both organisations currently inhabit mightily expensive office space (£57 and £35 per square foot apparently) and they can’t get out of the contracts, Robertson was then attacked by Clive Efford of Eltham and responded with: “Nobody has ever said that the two organisations are merging.” Having made this clear, he then went on (and possibly on) to say: “There has never been any question but that the new body will contain two separate organisations, one of which looks after elite and high-performance sport, and one that looks after community sport.”  So there we have it, one body but two organisations. What could be simpler?

Turf wars III: the wrath of Ives*
Asked for his take on the latest ‘explanation’ to seep out from Westminster (see above: obviously), the editor of The Leisure Review, Jonathan Ives, noted that: “Robertson is now proposing that the two organisations remain separate but together, distinct but indistinguishable, dead but still alive. Which is a neat trick if you can pull it off. The fact that the only statistics he has at his fingertips for the debate are the square footage costs of office space shows his priorities.” Ives forgot to mention that, as reported in Row Z last month, this coming together would be getting signed off about now were it not for the fact that both supposedly merger-crazy parties have refused to talk to the other.
*Before you both write in to complain, we are aware that the film franchise whose titles we have bowdlerised for these headlines is Star Trek and not Star Wars but felt that the joke, such as it is, justified the inaccuracy. Chaucer, we ain’t.

News management the IMSPA way
With the addition of ‘chartered’ to the front of its name and the recruitment of  a celebrity chair the Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity is attracting a growing number of industry veterans keen to add FCIMSPA to their email signatures. Indeed, even Sideliner considered finding the £160 needed to purchase a fellowship in the body made from the rump of ILAM and the lump that was ISRM but has been put off by what, at Row Z Towers, would be considered ‘sharp practice’, vis a vis the new institute’s new magazine. When the bodies merged last year the ISRM magazine Recreation was re-badged and the ill-conceived ISPAL magazine INFORM was mercifully killed off. In the interests of transparency, apparently, the right to publish the magazine (and make as much money as possible from it, presumably) was put out to tender. After many, many months of unexplained delay the identity of the institute’s new “publishing partners” has become made known but in a manner which begs the question “Who does do their PR?” First to find out that the magazine had changed hands were the marketing managers of companies that might reasonably be expected to place some of their advertising budget with the magazine. Then a number of PR companies, the source of what passes for ‘news’ when deadline is imminent, were informed. And then the people who had published ISRM’s magazine for more years than anyone here can recall were informed of the change. Whether anyone has yet told the membership, particularly those with the whiff of chlorine about them, that the people behind ‘their’ magazine have been shafted is unknown.


At the Arts End

Kicking Off with the Phil
Quite who came up with the idea of getting the BBC Philharmonic orchestra to spend two Friday evening hours playing sports programme theme tunes was not identified but the student intern detailed to listen to the special edition of Kicking Off reckoned they must be a genius. Perhaps it was Colin Murray’s evident delight in the concept, the underlying edge of irony to the whole event or the fact that some of the tunes played really warrant the big production they were given but the programme was a tour de force. Better yet, however, was Murray’s debrief the following morning on Fighting Talk, which largely amounted to the line: “Tell you what though. Classical musicians? Drink a bit? I’ll say.” Or words to that effect. Sound like is was fun and all the better for being conducted – hoot! – at Salford prices.

God bless you, Twitter
Like it or loathe it, the joy of Twitter is the sheer arbitrariness of the information you access if you dip in and out of even a minimally populated feed. The lairy graphic designer has just shared the nugget from his own scroll of received tweets that not only is there a free exhibition coming to the British Museum called From Arabia to Ascot (it’s about horses) but that the voiceover – presumably available on headphones at a price –- has been done by Clare Balding (after all, it’s about horses). How interesting is that?

Au revoir, Sebastien
Sadly we have not scooped the sporting world to announce that the Little Baron has been sacked. Instead we refer to the ejection from Dancing on Ice of free-running star and all around bon homme, Sebastian Foucan. The woman who comes in twice a week to do the books was puce with indication that the free-thinking and highly Gallic Foucan was eliminated having found himself unable to replicate some fairly mundane steps in an elimination round. It seems that the man hailed as the inventor of parkour (at least by the programme-makers) while perfectly able to spin, summersault and leap acrobatically around the ice went blank when faced with a series of simple ‘figures’. We think this says more about the sport of figure skating than it does about the art of free running.

Adele snub Brits’ only highlight
Row Z readers of a certain age will remember fondly the chaos and candour of previous Brit Awards evenings with the Sam Fox/Mick Fleetwood debacle a nadir that will live long in the memory. The 2012 version in contrast was both bland and boring, with Twitter reporting young people leaving the familial sofa in droves, middle-aged would-be musos switching over to watch Timothy Spall circumnavigating Britain in a barge, and the woman who comes in to do the books and is a big fan of Take That allowing her long-suffering husband to watch Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp in a repeated police procedural set in Oldham. Those who through indolence, idiocy or an inexplicable attachment to Blur failed to navigate away from the paint drying will have been rewarded with host James Corden (whose comedic bolt was long since shot) cutting off the lovely Adele’s second acceptance speech and earning himself the disapprobation of the live audience and what looked like “the finger” from the blowsy songstress herself. Tame.


This section may be as well received as a:

What have we learned from...?

The Chisora/Haye contretemps: that both main protagonists are very stupid; that any sport which has one person attempting to physically hurt another as its raison d’etre should receive no public funding whatsoever; that a beer company sponsoring a boxing bout is about as sensible as appointing a lawyer who used to be in waste management as chief executive of a sports development agency.

BBC Radio 5’s programme on the future of boxing: that filling a room with a pastime’s participants and expecting a balanced debate is derisory; that people in boxing still believe that teaching young people to hit each other is a good idea; that Frank Warren is so far up his own agenda that he can seek to justify Derek Chisora’s (see above) behaviour by listing other boxing brawls, (as opposed to bouts. Ed); that members of the boxing fraternity are so far up their own agenda that having sold every professional boxer to the highest bidding broadcaster they then have the temerity to blame the BBC for not publicising their “sport”; that money talks; that according to a woman MP invited to speak, presumably using an orifice other than her mouth, not a single participant in last year’s civil unrest (some say riots) was a member of a boxing club.

That diving test event: that the media managers at British Swimming need to get a grip; that the bloke on the tannoy at the aquatics centre who suggested that people should “drink plenty of water” when his colleagues had confiscated everybody’s supply was having a laugh; that Tom Daley probably won’t win gold; and that because of this David Sparkes, the chief executive of the sport, is trying to get his excuses in early by blaming the lad for what is a systemic failure of “aquatics” to deliver on its well-funded promises.






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