Row Z edition 67; dateline 17 July 2012

Sport England in firing line
Few people come to Row Z for balanced debate and, having spotted that Sport England have cheerfully announced a rise in sporting participation while demurring to acknowledge that in their key target group, the 16 to 24-year-olds, it has dropped, those same people would expect a paragraph of excoriating wit and unalloyed cynicism. However, in a volte face worthy of UEFA, the ConDem government or any other corrupt regime you might care to mention, we are going to give Jenny Price, or Mrs David Teasdale as we like to think of her, centre stage to have her say. What tawdry justification will she offer? What piece of doublespeak will she come up with? How will Spinning Jenny manage this news? She says: “They [the statistics] are worrying. Those numbers are hard to shift because there is so much going on in young people’s lives and they consume sport in a very different way to how it’s been traditionally offered.” Bother and blast, an honest appraisal for once. Well done SJ but what a shame your press department insist on the Kool-Aid approach to media releases. And what a shame nobody has yet noticed her last phrase and changed the way governing bodies of sport are funded to reflect the fact – and it is fast becoming an undeniable fact – that traditional governing bodies of sport are not fit for the purpose of getting people physically active. The clue is in the title: they do ‘sport’ and that’s not the same thing.

Runners and riders for the coaching framework handicap
In the world of coaching framework development it would seem that all roads lead to Leeds, with the national agency for coaching – that would be Sports Coach UK (SCUK) – launching a review of the UK Coaching Framework while the International Council for Coach Education (ICCE) expect to present “a consultation draft document at ICCE’s Global Coaches House in London during the Olympic Games in July”. The ICCE, in case you missed it, have sited their Global Coaching Office, in Headingley – a surprisingly leafy suburb of Leeds – and clearly their work, and their proximity, has “inspired” SCUK to hold “a focus group in each Home Country for governing bodies of sport” and “examine how the Framework document is used and how it can be improved so that it remains relevant to the coaching industry”. With the ICCE cantering towards a global framework by “late 2013” and SCUK now revisiting their commitment to the UK equivalent – and the fact that their two offices are only a brisk stroll apart from each other – we will surely be looking at a concerted approach any time soon.

In Hertfordshire physical activity will hardly ever happen
While we are being serious, and we are, some news from one of our favourite home counties has chilled the marrow of more than one of the Row Z team. It seems that the shiny new Hertfordshire County Health and Wellbeing Board, and here we quote Christine Neyndorff of the local CSP, “thinks it will deliver real improvements in people’s health and wellbeing, without physical activity being a priority”. The board, which has representatives from the National Health Service, local councils and the Hertfordshire Local Involvement Network has been set up “to help local people influence the way that their local healthcare and social services are planned and delivered” and clearly carries some weight. While it is not the place of our health services to promote sport per se, one would have thought that the case for physical activity as a positive intervention when tackling obesity, managing long-term conditions, supporting family carers, promoting good mental health, and making the lives of people with learning disabilities more fulfilling had been made. And, yes, those are all stated priorities of the new board. If this gets your goat you can add your voice to the debate on the Herts Sports Partnership website.

Playing Housey Housey with the concept of community
We are indebted to our friends at ResPublica (it’s a think tank) for  an early peek at their latest report, Clubbing Together: The Hidden Wealth of Communities,which boasts some of the most arcane yet elegant language Sideliner has seen since we sacked the Cambridge undergraduate who wrote our society column for toasting the work experience lad’s calves in front of the two-bar electric fire.  Revel in, if you will, the sentence: “Existing networks and associations, such as clubs and club-type activity, have the resources and connections to catalyse greater social good in communities.” Marvel at the case studies which “demonstrate that the contagious attitudes of engagement found in clubs can not only generate hidden wealth, but also create ‘spin-offs’ of social value”. And wonder at wordplay such as: “Addressing the ways in which we can democratise and innovate the use of shared space for social purpose, the report provides a number of insights for public policy initiatives, as well as providing an ideal for private companies to contribute to the social networks and local communities within which they operate.” Gorgeous though the wordage may be, it’s the juxtaposition of subject matter, conclusion and sponsor which most impresses the students of corporate hypocrisy at Row Z Towers. The report which seems to suggest that government should invest in commercial entertainment venues comes to us courtesy of The Bingo Association.

Strawberries and sheen
On the subject of commercial venality, one we do tend to dwell on, Sideliner was again pleased to hear the dapper man’s dapper man on various radio programmes in advance of, and for once soon after, this year’s Wimbledon Championships. Roger Draper, for it was he, managed to speak at length, say nothing and avoid any reference to the amount of money pouring through his sport with no apparent benefit to anyone outside the charmed circle of home county privilege and its outposts. Well played, Sir, well played.

Why we love Basketball
In 2005 the international basketball governing body – it’s called FIBA – said that if the home country federations temporarily amalgamated their efforts a British Basketball Federation (BBF) could enter the Olympics. The BBF was due to disappear in August this year but put forward a strategic plan to FIBA who said the BBF could, therefore, carry on until 2016; and if they wanted the arrangement to become permanent that too was OK so long as the English, Scottish and Welsh federations gave up their individual memberships of FIBA. England voted for it. Scotland voted for it. And Wales didn’t, thus sustaining the chaotic over-supply of almost empty acronyms and the very real lack of coherent governance in what should be a major sport in the UK. Bravo, Taff, bravo.

The fix is in
Few people who have spent any length of time watching football in the lower leagues will have been particularly surprised by the latest revelations from within St Mary's, the footballing fortress that is home to Southampton FC, regarding allegations of spot-fixing. Sidey recalls attending a match in the leafy home counties a good few years ago when the arrival of such betting vehicles as Sporting Index had introduced the concept of market-making to sporting fixtures, allowing punters to wager high or low on a myriad of notional events within a game. Having won the toss, the home team, playing in quarters, kicked off and passed the ball to the left-back. Even as the ball was travelling along the grass, a suspiciously large proportion of the crowd were shouting, "Kick it out, kick it out!" while colleagues on the pitch were pointing to the stand. Turning quizzically to the Bloke Behind Me, Sidey made a silent enquiry involving a raising of one eyebrow. "Everyone's bet on the first throw," said TBBM knowingly, the tap on the side of the nose implied rather than enacted. Turning back to the action, Sidey was able to witness "the fix" in action and observe the player chosen to deliver the goods receive the ball, steady himself, launch the ball down the pitch only to see it slice high and wide straight onto the head of the opposing centre-half. As the away side brought the ball under control and began to pass it down-field, a crescendo of boos grew with every touch until someone on the home side found the skill, poise and grace to hoof it into the crowd. "Bloody typical," said TBBM. “Only we could try to kick it off the pitch and miss.”


Like the baddest of bad pennies this feature just keeps coming back. We ask the question “What have we learned from…”

The coverage of the Wimbledon Championships (of tennis): that the new roof over the centre court has benefited the BBC more than anyone else as games have gone on late into the evening and saved Auntie having to show their summer schedule fillers; that Richard Lewis has grown no less patronising and no more interesting since he left Sport England; that Richard Bacon should never, and we mean never, be allowed to be involved in the Radio 5 Live coverage ever again; that Clare Balding must have made a lovely head girl.

The switch to summer rugby league: that in a summer without cricket, athletics, tennis, rugby union, the Tour de France or football it will be a real attention grabber; that the move hasn’t helped Bradford Bulls; that it seems to suit grassroots clubs very nicely thank you; that we really need a summer in which to make a fair comparison.

The creation of a “male counterpart” for Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid: that Elmgreen & Dragset, the people responsible, are not nearly as winsome as they think they are; that putting a statue in Trafalgar Square and expecting people to be surprised to find it there is a little naïve; that the sooner “Han” gets off to Elsinore to “raise questions of nationality and gender politics” and tell “the tale of loneliness in our modern society” the better.

Sport England’s tweet on the GB athletics team which said “Congratulations to @J_Ennis who has been selected for @TeamGB. Jess trains at EIS in Sheffield which we've funded”: that some people will scrabble around for any semblance of credit; that the national sports development agency missed rather more important issues such as the deplorable selection of drugs cheat Dwayne Chambers; that some agencies would be better just deleting their Twitter feed.








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The apartheid in British sport which sees money go to money while an underclass of athletes sleeps on floors (qv Murray v Marray if you will) is a status quo challenged by very few so it is something of a joy to report that the good people - and we use that term advisedly - from GLL (you may know them as Greenwich Leisure Limited) have seen the fruits of their long-term philanthropic labours with the announcement of various Olympic and Paralympic squads. No fewer that 51 athletes who have been supported by the GLL Sports Foundation have been selected, from relatively high-profile rower Zac Purchase to the rather less well-known Ewa Palies who plays handball. And pictured? Anyika Onuora.

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