Row Z edition 70; dateline 6 November 2012

Champion that, lad.
The BBC Radio 4 show Broadcasting House is everything that is bad about the national broadcaster – too clever by half, smug, hopelessly middle class – but it has recently helped draw some good out of the unpleasantness which is Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace. When the Armstrong mirror first cracked the programme interviewed another sportsman who had beaten cancer before beating everyone else, jockey Bob Champion. Unlike the American former cyclist, Champion is a modest man who completely failed to cash in on his remarkable story which culminated in winning the 1981 Grand National on Aldiniti. Well, it hardly ‘culminated’ because he was being interviewed a couple of weeks ago but it was winning the National which brought to prominence his battle against cancer. One of the war stories he tells centres on his adverse reaction to chemotherapy. Essentially, it was so horrendous he wanted to stop the treatment but when a hospital nurse told him to take a walk and think it over he wandered through the children’s ward and saw kids enduring the same treatment without complaint. Champion resolved to ‘man up’ and continue his battle and the retelling of this tale on the Sunday morning radio programme has led to a new generation of cancer patients being similarly motivated. Whether this tenuous link to good being done as a result of Armstrong’s exposure is enough to outweigh the decades of cheating and bullying, the besmirchment of a potentially beautiful sport and the disillusionment brought to millions of cancer survivors who since 1996 had turned to the blessed Lance for “practical information and tools people need to battle cancer and live strong through education, advocacy, public health programs, and research grants” through his Live Strong brand is improbable.

Usain Bolt sat here. Maybe.
The legacy that keeps on giving is excelling itself in one small part of the internet and we are indebted to our colleagues on the Aude & Ariege Flyer (its an ex-pat newsletter to which the woman who does the book signed up when she went to Calais on a booze cruise) for bringing it to our jaundiced attention. Amusingly, the website we speak of is called Remains of the Games and its raison d’etre is the flogging off of furniture from the Olympic athletes’ village. For just under £30, for example, you can buy a bean bag (indoor/outdoor) which may have been sat on by Usain Bolt, Jessica Ennis or an unknown Armenian weightlifter who slept in and missed his qualifier. However, just one word of warning about this particular five-ringed gift horse: for no discernible or justifiable reason the cost of carriage is 50% of your spend whatever the item or items you buy. All of this seems a perfect metaphor for the Games themselves: lots of fun, initially attractive but with a hidden cost designed to make the corporate body involved rich at the expense of all the little people who just wanted to be part of it.

Viking Ashmageddon tree threat shock
The spread of the Chalara fraxinea fungus may have given the arboriculturists in the sport, leisure and culture pantheon a place in the sun (never waste a good omnishambles, eh, chaps?) and the Border Agency something else to search for other than illegal immigrants and gin but it has caused some head-scratching in the corner office. If Ash dieback – for that is what we tabloid hacks are calling the disease set to devastate “our ancient forests” – is a national problem caused by the importation of Danish – yes Danish! – stock,  then why do the maps on the television only show outbreaks in the south-east of England and why has no one picked up on the disease’s origin and used the obvious headline?

An other industry’s news
Just occasionally Sidey finds ten minutes to consider the world beyond the back row of the stands and the last time this happened it was journalism that came under the spotlight. According to The Journalist, the cleverly monickered magazine for members of the National Union of Journalists, recruitment to university “how to be a hack” courses is down by 19%; an actor called Lizzie Dive has taken The Cornishman (a rag from Down West) to the press complaints commission for reporting that when she, Dive, was hit by a kettle on stage she was concussed whereas in fact she was only bruised; and, best of all, that the people who manufacture Shane Warne’s replacement barnet are suing the BBC for suggesting that the weave job might not be working. The best bit of this story is, however, that Warney is described by The Journalist as Liz Hurley’s cricketing boyfriend. It’s all about perspective.

A sin of commission?
With only a handful of dates left on its promotional bus tour of England – well, parts of England – the Sport England-funded legacy scheme Club Leaders has finally got round to letting us know it is out and about. Up until 26 October the scheme had been little more than a rumour in the Row Z office, although the man who mends the photocopier had mumbled something about wasted money, consultants creaming off coach-loads of cash and inept commissioning driven by the doctrinal support of the commercial sector during a couple of visits. Driven by a newshound’s sixth sense for salacious gossip, Sideliner stopped sucking on a Werther’s Original (other confectionery-based metaphors for old age are available) and phoned a friend. It seems £2 million of our money has been sloshed in the direction of mega-consultancy Messrs Price, Waterhouse and Cooper to ensure “Olympic legacy” through the support of clubs. Some would say that the club is the bedrock of amateur sport in the UK and without the Old Kardashians RFCs of this world we wouldn’t have anywhere for like-minded people of the same class, same belief system and same ethnicity to meet, drink pink gin and get two teams out every Saturday between September and April, although we might demur. But that is where the commissioners have put their money and you can’t blame a labrador for eating its own sick; so, if we accept that Price etc are only doing what they do, the question is how well are they doing it? According to an insider, by the first week of the Paralympics 15 clubs had signed up. The programme’s target is 10,000. And in September the bus had two engagements but at one of them – it was in Hampshire – there was “no network” so the interactive computers didn’t interact and the consultants on duty (who said they were “passionate about sport” but could evince no evidence of any involvement in grassroots sport) went home at 10.30am. The host NGB on the day were said to be “fuming” and the head of something or other at Sport England has been quoted as calling the whole programme “rather embarrassing”. At Price Waterhouse et al, where incidentally you can get six different types of coffee, the word is that “the client is very pleased”.





Row Z
The view from the back of the stand

last edition


other news

contact Row Z

Pssst! Wanna buy a trolley?

an independent view for the leisure industry

front page


back issues





about us

contact us

back page