High Ground edition 10; dateline 26 January 2012
In with the new
Happy New Year or Bliadhna Mhath Ur, ‘Bleeana Va Oor’ as it is said “in the Gaelic” here in Chilly Jockoland. A big sporting year looms, what with the five-ring circus and all that down in the Big Smoke, Andy Murray taking more tilts at the biggees, more and more qualifiers for Scotland at the footy, and Glasgow Warriors moving to a new ground at Scotstoun Showground Sports Centre to play their Rabo Pro-Direct rugby. That’s right, a professional rugby team playing out of a local authority sports centre (well, a third sector voluntary trust but they are running it more dynamically than ever before). And “The Cooncil” still own the asset, which makes it all the more radical, er, dude. Of course, the upgraded surroundings have a wee something to do with the other major multisport event on the horizon, the Commie Games – the Empire Games as was, and there will be more on the theme of empire later. I need to mention these Games as it’s pretty much part of the contract for anyone penning anything about London 2012 in these parts, especially for civil servants or national agency types. Here’s to all of you, wishing you a healthy and prosperous year ahead.
The final countdown?
Forget the ageing rock band reference, it is now however many days until the Olympics and a different number of days until Glasgow 2014 but both of these pale into insignificance when compared to the political story of early 2012. It is one thousand days until people living in Scotland get to vote on whether Scotland moves to become an independent country once again after a period of 300 years within the United Kingdom. Well Great Britain first, then, a bit later, the UK of GB & NI to be picky. I think.
What about the bubble world of sport in all this? What will be the first reactions once the realpolitik kicks in? You can almost hear the squeals of delight from within some smaller Scottish governing bodies which have ‘parental’ UK bodies as people think “Ya beauty!” No more spats, disputes, wrangling and grievances. I can also hear the less enthusiastic “I’m all right, Union Jack” sports administrators who enjoy being in with the “big boys” as they think, “Oh holy cr*p. All my excursions to sexy hotspots like East Midlands Airport will end and I’ll have to go to places like Stornoway instead – and I don’t even know where that is!”
Then there’ll be the “If Scotland was independent we would win fewer medals at like the Olympics and stuff, so that would be a bad thing” brigade. But hold on a wee minute. Scotland doesn’t win any medals at all at the Olympics just now because it doesn’t actually compete at the Olympics. And let’s not even think about the Scottish football scene’s reactions. “Will we still get to see the Premiership on TV?”, “What about the Old Firm, will they not get into an English League after all now?”, and “What about the flags? What will we wave at derby games?” We’ve got plenty to choose from there at least.
At the national governing body end, will the Scottish FA change its name back to the SFA or go the whole hog and start calling itself simply the FA, er, in Scotland? It was weird watching an SFA guru recently saying, in response to moves from the Scottish government to further boost the efforts towards more PE in schools, that events such as the Olympics and Commonwealth Games were “inspirational” and “must have decent legacies” or it would be a disgrace. Considering the official SFA position is to strongly advise professional players not to participate in the GB football team, I thought this was either typical and breathtaking governing body doublespeak or perhaps actually a master class in altruism, saying young people should look at sports other than the round ball game for their future participation.
Paraphrasing the words of Jessie J, it will also be about the money ker-ching ker-ching in sport too. I was reading on the BBC news site of the largesse coming the way of community sport and clubs in England as part of Mr J Hunt’s £1billion legacy from London 2012. There was me thinking the Olympics was a UK event, Seb old boy. I tried looking at the various figures from different strands of investment, applying the Scottish 9% of the UK population share to the numbers and then square that with the fact that Sportscotland’s budgets all seem to be heading south (as in going down) at the same time but I got lost in the figures.
To finish on a wee word of warning. A few years ago national sports agency staff got a little bit sniggery about an SNP Scottish parliamentary opposition floating a Scottish Olympic Team under the precedents set by Dominions and Protectorates. Then there was a similar, if possibly more formal, “Aye right” when the opposition became a minority government. Now that minority government is a majority one and an Olympic team could become a political gamechanger in a few year’s time, which all goes to show that if a week is a long time in politics an Olympic cycle can be surprisingly short.
MacSideliner could not let the first edition of the year go by without [Another. Ed] mention of the mighty Chris Paterson and his retirement from international rugby. All-time Scottish points and kicking record holder and third-highest try scorer with 22 tries, only three off being top (and if some of his team-mates had looked left or right this season the record would have been his). A fantastic role model with the majority of youngsters quoted in international match programmes regularly citing him as their favourite player, despite not having dyed blond hair or being 22 years old. All that and 12 and a half stone dripping wet. Mind you but he must have felt heavier, just ask Ben Foden and Luke Maclean. More importantly, Chris is always the last player down the tunnel at the end of Edinburgh Rugby games because he always stays for that one last photograph and have a bit of a chat into the bargain. And lest we forget, TLR readers, he was also the man that enabled MacSideliner to explain both the linguistic intricacies and the mystical health benefits of Porage and Porridge. When will we see his like again? Cue music, cue mist.
The High Ground
An alternative view of the Scottish sport, leisure and culture landscape