Monday, September 26, 2005

Monday 5

Five football pundits were asked in the Guardian what five things they would do to improve football. Martin Tyler, commentator for SKY Sports, in a breathtaking degree of short sightedness or loyalty to the company who have caused a lot of the problems listed ‘reduce swearing’ as his number one priority. Still, it made me think, what my five things are:

1. Reduce ticket prices
Reduce tickets means increased demand. Whilst this is often cited as a mechanism for bringing back t’working classes to the game, my reasoning is a little more hard nosed. If a football stadium is simply a backdrop for corporate hospitality or TV entertainment, a full ground makes a much better product.

2. Limit squad sizes
If a club is limited to, say 24-26 players which can be changed and refreshed during the transfer window, a few injuries and suspensions for the top clubs will even things out. This will open up an element of luck to the season. It will also put more focus on managers because chequebooks will not solve all their problems. And it will prevent larger teams from negative buying i.e. buying up talented players to sit on the bench, depriving others from playing them, or buying to ‘enhance our global brand’.

3. Reduce live TV coverage
Or more specifically reduce the amount of Premiership coverage. There are four professional divisions in England, five including the Conference. One live game per division per weekend will allow a majority of games to kick-off 3pm on a Saturday, will increase the coverage of lower league clubs and enhance the build up to the big Premiership game of the weekend.

4. Only the champions get into the champions league
The Champions League has polarised football. Next season Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea will be in the Champions League. So will Real Madrid and Barcelona, AC Milan and Juventus, Bayern Munich, blah de-blah de-blah. The most interesting thing about European qualification is who will come fourth in the Premiership; and even that is getting predictable. Let the champions benefit from the Champions League.

5. Redistribute money throughout the divisions
Wayne Rooney, Michael Essien and Michael Owen cost a combined total of £71 million. Their combined weekly salary could easily top £180,000. Senior professionals in League 2 earn in the region of £40k a year and their clubs are struggling to stay afloat. Not so long ago Watford, Swansea, Oxford and Wimbledon all went from the lower leagues to the top division and did well. There is no realistic chance of that happening at the moment.

Monday, September 19, 2005


When England won the rugby world cup, after the game Spanx and I went to watch Oxford play, I think, Lincoln. At half time he phoned Baz, not a rugby fan, to see how Reading were getting on. “What did you think of the rugby?” Spanx asked, “It was OK, a bit gay.” said Baz.

That’s kind of how I feel about The Ashes. Like a lot of people, I watched and listened to more cricket this summer than ever before. And it was great, like a classic novel, which ebbed and flowed, from dark to light, despair to joy.

Not that I’m a particular authority on this analogy because I really don’t read enough. I wish I did, like I wish I was a cricket fan. But it just isn’t my sport; I would be a fraud if I were to nod sagely about ‘reverse swing’ and ‘playing for the light’. I know enough to see that Shane Warne is, perhaps, the greatest cricketer that ever lived, simply because he is so much better than anyone else and that Andrew Flintoff is a charismatic swashbuckling everyman. But I couldn’t be so bold to refer to him as ‘Freddie’.

I wish I was into Cricket, during the recent tour of the Windies, Spanx and I spent an afternoon hypnotised by England’s fierce attack which culminated in Matthew Hoggard taking a hat-trick. But I walked away, now, to care about it seems inappropriate, to get excited about something I didn’t care about 2 months ago doesn’t seem right.

It’s a shame, because my sport, football, is sliding into recession. Chelsea is making the Premiership a tedious procession; the premiership is widening the divide between the rich and the poor, so the 16 teams that could conceivably go down this season are more concerned about losing than winning, the roots are being ripped from the branches making dreams about taking clubs from obscurity to silverware obsolete. It’s no longer interesting to watch the giants of Europe clash in the Champions League, simply because they do it so often. Cricket will never overtake football as the national sport, but it does make for a more interesting spectacle, I just feel like I’m gate crashing someone else’s party.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Is it just plain mean or plain ironic?

The woman next to me in the gym was reading one of those magazines that promises to reveal the secrets behind Martine McCutcheon’s new bikini body. The page she was reading was a story of a woman who thought she was a man because she had no vagina. Having read that, she turned to an article on the next page on how to achieve the ultimate orgasm.

Monday, September 05, 2005

(Going) home is where the heart (ache) is

Dateline: Havana. Project: getting home from holiday. We woke and it was raining; raining quite hard. This was the outer edges of Hurricane Katrina that was sweeping across the Florida Keys. We checked out from our hotel, as scheduled at 12pm.

+1 hour – The rain means a trip to La Plaza de la Revolution is replaced with a trip to the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes

+3 hour – Back at the hotel, lunch

+4 hours – Walk to Parque Central Hotel to leave a message for a parent from Emma’s school that is in Cuba doing some work for Simply Red.

+5.5 hours – Bus picks us up; on the bus are Angharad and Drew. Angharad drives a drug education bus that visits Emma’s school every Summer. Not only is this slightly bizarre, it’s actually the second time this has happened; we bumped into them in Dubrovnik last year.

+6 hours – Arrive at the airport; informed that there is a four hour delay and the flight will not leave until 1am. We’re given lunch vouchers as compensation.

+7 hours – Go to the restaurant to get free lunch, turned away because of recently invented and obviously arbitrary rule that the free lunches were for the first 30 people only.

+8.5 hours – Go through passport control (two minutes per person). Drew is questioned as to why he has a British passport but was born in LA.

+9 hours – Arrive in departures; the restaurant options are manky hotdogs, manky hamburgers or manky pizza. I have a manky pizza.

+9.5 hours to +15 hours – Rain. No flights. No seats. No news. Rain starts coming through the roof filling up bins. Rain starts to come through light fittings, lights start to short out. Bins fill up and flood the floor. Messages and rumours start to circulate; the airport has been closed for hours, no it hasn’t, yes it has.

+15 hours – Departure time. No plane. Rain.

+16 hours – London flight called to gate B1, passengers go back through passport control, reclaim their bags and their visas (Emma, in a moment of trickery Paul Daniels would be proud of, manages to somehow pick my visa up and then put it back in the pile causing a momentary panic that it’s lost).

+16.5 hours – 500+ passengers with associated luggage stand outside Havana airport looking at coaches.

+18.5 hours – a long charade of people getting on coaches, then off coaches, then on coaches again. All of which is punctuated by false alarms, stampedes and one man shouting “PRESENTE” every two minutes. Rain is now lashing down.

+19.5 hours – Eventually board a coach which takes us to a deserted resort in Kholey. One couple complain that the mini-bar is locked and unplugged; some of us are grateful for a dry, clean bed to sleep in.

+24 hours – Wake up, miss breakfast, wander around resort.

+28 hours – Lunch, due to awful selection I have a plate of rice and pasta. Drinks are extra; then they’re free and give everyone their money back.

+29 hours – Coach arrives.

+30 hours – Arrive at check in desk, check in desk is closed.

+31.5 hours - Check in, plane due to leave at 4pm, delayed until 6pm.

+33 hours – Passport control (2 minutes per person)

+37 hours – Plane delayed from 6pm to 9pm.

+38 hours – 9pm. Plane delayed until 11pm.

+40.5 hours – Man with his head wrapped in toilet paper, wanders around the airport with an empty bottle of rum and a sign saying ‘28 hours’. Whoops and cheers all round.

+42 hours – No announcement and the wrong gate is showing the London flight but the plane begins to board. Emma is so demoralised she seriously suggests we don’t get on, after all, “we’ll just have to get off again”.

+42.5 hours – Flight CUB400 for London takes off 27 hours late.

+51 hours – lands London Gatwick (although it’s announced by the pilot as Heathrow)

+52 hours – Passport control, bags.

+52.5 Coaches. Car

+54 Home.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Road rage

Do you know how to re-surface a road? Well, there’s a big machine that looks like a mechanical elephant that skims the surface off, then another machine with a big tray spreads out the new tarmac, then a big roller flattens it out, and a big sweeping machine cleans the surface and gets rid of any debris.

They’re re-surfacing our road at the moment, because it’s a busy road it’s being done overnight so not to inconvenience rush hour commuters (the poor lambs). We asked the burly workmen if we'd hear anything while they worked; “Not a squeak” said burly workman #1.

We certainly haven’t heard a squeak; probably because it was being drowned out by the thumping, roaring and banging noises.

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