Tag Archives: sports

Football League to Ban Use of Public Highways for Leeds United Employees? – by Rob Atkinson

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Football League Board – due to meet on Thursday

The Football League Board is due to meet on Thursday this week to discuss the “Spygate” controversy and investigate any possible options for sanctions against Leeds United. The League is understood to be frustrated but not discouraged by the fact that no rules or regulations have been broken. The additional fact that the Leeds scout was standing on a public highway and looking through a transparent mesh fence will also be taken into consideration but, again, the Football League remains optimistic that this will not be a bar to some form of punishment for the club, Marcelo Bielsa or, ideally, both.

One possibility that is said to have crossed the minds of certain FL Board members – not a very long journey, it must be said – would be the introduction of a ban on all employees of Leeds United using public highways while failing to avert their eyes from the lawful activities of rival clubs. If some retrospective element could be incorporated in such a ban, then it may yet be possible to punish Leeds, even though United are quite prepared to make the obvious defence that Derby County are not really rivals.

The Football League insists that it is taking its responsibilities towards member clubs determined to throw a spanner in the Leeds United works “very seriously indeed”. A spokesman for the League commented that attempts had been made to distract them from this major issue by raising questions about Leeds United players being headbutted by opponents during matches at Elland Road, with the perpetrators getting off without punishment, “and other such frivolous and irrelevant matters”. He went on to confirm that “nothing will deflect us from pursuing our primary duty, which is to protect our brand and its commercial success by keeping Leeds United down at all costs”. Up to eleven other Championship clubs are said to feel reassured by this stance, with the general feeling being one of confidence that the League would hammer Leeds if at all possible.

Frank Lampard OBE, 40 going on 14, is still prone to tantrums and must be mollified.

 

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How Trash Media is Giving an Undeserved Platform to the Clueless End of the Leeds Support – by Rob Atkinson

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The Leeds United purveyor of clueless rubbish – now with own media platform

One of the worst things about any Leeds United defeat is venturing on to social media afterwards and having your senses bombarded by the witless comments of the knowledge-free element of Leeds United’s online support – those armchair experts who are suddenly sure that they know far better than Marcelo Bielsa and that, into the bargain, they are somehow equipped to do a far better job, be it in player recruitment, tactics, selection or coaching. The easy thing to do, of course, is laugh at such brainless rubbish, as well as at the overgrown spoilt children who spout it. But the time after a chastening defeat is a raw and uncomfortable interlude – perhaps it’s better to stay away from Twitter, Facebook and the other mouthpieces of the terminally idiotic, and concentrate on more informed sources instead.

Sadly, though, even that course is not free from its irritant factor. Because, over the past year or so, it’s been noticeable just how many of these “news sources” seem to consist largely of websites that spend far too much time trawling the gutter section of social media, and recycling the arrant nonsense to be found there as some sort of reportage. So, you get headlines like:

‘TERRIBLE TODAY’ – THESE LEEDS UNITED FANS WERE FAR FROM IMPRESSED WITH MIDFIELDER IN WEEKEND LOSS

or:

”ALWAYS BOTTLE IT IN THE BIG GAMES” – LEEDS UNITED FANS CRITICISE UNDERPERFORMING STARS AFTER STUNNING DEFEAT

Rubbish like that will always get the clicks, of course, which has to be the sole reason for quoting such uninformed, nay, brainless sources in the first place. But it’s all so dismally disappointing, and moreover it’s incredibly depressing that so many so-called fans will provide such material in the first place, when their first and only function is to support the team. The point is that, before the advent of social media, the ramblings of such ignoramus fans would only bother those unlucky enough to live with them, or perhaps share a public bar with them in those difficult early post-defeat hours. But now, everyone can tell the world their idiot opinions and, as if that were not bad enough, there’s some eager hack ready to take such bletherings down, for quotation and recycling as “news”. That’s such a crock, I can hardly bear to write about it. As if it’s not bad enough having that IQ deficient has-been Robbie Savage foisted upon us. At least he once played the game, or at least his own version of it.

I exempt Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything, of course, from these very salient and all too relevant remarks, along with various other highly reputable Leeds United blogs, and even some from other clubs too. The problem that I’m targeting – and I’m entirely sincere about this – is the consequence of the knee-jerk reaction merchant, who simply goes onto Twitter or Facebook to vent some spleen, with no thought or intention of being taken seriously as news – and who then finds him or herself quoted as some sort of authority, even when they’re calling a respected footballer some childish name, or otherwise making solid gold asses of themselves. You’re always going to get that, sadly – the real guilty parties are those who lazily reap these worthless comments wholesale and retail them piecemeal, simply as clickbait. It’s deeply annoying – and God only knows what the professionals must make of it. The fact of the matter is that what some herbert in Bramley thinks is not news – but it’s being presented as such by cynical opportunists, along with the collective lack of wisdom of the dimmer end of Leeds United’s (or any club’s, for that matter) support.

It appears, though, that trash media will be with us for as long as there are enough clueless so-called “fans” to spout their rubbish into the ether – and that’s likely to be forever, as we live in the age of instant and unconsidered opinion. It’s almost enough to make you miss the days when the worst problem of this sort were the sad little legion of pub bores. At least, with them, at the cost of a pint of perfectly good ale, you could if you so chose empty your glass over their thick heads and douse the problem that way. Maybe some virtual equivalent of that drastic option would be a useful next step for those who seek to improve the Internet and online news experience.

I’m honestly not putting the knock on thousands of football fans out there with perfectly valid views – it’s just that those fans seem to be both in the minority and ignored by the said trash media, who only want the laughably extreme views – because that’s what gets the clicks. Every now and again, you get somebody sensible being quoted, or maybe a knowledgeable ex-pro – but it’s becoming rarer, because so many “news sources”, the online equivalents of the Sun or Daily Sport, choose this easy, lazy option of scraping the social media barrel and giving a voice to those who would, quite frankly, be better off with laryngitis.

Let these opportunist websites do a bit of honest work, for a change, and switch to seeking quotes from the clued-up and not the clueless. And let the rentagob “fans”, who seem to think they know better than a world-renowned coach like Bielsa, stick to the pub where they belong. And may they end up with those well-deserved and nobly sacrificed pints right over their empty heads.

“Travel Man” in Barcelona: Channel 4 Sacrifices a Great Idea on the Altar of Cheap Laughs

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Ayoade and his self-adoring comedy face


Barcelona
is a city I love and have visited frequently, my passion for the place surviving even my witnessing of a 4-0 massacre suffered by my beloved Leeds United. This explains the enthusiasm I felt for this Travel Man series opener – and also my deep sense of frustration and annoyance, having endured an hour of irritating ego-tripping and hopefully-funny silliness masquerading as an informative travel programme. Never have I started to watch a TV offering with a greater sense of anticipatory relish – only to end up feeling I’d have been better employed and more fulfilled eating a plateful of dried locusts.

The two presenters – Richard Ayoade and Kathy Burke – promised much initially, but fell woefully short of their supposed brief. This was, ostensibly, to sum up the attractions of a vibrant and wonderful city and maybe have a few laughs along the way. Ayoade, best-known (though not by me) as a presenter of a gadget show called The IT Crowd, was culprit in chief for what I count as this show’s failure. The premise in Travel Man is that “Richard hates travel and holidays – so what will he make of 48 hours away from home?” Sadly, all else was subordinate to this contrived central message, which Adoyade proceeded relentlessly to hammer home in the most unsubtle way imaginable. It was my first taste of his – for want of a better word – style; I shall not be putting myself out to repeat the experience.

From early in the piece, it was clear that Travel Man was to be the vehicle whereby Ayoade might reach a wider audience and give them the benefit of what he fondly imagines is his laconic and laid-back presentational personality. The dreaded “comedy voice” was a frequent intruder into his narrative; that annoying way of introducing ironic quotation marks by vocal inflection, so that the listener will (hopefully) be inescapably aware that here is a windswept and interesting cynic with an edgy and alternative view on pretty much everything he sees. Some people can carry this off and even make some decent entertainment out of it; Ayoade, on this depressing evidence, patently can’t.

In contrast to my zero prior knowledge of Ayoade, Kathy Burke is a performer I’ve always liked and rated – but here, she was drawn into a teeth-curling attempt to create an unlikely comic double-act. Everything of substance was sacrificed in the effort to get as much ironic comedy as possible – frankly, not a lot – out of this incongruous pairing. Whatever the lure of Barcelona’s many and varied points of interest, it all had to be about Richard Ayoade and his reactions to whatever he saw; a self-indulgent and subjective take on each too-hurried item with the twitchily uncomfortable Ms Burke doing her best to play up to her colleague’s self-adoration.

Thus, in the interests of establishing the desired laugh-a-minute feel to the thing, there was an awkward “Ooh, we have to share a hotel suite” moment with Ms Burke seeming to fear some unlikely molestation from her clearly aloof partner in crime; then there was some cringe-worthy banter at the Nou Camp football stadium, magnificent home of CF Barcelona – where Ayoade was at some pains to demonstrate his effete apathy towards the Beautiful Game – and next some frankly repulsive emetic slapstick in a restaurant, to the bemusement of the admirably patient, polite and professional staff. Burke is a highly capable performer, but she was rather dragged down to the level of her colleague, who was clearly preoccupied with projecting his individual personality over the whole undertaking.

So, instead of being treated to Barcelona’s panoply of vivid beauty and unique art, we got a series of laboriously ponderous set-ups culminating in yet another of Ayoade’s hopefully-cutting one-liners – drawled and mannered punchlines that invariably failed to be even a fraction as devastating as they were clearly intended to be. It was bitterly disappointing fare, and Burke did well to hide the embarrassment she must surely have felt. Perhaps she will reflect that, as an accomplished comedienne, she should not be wasting her time playing stooge to a partner who should have stayed at home surrounded by his gadgets – rather than stepping so far out of that comfort zone into the pitiless and unforgiving arena of comedy.

The victim in all of this squalid waste of time and opportunity – apart from the hapless viewer, sat seething with all hopes dashed – is of course the city of Barcelona itself. A feature-length programme could hardly do justice to its many attractions: the beauty and individuality of its Gaudi-dominated architecture; the culture that shines dazzlingly out of every sunlit surface; the cuisine, the sport, the history. It’s all there in one precious jewel of a city, just waiting to be described and marvelled over. But, disgracefully, we got none of that – in fact it is sadly fair to say that by far the most informative aspects of the whole production were the occasional graphics which flashed up, telling us the price of this or that and highlighting one or other sight worth seeing. Meanwhile, Ayoade and Burke were tenaciously flogging away at the dead horse of their joint comedic potential; it was grisly, unrewarding viewing.

What we did learn is that Richard Ayoade loves Richard Ayoade, and is keen to share that passion with a broader interest group than his usual audience of geeks – but that he is guilty of the cardinal sin of any wannabe comedian: that of forgetting to be funny. And we also learned that Kathy Burke, when handed lemons, will do her solid best to make lemonade, bless her. On this occasion, though, she should have thrown those lemons at her partner’s smug countenance – and hopped straight back on the train home. If she had – then maybe I and doubtless thousands of others might have been spared the empty disappointment felt after a production, that could have achieved so much, ended up delivering nothing but resentment. The knowledge that there went an hour of my life I’m never going to get back left me wondering what the effortlessly authoritative Michael Portillo might have done with such a nugget of a travel show idea. He could not, let’s face it, have been worse – and you just know that he’d have been far, far better – by an order of several hundred magnitudes.

This series will tragically continue with what we might dolefully expect to be a similar treatment of Istanbul, but it won’t have me for company. My advice is to stay at home instead of being tempted to go along for the ride and, with all due deference to Richard Ayoade’s forcefully-professed and overtly squeamish dislike of muddied oafs – see if there’s any football on.

The Key To England’s Quest For World Cup Glory – Could It Be LESS Money?

It’s not been a good year for England’s international football team.  Of course, this is something that can be stated, quite accurately, most years.  It’s a recurring problem, the way we always seem to fail to punch our weight in the big tournaments.  The World Cup qualifiers this autumn 2012 were a case in point.

An over-riding concern, as far as the actual football goes, must be the depressing lack of quality in an England team made up, as usual, of multi-millionaires, millionaires, and perhaps two or three of the merely very rich.

Against San Marino, a motley crew of one lower-league pro and ten part-timers, the pride of England laboured mightily, but showed very little class or penetration, admittedly against opposition whose ambitions stretched no further forward than the halfway line. But still, the glass-half-full brigade will argue, we won by five – and so we did.  But it could and should have been better, and we can’t avoid the question of why it wasn’t.

Poland provided a higher class of opponent, but having taken the lead, somewhat fortuitously, England couldn’t build on it, couldn’t stem the tide of red flowing towards them, and couldn’t hold their lead.  Where, we are justified in asking, was the class and composure?  Where were the passing skills, why was possession so hard to win and to retain?

With the money in the game, the long-established infrastructure, and the size of our nation relative, say, to a country like Holland which produces excellence as a matter of course, we should be doing better.  Something is rotten in the state of England.  What are the missing ingredients?

Allow me to propose an old-fashioned answer: pride and passion.

Now, I’m not suggesting that the players who represent England are lacking totally in either commodity, but I would venture the opinion that this is no longer the over-riding motivation.  Money – oodles of it – looms far too large within the game.  To clear the players’ heads, to rid them of competing considerations and leave them focused on the job in hand, to nurture the mindset that they are representing their country, and carrying the hopes of millions, I would propose – quite seriously – that we abandon henceforth the practice of paying players to play for England.

This is not a new idea, not by any means.  Before World War Two, players selected for England were invited to choose a match fee or a souvenir medal – not both.  They invariably opted for the medal – and this in an era when professional football wages were capped at a level not far above those of a skilled worker.  But pride and passion motivated them.

Nowadays of course, footballers earn a vast amount, and some would say good luck to them – but do they really need to be paid over and above their club contracts for what is still a signal honour?  How does this affect the way we see them?

As things stand, the emotional distance between the crowd and the players is magnified by a patently enormous gulf in financial status, which breeds resentment among the fans when things aren’t going well on the field (look at him, fifty grand a week, and he couldn’t trap a bag of cement). Would the frequently toxic nature of that crowd/team relationship not be improved if the players were really playing for the shirt and the cap, and nothing else?

Removal of monetary rewards would not be universally popular among the players – but might this not help sort out the committed from the opportunist, and thus – to risk an archaic phrase – engender a more positive team spirit?

There would be no unpalatable need for the FA to profit by the players’ noble sacrifice.  The money that now goes on match fees and bonuses should instead be diverted to a charity of the players’ choice – and would this not only provide an additional incentive to win, but also enhance the team’s good-guy credentials?

They might feel, deep inside, that they’re a cut above the opposition – who are shamelessly, brazenly, doing it for the money.  It might even give them that crucial edge. Success is, after all, about the steady accumulation of marginal gains.

No match fees or any bonus, not a red cent – just an international cap.  No taint of lucre in the motivations of the players, who would in any case be set for life even if they never earned another penny.  No charge of “mercenary footballers” from a disgruntled crowd – rather it would be:  well done lads, you’re doing it for England and glory.  If you didn’t win – well, we know you were giving of your best, for love of the shirt and charitable causes.

Can there be a better incentive than national pride and sheer altruism, uncluttered by the financial bottom line?  Wouldn’t there just possibly be a whole new dynamic around the currently embattled England setup that might even take us onwards and upwards?  Am I being hopelessly idealistic or even naïve?  Perhaps – but I would humbly suggest that it’s got to be a better way, and is certainly worth a try.