Monday, September 29, 2008

That'll teach them...

A good mate sent me this recently by email. It made me smile so much, I thought it deserved a wider audience...

According to a news report, a certain private school in Taringa, New Zealand was recently faced with a unique problem.

A number of 12-year-old girls were beginning to use lipstick and would put it on in the bathroom. That was fine, but after they put on their lipstick they would press their lips to the mirror leaving dozens of little lip prints.

Every night the maintenance man would remove them and the next day the girls would put them back.

Finally the principal decided that something had to be done. She called all the girls to the bathroom and met them there with the maintenance man. She explained that all these lip prints were causing a major problem for the custodian who had to clean the mirrors every night.

To demonstrate how difficult it had been to clean the mirrors, she asked the maintenance man to show the girls how much effort was required.

He took out a long-handled squeegee, dipped it in the toilet, and cleaned the mirror with it.

Since then, there have been no lip prints on the mirror.

There are teachers... and then there are educators...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

FIFA: utterly spineless in the face of racism...

As I have written here before, the Throne will have no truck with racism or with racists, which is why I find the "punishment" meted out to the Croatian Football Association, following the abuse - consisting of monkey chants and the like - heaped on England's Emile Heskey during the recent international match at the Maksimir Stadium so depressingly inadequate.

The abuse Heskey endured was such that our FA made an official complaint about his treatment to FIFA, the world governing body for Association Football (or soccer for my North American visitors).

In announcing that it was fining the Croatian FA, a FIFA spokesman observed:

"Racism has no place in football. Fifa is determined to continue broadcasting this message around the globe and deploying all of the means at its disposal to eliminate this form of discrimination."

And in the next breath they revealed that the fine would be... £15,000. Yes, fifteen grand; about the same price as a new mid-range Ford Focus.

Pathetic enough, given the seriousness of the "Heskey" offence, but criminally inadequate when it is remembered that Croatian fans have something of a record in this area - they were fined a similarly trifling sum after their fans racially abused Turkish players during a match between the two countries at Euro 2008.

If FIFA was really determined to 'eliminate this form of discrimination', they should ensure that the sanctions for allowing behaviour of this sort to occur during international matches are far more severe.

My proposal would be that the first such offence should result in the offending national association being ordered to play all their home matches behind closed doors for the duration of an entire tournament, or a refusal to sell tickets to supporters of that country for the final stages of that competition. Moving on, a continued failure to learn he lesson would result in the deduction of of tournament qualifying points and finally, if the lesson has still not been learned, expulsion from international competitions, until the offending country's association could satisfy the rest of the civilised world that the problem had been permanently eradicated.

Somehow, I don't think fining repeat offenders fifteen grand is going to have the slightest effect on changing their fans' behaviour, because there is no incentive for the authorities in the nation in question to take the necessary steps ensure that it is.

Expelling them from international competitions and making them worldwide pariahs just might.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Excuses, excuses...

Sorry for the absence of posts for the last few days; I've been so monumentally busy at work that I have had little time for anything else, even at the weekend.

Fingers crossed I'll be posting normally again tomorrow...

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Pricing itself out of the game...

I can't say that this story surprised me at all, because as my regular reader will know, I am a keen football fan. I have been attending professional football matches since I was eleven and have held a season ticket at my local club since the 1974-75 season. Indeed, the purchase of that ticket formed part of my Christmas present for a number of years; which brings me to the point of this post.

Those early season tickets cost the princely sum of £10.00. Granted it was well over thirty years ago and was the ‘junior and senior citizen’ price, but it was well within the reach of most people.

My son is now sixteen and his ticket – amongst the cheapest in the country, I might add – cost me £180.00, with my own being considerably more expensive, but still, when compared to those issued by other clubs, very good value.

But over the course of the intervening thirty-three years, I began to notice that fewer and fewer people I had seen attending matches for years and years seemed to be there for the next one, or the next; and all those people had one thing in common: they were all clearly ‘working class’ men.

I’m afraid the reasons for the loss of those fans are easy to pinpoint: the emergence of the Premier League/ Premiership, with it’s ever increasing player salaries and wall-to-wall coverage on Sky Television.

The first of those things saw admission prices rise sharply over the course of a couple of years (to cover at least part of those swelling wages) and significant numbers of people could no longer afford to pay them.

Those rises have continued year after year to the effect that it is now commonplace to be charged £50.00 simply to purchase a ticket and it is frequently much more.

I don’t think you have to be a mathematician to work out that a family man on a take home wage of, say, £300.00 per week would have to think very hard as to whether he could afford to attend the match, particularly when it would be considerably cheaper, not to mention warmer and more comfortable, to simply stroll along to his local (if it hasn’t closed due to the punitive duties imposed by the Chancellor) and watch it on the big screen over a few pints.

I’m afraid that football has been busily alienating its natural constituency – the working class male – for fifteen or twenty years now and those men are now lost to the game as a live spectator sport. They will never come back to it, because they and the game have moved on and because they can no longer afford to go; they get their ‘fix’ on the television instead – often in their own homes now, too, because the price of a Sky subscription is often cheaper than physically attending matches spread across the year.

Of course, with the arrival of oil sheikhs and billionaires from Russia and America, the game arguably no longer needs their money; it has undoubtedly ‘progressed’ from a pie-and-Bovril sport to one populated by what Roy Keane memorably described, or should that be derided, as the prawn sandwich brigade.

Does the change of the game’s character and the loss of those legions of its former fans matter, when nearly eighty thousand people regularly squeeze into Old Trafford, or sixty thousand are shoe-horned into the Emirates?

For me, the answer is an unequivocal yes.

The game can ill afford to lose any fans, particularly those from the working classes who have been its life-blood for over a hundred years. To price such people out of attending is short-termism of the most idiotic kind, because when the money currently swamping the English game dries up, as surely it will, and the arriviste fans disappear with it, who will the game turn to then?

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Amir Khan: a stumble, not the end...

Sad to see Amir Khan, the Bolton-born boxer and role model for young Asian Muslims, beaten so quickly and comprehensively by Colombian Breidis Prescott at the MEN arena in Manchester last night.

Up until that knock-out (in less than a minute) by his more experienced opponent, Khan’s career in the ring had been one of undiluted success.

However, Amir – a Lancastrian, of course - is only twenty-one years of age and has plenty of time on his side to regroup and return to title-winning ways.

Very often, the most valuable lessons in life are learned though adversity and defeat; that is the challenge he faces this morning as he looks at his bruised face in the bathroom mirror.

I believe he is equal to it.