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Month: January 2007

Come On You… Reds?

There are, in all likelihood, three years until the next General Election in this country, but that doesn’t mean that the electioneering hasn’t started already. There was a time in this country, of course, when we football supporters were pariahs, deemed worthy of David Evans lamentable and deplorable membership scheme, and blamed for Hillsborough and the Bradford Fire, even though both of these tragedies were, at best, horrible accidents, and, more likely, the result of massive institutional failings. Nowadays, though, we’re all middle class, and our votes are as good as anybody else’s. Most opinion polls are indicating that it might just be too close to call – the battle might just be on for the hearts and souls of Britain’s millions of football supporters. After Hillsborough, of course, Lord Justice Taylor’s report into the safety of British football stadia provided the blueprint for what would become the Premiership, and one of the furthest reaching of his findings was that all stadia in the top two divisions of English football should be all-seater. The days of the terraces were numbered. The clubs, in spite of the massive cost, wasted no time. For the first couple of season, the stadia of the Premiership looked like building sites, as clubs tore down their ancient terraces and replaced them with glistening steel stands, filled with row after row of shiny, plastic bucket...

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State Of The Nations

Apropos nothing, I got involved in a debate today over the involvement of a British football team in the 2012 Olympic Games. It has dawned upon me over the course of the afternoon that this is a subject that I haven’t tackled on here before, so (stifle your yawns, boys and girls) here we go. Unlike football and rugby, the Olympic games sees the United Kingdom enter a unified team. It always has done. This has created a problem for British involvement in the Olympics football tournament, because the International Olympic Committee won’t let separate English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish teams compete. It has to be, as it stands, a single, unified British team. The Olympic Football tournament, you may or may not be surprised to know, pre-dates the World Cup by a considerable amount of time. After enormous amounts of tinkering, the IOC and FIFA, they arrived at a solution which allows the competition to be a meaningful competition without threatening the status of the World Cup. Since 1992, it has been an under-23 tournament, with three over-age players allowed per squad. There is no question that there will be a football tournament at the 2012 Olympics, of course. It will be one of the big money-spinners of the whole event, but will the hosts be there? Well, the British Olympic Association met at the end of...

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Grandstand: An Obituary

So, farewell then, “Grandstand”. The BBC’s flagship sports programme closed for business after nearly forty-nine years on Saturday, so today we’re going to take a moment to say goodbye to it once and for all. The BBC had initially announced that the programme was to be scaled down and phased out by 2009, so the news of its sudden termination was a surprise, to say the least. This was, after all, the programme that brought us, among many, many other things, the 1966 World Cup final, the famous 1973 Barbarians vs New Zealand rugby match and harrowing live coverage of the Bradford fire and the Hillsborough disaster. It’s right up there with “The Sky At Night” and “Panorama” as being amongst Britain’s oldest and most venerable TV shows. Somebody, however, was in a hurry, and so it has come to pass that it has gone from our screens quite suddenly and, since the BBC apparently can’t be bothered to see it off, I might as well have a go myself. The programme was launched in October 1958, as a Saturday afternoon package of highlights mixed with live action. You can hear the original theme music here. By the early 1970s, the formula of the programme was set. It all started with “Football Focus”, a lunchtime preview of the weekend’s football action. This was followed by horse racing (usually six...

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Another Saturday And Sweet FA

Well, the FA Cup Fourth Round kicks off in half an hour or so, with Luton Town playing Blackburn Rovers at Kenilworth Road. It’s probably too much to ask for Luton to repeat the entertainment that they gave us last year, when they raced into a two goal lead against Liverpool in the Third Round. It was one of the great games of any tournament over the last ten years or so. Meanwhile, Blackburn’s 4-1 win at Everton in the last round received nowhere near the attention that it deserved. They’ll have one eye on the FA Cup this season with a view to going all the way in it. Luton are in free-fall in the League, and are heading towards a long, difficult spring. Having said that, though, they have one thing on their side – Kenilworth Road itself. If there’s one ground that no top division player would want to visit, it’s the cramped and noisy Kenilworth Road – one of the last few remaining old-style football grounds. Elsewhere, Chelsea will surely have too much for Nottingham Forest, though Forest supporters can at least spend the afternoon lording it over Chelsea. The scoreline remains 2-0 to Forest in terms of European Cups, and I can’t see them letting Roman Abramovich forget that this afternoon. Arsenal could well come unstuck against Bolton tomorrow – Sam Allardyce has built...

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The Chairman Of The Board

So after 17 years, Lennart Johansson has been ousted, and Michel Platini is the new President of UEFA. There are those that are concerned about this, primarily because he was endorsed by Sepp “Weak” Blatter. Now Blatter has many faults, but he has backed the winning horse here, in my humble opinion. Platini wants to bring back a little bit of equality to European football, and it seems possible that he might just put all of the right noses out of joint. His main proposal, to reduce the number of clubs from the “big” clubs playing in the Champions League from four to three. This proposal, popular with the smaller nations that would fill the vacuum, may well have been what won him the final vote. The argument is a fairly simple one. European football is a rapidly becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. The same vapid clubs making up the last eight every year, playing each other in an atmosphere of fake hatred stirred up by the media. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot with Chelsea and Barcelona logos on them stamping on a human face – forever. The winners pocket the most money, and the losers fall further behind – and so on, and so forth. Getting rid of the fourth placed teams from The Premiership and La Liga may just give some of...

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