Category Archives: The Layman

Sir Alex desperately tries to regain political balance

 

The problem with business news is that it is really, really, REALLY boring, but a bigger problem is that it is kind of really important and as the football business (as it is a business after all) grows, so does the importance of business news grow.

And news that came out today is something of a doozie and that’s before even coming to the story coming out of Portsmouth today.

No, instead, the news involves Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United and something called a share listing.

Basically, the Glazer family who own United are to float the club on the New York stock exchange with the aim of generating around £210m from selling 10% of the shares in the club; some 16.7million shares in total.

Reports in the media stated that Ferguson (as well as all employees of the club) would benefit from the scheme in a financial manner, a rumour the Scot has denied.

 

Ferguson said: “In regards to suggestions that I have praised the Glazer family because I stand to financially benefit from the proposed IPO, there is not a single grain of truth in this allegation.

“I do not receive any payments, directly or indirectly, from the IPO. Ultimately, I run the football side of this club and in order to do this, you need backing from above. The Glazer family have let me get on with my job – there is no interference or obstruction, only support.”

It is very clear why he has denied the speculation amid very well founded fears that this would alienate Ferguson from the fans of United who vehemently oppose Glazer’s ownership as it would make Ferguson an ally of the Glazers in the tug-of-war for power.

One of the most important factors in Ferguson’s role at United is his political value and ability to be in absolute control.

He manages to keep the fans on his side by appearing to oppose the Glaazers, but also has enough savvy to ensure that he is needed by the Americans.

Clearly, the £437m worth of debt saddled on the Old Trafford outfit have hindered the club’s ability to perform in the Premier and Champions League in recent years (which isn’t to say they haven’t been successful, just they could have have a lot more silverware).

Should Ferguson in anyway appear to endorse the Glazers who inflicted this debt on the club, it would destroy his relationship with the fans.

If Ferguson loses the political game of intrigue, which appearing to be on the side of the Glazers would surely do, it is probably a challenge even beyond his magnificent staying power, to hang in there, hence the swift denial in statement format (which interestingly Manchester United would not present a copy of to the BBC. Make of that what you will).

And that is why this business story is so important.

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Some reasons for Team GB’s success

So, the men’s Team GB football team have joined their female counterparts in the quarter finals of the Olympic Games, albeit with some more scares along the way.

A 1-1 draw against Senegal and conceding to the United Arab Emirates were blots on the copy book but the key thing is that the team has gotten out of the group stages unlike, say, Spain.

The progress made has been remarkably similar to that of England’s Euro 2012 campaign in terms of results and performances to an extent with impressive elements juxtaposed with poor football at other times.

However, the key differences appear to be the freedom that Team GB have enjoyed to play good football with the campaign is a real step into the unknown.

Nobody really had any expectations about how the men’s team would fair as they have never competed in the Games in modern times and that was reflected in the press coverage thus far.

A widely accepted contributory factor to England’s continued lack of silverware (success would be an incorrect term) is overwhelming public and press pressure for said success to be achieved.

Team GB has not had that expectation and so the players have had the freedom to play carefree football and the results have reflected that.

Perhaps another contribution to this is the role of the Welsh players in the squad.

Neil Taylor, Joe Allen, Ryan Giggs, Aaron Ramsey and Craig Bellamy bring vast experience at club level, no historical baggage with them and perhaps a desire to make a statement at this level as it is such a rare occurrence for them to so and they wish to make the most of it.

Their influence has been crucial in this campaign thus far and will continue to do so.

Finally, comparing GB to the England team is largely unfair as the nature and make-up of the teams is so markedly different.

A better comparison would probably be the England U-21 team in terms of composition and way in which their football is played..

The constituent parts of the team are very similar and the lack of public pressure is also a shared value.

The U-21 team has a rather fine record too under Stuart Pearce in recent years (Pearce being another key factor it would appear) unburdened with the freedom and fearlessness of youth.

There are a huge number of other factors in Team GB’s progress thus far and they have every chance of making the semi-final.

Much like last year, this is another team to be proud of for achieving in impressive style.

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At last, a national team we can be proud of

As promised yesterday, a blog post about the impact that Team GB has made on the football in the Olympics so far and, in a remarkably prescient move, what an apt decision to delay writing a post about that team until tonight.

For after all, unless you have been sans radio, TV, Internet, mobile phone etc for the last three hours, you’ll know that the women’s football team from Great Britain defeated Brazil this evening and what a performance it was.

Anyone who knows anything about football is aware of the atypical British footballing performance in major tournaments; usually glorious failure or an underwhelming exit.

But this evening, something completely different was on display; a genuinely impressive team display from a football team from Britian.

Confession time, I’m coming from a period of slight ignorance here as I don’t watch women’s football as much as one should do given the quality in the sport nowadays so apologies for being late to a party that has been going for a while.

It is probably unfair to compare tonight’s performance to that of the male footballing teams in this country, but it is quite telling when one does so.

Firstly, were England (the men’s team) to take the lead very early on in a massive game at a huge competition, no spectators would feel confident in that lead being defended until the final whistle.

But this evening, Team GB’s women defended professionally, restricting their opponents to shots from distance and not allowing any real chances to jangle the nerves.

Secondly, this was not a defensive, backs to the wall performance built on grit and bravery, not solely at least, which is so familiar to any British football fan.

This was a performance of intelligence and vision with genuine counter-attacking football from the home side that kept on threatening to score (and probably should have done so) time and time again.

Yes, Brazil are not the best side in the world in women’s football and yes, Team GB probably will not win the top prize as there are some very good sides in this tournament.

Tonight, that does not matter one single jot.

What matters is seeing a genuinely world class performance from a football team from the United Kingdom that combined our traditional values of courage and bravery with intelligence and skill which is so masterfully orchestrated by Hope Powell who deserves the highest credit for her role in delivering such a performance.

Going into the Olympics, one suspects the football was viewed with a certain amount of circumspection and apathy from many, but the way in which the women’s team has gone about their business has, at the very least, got this writer excited and proud.

Tonight, let us raise our glasses to Powell, Kelly Smith, Karen Carney, Karen Bardsley, Steph Houghton and the rest for showing that British football can play the sport like the rest of the world and beat them too.

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Could footballers sue for transfer gossip speculation?

Silly season in football is in full swing with pre-season yet to hit top gear, transfer sagas in their mindless speculation stage and the Olympics rightly taking up all of the newspaper inches.

Thus, times are tough for people writing about football as more and more left-field subjects are chosen to write about.

Team GB in the Games will be the subject of discussion tomorrow (probably) so here is a rather random post about a hypothetical; could footballers conceivably sue newspaper for transfer gossip speculation?

The definition of defamation under UK law revolves around lowering the standing of the person in question in an article in the eyes of right-minded people. Another key element in the law regards exposing the person in question to contempt or ridicule by members of society.

At university studying journalism, we were taught to consider the DIP test when tackling issues of potential defamation; does an article Defame, does it Identify a person and has it been Published?

Clearly, in the latter two cases, a piece of transfer rumour gossip achieves the latter two points of the DIP test.

However, could a piece of transfer rumour actually defame someone?

If a footballer is wrongly linked with a move to the arch rival of his current club, for example, this would cause said player to be perhaps hated by his own fans as the inference is that he sought to, or was open to, a move to the rival club, even though the report was incorrect.

Now, if the player could then prove that there was no contact between himself or his agent with the other club or any representative who works with the other club and prove that he was exposed to contempt by members of society or lowered in the eyes of right-minded people, would this not be a case of defamation?

Proving that he would be exposed to contempt could be proved quite easily through songs sung on the terraces or through Internet messageboards and Twitter, but there are stumbling blocks.

Firstly, proving there was no contact between any of the parties would be a devil of a job to prove beyond reasonable doubt what with the ease of deleting emails and so on.

Secondly, it can be argued that right-minded members of society know that they need to take football gossip rumours with a pinch of salt and that much speculation in the papers isn’t 100% accurate and make their judgements accordingly.

And thirdly, the way in which agents, players, clubs, managers and club chairman manipulate the transfer rumour media nexus when they want to means that the respective individuals involved would most likely be loath to upset an apple cart they are rather happy to keep seeing trundle along.

Many people know that players (through their agents) plant news stories about themselves to engineer a move away from a club they wish to leave or link themselves to a club they wish to join which further dampens the likelihood of jury being sympathetic to a defendant attempting to prove a lack of contact between himself and a club. ‘No smoke without fire’ is no legal precedent but its certainly can possess a place in the mind of any human being.

In conclusion then, perhaps the ingredients for a case of defamation are in place in transfer speculation stories but the system in which football operates prohibits such a spectacle taking place.

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Should we feel sorry for Pompey?

There are a number of long-running issues in football that remain unresolved that anyone with half a brain can see will at some point result in large ramifications that can be avoided if tackled early enough.

One of these problems is the ongoing crisis at Portsmouth which has been on the backburner somewhat for the last six weeks since the club’s relegation to League One.

The main stories coming out of the club since relegation from the Championship was confirmed has been the steady stream of players heading out of the door at Fratton Park and the uncertainty over just who will own the club come the start of the 2012/13 campaign on when the club kick off their season at home to Bournemouth on Saturday, August 18.

The Pompey Supporters Trust is still in contention to take over the club but would require further cuts to the wage bill but a proposal by former owner Balram Chainrai to takeover the club looks as if it is the preferred option of administrator Trevor Birch. The PST can still buy the club off of Chainrai if they so wish in the future.

Chainrai’s offer was granted preferred status on the 25th June and meant he had 28 days to make good on his proposal and begin the process of taking Portsmouth out of administration. The wage bill still in place at Portsmouth, despite being down to a first team playing squad that measures in single figures, is making both Chainrai and PST unwilling to commit fully to any proposal.

However, due to the increasing uncertainty of the clubs future, Pompey have been hit with another 10-point penalty for the start of their League One campaign next season; their fourth season in a row to be hit with a points deduction due to their financial situation.

The deduction isn’t 100% official as of yet but if whoever takes up ownership of the club chooses not to play ball, the club’s membership to play in the Football League will be turned down so the club pretty much will start next season with a deduction.

Another condition of acceptance of their membership to play in the League involves all of the football creditors they owe money to (players, teams owed transfer money etc.) be paid in full.

So, does the club really deserve the punishment?

One of the arguments that has been bandied about regarding the situation with Portsmouth since the first points deduction is that it is unfair on the fans of the club.

Up until this point, this blogger has regarded this argument with a certain amount of scepticism as the fans of the club were not complaining when the club lived clearly beyond their means under Harry Redknapp. The club revelled in their position when they succeeded by paying huge wages that everyone knew they couldn’t afford so therefore should deal with any punishment given to them when the club’s extension beyond their means came back to bite them.

The rules about punishments for entering administration are very clear and very correct; there needs to be a deterrent for entering administration as the positions offers clubs a sense of refuge by paying out a fragment of their debt and usually being saved by a benefactor rather than folding.

However, the case with Portsmouth this time around seems somewhat excessive.

Yes, the club remain in administration and the rules are indeed there for a reason but the example this time around seems overly excessive as the club has already been punished for entering THIS period of administration through their points deduction which contributed largely to their relegation last season.

Furthermore, said relegation has also seen many of the club’s players leave resulting in an even more tricky campaign this time around.

In the previous instances of punishments doled out to the club, this blogger has agreed with the reasons given but this time around, it just seems overly excessive.

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FIFA rankings not as ludicrous as they seem

The FIFA world rankings system has come in for an awful lot of stick lately and rightly so for reasons about as numerous as the number of times a Premier League football drops a c-bomb on the pitch.

 The example in vogue currently is that England sit proudly in fourth place in the rankings above such teams as Italy, Portugal, Argentina and Brazil and just three points off Uruguay in third place who they will soon replace for reasons explained later.

Past examples of similar mirth-worth included limited teams such as the USA sitting in the top ten for an inordinate amount of time and South Korea doing likewise not too long ago.

All nice, easy sticks which can be picked up and beaten over the heads of FIFA again and again and again and again and again and more times than that (you’d never guess I was filling space).

So much so that FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke had to come out and defended the system yesterday, saying There are teams who are playing more friendly games than other teams and you can see a difference which is not very logical, but the ranking I would say is clearly still a good picture of the level of international football.”

In my humble one, if you check out the FIFA rankings (and I heartily endorse clicking the link to see a rather laughable advert about FIFA-quality goalline technology at the very least) then both the system and the rankings themselves make rather good sense.

Let us start with the boring science, well, maths really, bit and look at the formula for calculating points.

Firstly, the system works on two sliding scales. The first is based on the average number of ‘points’ gained in matches in the previous 12 months and the second is the average number of ‘points’ gained from matches older than 12 months which deprecates yearly until matches older than four years are wiped.

Thus, we have a system that takes into account immediate current form and contextual form accounting for previous medium term successes.

Secondly, the ‘points’ are calculated using four indicators; the outcome of the match in question, the importance of the match (friendly right up to World Cup match), the strength of the opposing team based on world rankings and the football confederation they belong to.

In layman’s terms, you get more ‘points’ for in a World Cup final against the team ranked 1st in the world and is from Europe than you would, say, winning in a friendly against a team that is ranked 152nd and is from Australasia.

All fair and logical to me, particularly as teams cannot rack up the friendly matches that they play to skew the results too much as those matches count for less.

On to the rankings themselves and the issue here with the criticism seems to be that of a overtly short-termist view point.

Italy for example are ranked sixth which people claim is too low for a team that reached the Euros final but the point is that before the tournament, they had been on a terrible run of form and had fallen at the group stage of the World Cup in 2010.

If the Netherlands were to reach the World Cup final in 2014 the system would rightly hold them back as they flopped so comprehensively at this year’s Euros.

France are rightly down in 14th after a similarly (to Italy) disastrous World Cup 2010 campaign only mildly augmented by a quarter final appearance in the Euros whilst Brazil are suffering for their lack of competitive games which is a truer anomaly of the system.

Elsewhere, England sit 4th (soon to be 3rd when the cycle including Uruguay’s Copa America result deprecates) as they have only technically lost three competitive games in the last four years whilst Germany and Spain are way out in front due to their respective records.

By all means, England would probably lose to most of the other teams in the top ten but that is a subjective judgement. The rankings are objective as every team faces the same criteria.

Just because there are freak standings like England’s doesn’t diminish the value of the rankings which serve to indicate the best teams on form in the world, not necessarily who would beat who in a knock-out match style game.

 

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Terry case shows the depressing side of what is classed as ‘banter’

Reading through some of the transcripts of the opening day of the John Terry case I was reminded of the amusement of the first time hearing swear-word heavy exchanges between people in a court room situation.

As a student journalist, parking up at a magistrates court with no-one but perhaps a neck-tattooed acquaintance of a defendant for company in the public gallery, an endless source of amusement was the prosecution lawyer reading out a string of expletives in clipped, Queens English tones.

All of these memories came rushing back today after reading reports of what occurred in Westminister magistrates court today where the c-bomb was dropped more times than could be counted according to the Guardian.

I’m not going to go into the ins and outs of the case as that would a) be contempt of court and b) add nothing more to the collective knowledge of the situation. But there is something I would like to consider.

Should we expect better from our footballers?

I’m not talking in terms of footballers not having arguments on the pitch because expecting that would be delusional to the point of insanity and we should of course expect better from everybody in society than to stoop to the levels of using someone’s skin colour as a form of abuse.

But should we expect a better quality of exchanges and ripostes between players?

The amount of times the ‘C’ word was used suggests terminal levels of imagination in the Premier League footballer’s offensive vocabulary when it comes to verbal jousts with fellow professionals.

Clearly, this isn’t the big issue in the John Terry case but it does provide an insight into the kind of conversations that occur on the pitch between professionals and it pretty much matches up to what many of the general public probably secretly suspected about footballers and their interactions with one another.

Reading any football autobiography gives you the staple examples of what constitutes fun in the dressing room which usually revolves around practical jokes, minor levels of emotional and physical bullying and just general metaphorical (and perhaps occasional literal) penis-measuring contests resulting in the kind of workplace situation where calling someone a “c**t” is classed as banter.

In “The Keeper of Dreams” ex-Barnsley goalkeeper, the German Lars Lesse speaks of his time in England and how “f**k” was used as basically an enhancer in the dressing room to mean more of something; work harder, shoot harder, run more etc. This was more than 10 years ago now and it would appear the situaton hasn’t at all changed.

Obviously, it would be foolish to expect intellectual, verbal jousting similar to that of between Romeo, Mercutio and Tybalt in the Venetian streets in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet or something even approaching Oscar Wilde-levels. Not even a series of ripostes between Graeme Le Saux and Frank Lampard would get close to that.

But if we look at the examples to be had in cricket with some classic sledging then it’s clear to see that sportsman can come up with clever witticisms at their opponents. Cricket is a more sedate game than football of course but the suggestion that class differences and resultant education levels could be to blame for the difference cannot be considered once you check out the backgrounds of those players mentioned in the cricket article.

Another article in the Guardian last year called for a campaign to “Stop banter” but this is far too unspecific. Banter can be good of course; banter can be smart and witty but let us stop banter that contains the word “c**t”.

But first of all, it’s probably best to keep the Kick It Out campaign top of the list of priorities, regardless of the outcome of the ongoing trial.

 

In an unusual move, here is a cricket clip on a football website. Normal service will soon resume.

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Will the Hornets sting under Zola?

The latest club to be taken over by ambitious owners are Championship side Watford. The Pozzo family have wasted little time in outlining their plans for the Hornets, and have already replaced manager Sean Dyche with their compatriot and former West Ham manager, Gianfranco Zola.

The sky appears to be the limit as the family, that also own Udinese and Granada, have said that they aren’t expecting a ‘financial return’ from the club, they just want to establish them as a Premier League outfit.

Having claimed ‘longetivity’ as key to success, the Pozzos plan to build the Vicarage Road team over a period of time, and with a ‘world class scouting network’ in place, Watford’s owners are looking to bring fresh talent to the club, but insist that they will not alter the clubs identity.

The terminating of Dyche’s contract will be viewed by some as harsh, especially seeing as the former centre half led the Hertfordshire club to their highest finish in 4 years last season, but the new owners clearly feel that Zola will seek to play the style of football that the crave.

The sentiments of Gianluca Nani, the newly appointed technical director, illustrate this: ‘I think Watford’s fans can expect an exciting and attacking style from his team. Gianfranco represents this project perfectly.’

Although it will take time to shape and build a team, the Pozzos are in it for the long run and their idea to make Watford financially self sufficient will certainly be welcomed by the clubs supporters, they will have to be careful not to make Vicarage Road a place where Italian youngsters can gain playing time.

If they manage this, though, it could be a bright future for the Hornets.

Below is a video of new Watford manager Zola in his playing days.