To those that have shall be given more

"And yes, some of that money will pay for artificial turf instead of real grassroots."

“And yes, some of that money will pay for artificial turf instead of real grassroots.”

This announcement actually happened a few months ago, but I’m surprised it didn’t get more publicity then: George Osborne is giving £50m towards supporting grassroots sport. This sounds like good news and surely this will help sports with little funding and support develop and build the infrastructure they need to retain people in the sport in the face of all the money that gets spent on the big sports.

Oh:

George Osborne has pledged £50m of Government funding to promote grass-roots football, in a move he said would make England’s national team “the best in the world”.
The Chancellor unveiled the funds as he hailed Abu Dhabi’s commitment to investing in the UK at the opening of a new £150m football academy by Manchester City Football Club.

Yes, not only is he giving £50m to a sport that has so much money sloshing around that teams can spend £50m on a single player, he’s announcing it as one of the global super-rich who now own large chunks of the game in England is announcing another huge spending of money that’s far beyond the dreams of most entire sports, let alone individual teams.

I’m sure English grassroots football will benefit from that money, but it would benefit much more from the FA enforcing a fairer distribution of income across the game, instead of letting it concentrate more and more in the upper echelons. Giving £50m of Government money to make up for the FA’s inability to support the grassroots isn’t my idea of money being well spent or a long term sporting economic plan.

Imagine what other sports could do with that cash. Grassroots cycling could use just a fraction of it to organise closed-road racing for young riders, giving them invaluable safe experience. Imagine the athletic facilities and swimming pools it could fix up or reopen, the underfunded boxing gyms it could support, the ageing gymnastic equipment it could replace, the community coaches in all sports it could train. But no, giving money to football gets the headlines, so football gets the cash, even if it doesn’t need it.

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If you want to stop Russia, calling for England to host the 2018 World Cup is a bad idea

One of the small highlights of the recent World Cup for me was the BBC showing the official FIFA World Cup films on BBC Two on weekend mornings. In the 1982 film – G’Ole! – there’s a moment near the end when the camera pans over the crowd for the final and shows a Colombia 1986 banner, the only time that tournament ever appeared on camera.

Colombia had been selected to host the 1986 World Cup but withdrew from hosting later in 1982 because of a host of domestic and economic problems. In the words of President Betancur: “We have a lot of things to do here and there is not enough time to attend to the extravagances of Fifa and its members.” Colombia 1986 is the only time a country has not hosted the World Cup after being awarded it.

Luckily for FIFA, there do still remain several countries willing to attend to their extravagances, and indeed will compete to provide more and more extravagances in order to get to host the World Cup. That’s why there was heated bidding for the rights to stage the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, and why some have cried foul after they were awarded to Russia and Qatar. Since they were awarded, there’s been constant criticism of the Qatar 2022 decision, and recent events in Ukraine have also made people question whether it’s right to host the 2018 tournament in Russia and Nick Clegg has called for it to be taken away from them.

Unlike the complaints about Qatar, the arguments given for having the 2018 World Cup are almost entirely political, based on the recent actions of the Russian Government, though they tend to ignore that world sporting bodies are generally autocratic institutions themselves and don’t really respond to that sort of argument. Despite the fact it opens up a lot of other questions – should British clubs refuse to play in Russia in UEFA tournaments? If FIFA don’t change their minds, should the home nations boycott 2018? – it’s a legitimate thing to propose.

However, if you want to scupper your entire campaign very quickly, what you shouldn’t do is this:

Talking about the situation in Ukraine, Nick Clegg raised the question on whether Russia should host the World Cup in 2018:

“He (Putin) can’t constantly push the patience of the international community beyond breaking point and still have the privilege and honour of receiving all the accolades in 2018 for being the host nation of the World Cup.”

In light of Russia’s actions, one option could be to bring the World Cup to England instead.

If you agree, sign this petition.

We the undersigned call on England to host the 2018 World Cup instead of Russia.

That’s currently on the Lib Dem website, and suddenly turns it from legitimate concerns about Russia to one of the countries beaten by Russia in the 2018 bidding trying to get revenge. It weakens the case against Russia hosting it by associating it with England getting the tournament instead and thus makes it into a contest of two countries, not weighing up the merits of one.

The reason I brought up Colombia 1986 at the start of this post was because when the decision was made to not have the World Cup there, it wasn’t because another country had stepped forward and said ‘we’ll do it instead’. The decision to not host the tournament and the decision of the location of the replacement were separate, and if FIFA were to decide to take it from Russia, there’d surely be an open process (well, open by FIFA standards) to decide the replacement, as happened for 1986 (with Mexico selected over the USA and Canada). One could also look at the ongoing dispute over Qatar 2022, where the USA (probably the most likely location for it if it doesn’t happen in Qatar) are being very careful not to put themselves forward as the alternative, but instead are keeping the debate about whether it should be in Qatar at all.

(I’d also question if England was able to host the tournament on such short notice, given the suggested new stadiums and expansions proposed in the original bid. If Russia were to lose it, and it was to stay within Europe, the most logical new host would likely be France, given the work they’re currently doing for Euro 2016.)

This might just be an overenthusiastic staffer at Great George Street getting carried away and starting off a petition without thinking about it, but it’s a huge own goal. If you want to make the case against Russia, you should do that, and not confuse the issue by trying to fly an England flag at the same time.

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Bad sports journalism metaphor of the day

(Being the first, and possibly last, of a very occasional series)

From an Express and Star piece on the appointment of Norwegian Stale Solbakken as the new Wolves manager:

Like his nation’s record on human rights and equality legislation, he has a record for progressive thinking

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Worth Reading 17: Now complete with provisional licence

Let there be linkage:

A Vision Of Foreign Policy Only Beck Can Provide – That’s Glenn Beck, but reading out the lyrics to Devil’s Haircut might make more sense. Watch the video for something that looks like a dramatic reconstruction of the thought processes of a crazed conspiracy theorist, except it’s for real (via)
A Guide: How Not To Say Stupid Stuff About Egypt – Something worth checking, just to see if you’re guilty of any of them
Soccer clubs central to ending Egypt’s ‘Dictatorship of Fear’ – Something I’ve not seen mentioned anywhere else, and interesting that all football games have been cancelled in Libya following the events in Egypt.
Prisoner votes in Scottish elections again – Are BBC journalists and government ministers bloody stupid? – Since I’ve begun reading legal bloggers like Love and Garbage, I’ve become aware of just how poorly a lot of issues are being reported in the media. Here’s another example.
How Cyclone Yasi compares around the world – An indication of just how huge the storm currently threatening Australia is.

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Quick football question

Which nation’s international football record does England’s most resemble – Sweden or Germany?

(Answer under the cut, so if you don’t want to know the score and are reading this in some manner that doesn’t allow for the cut, look away now)

Read the rest of this entry

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Normal for Norfolk?

Only a couple of weeks in, and we might have the oddest managerial appointment of the football season already. Just 10 days ago, Colchester went to Norwich and won 7-1, which cost Bryan Gunn his job – and today we find out that Paul Lambert has quit Colchester to take on the job. Unsurprisingly, Colchester fans are angry.

Of course, there’s a sense of deja vu about this for Colchester fans, as it’s now fifteen years since George Burley left the Us to head up the A12 to take on Ipswich. I expect the ‘Cheer Up George Burley’ song (to the tune of ‘Daydream Believer’ will get some new words now, even if ‘Paul Lambert’ doesn’t scan quite as well.

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Playground football

As the controls for regular football games on consoles become increasingly complex, and the games become harder and harder to play in the ridiculously high-scoring manner they used to be, why has no one yet created a playground football game? You could have a gain that ranged through all the permutations from three-and-in on a tiny space to massive forty-a-side scrambles across a giant playground, with options that included things like ball type and size (my school limited us to nothing bigger than a tennis ball, for instance), through the age of the players to the number of other games going on concurrently within the same approximate space.

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