It's Up For Grabs Now
Thursday, July 31, 2003
Mum, they've started already : someone's adapted Come On Eileen for a Euro 2004 England song. So now wearing women's clothes is the second most PR-killing thing Kevin Rowland's ever done
Wednesday, July 30, 2003
Sorry, Robbie, just remind us again how much you put in whenPort Vale when fans were putting together an administration-rescuing consortium a few months ago?
Spotter's badge : Simon B off of No Rock And Roll Fun
Tuesday, July 29, 2003
We know the mascot thing's been overdone, but we defy you not to laugh at the squad photo
Every pre-season it's almost a given that players are ordered to be substituted in friendlies instead of being red carded so that they aren't suspended for The Big Kick-Off. Perfectly sensible, even if whenever Roy Keane or someone is subbed for that the sports letters pages collapse under the strain of 'would he have done that to Vinnie Jones?' correspondence. With this in mind, can we say bloody hell, FA!
John Motson turns his personal 92 Club quest into another marketing opportunity for Nationwide. When did he go to Yeovil, then?
Monday, July 28, 2003
With new bad shirts, of course, comes new embarrassing sponsors. You'd think there was no way down from Chuba Chups, but...
Sunday, July 27, 2003
Off the LA Times, a subscription site so you'll have to find it yourself:
Charles Parker is a bus driver. It's an honest and honorable way to make a living, but it's a job not everyone would want.
Except, perhaps, on Saturday.
Half the population of Manchester, England, gladly would have taken Parker's place behind the wheel of his Golden West Tours bus Saturday afternoon, and might even have paid for the privilege.
That's because Parker's assignment was to drive Manchester United from its hotel in Century City to the Coliseum and back. His response to ferrying the world's wealthiest and most famous soccer team?
"They're just passengers," Parker, who is from Los Angeles, said with a shrug. "We carry celebrities all the time."
And occasionally celebrities who mean something in LA, we'd guess. We'll let 'half of Manchester' pass and continue...
But, but this is Manchester United, he was reminded, not D.C. United.
Er, yeah. The idea that it's surprising DC United might have some fans in LA - hell, America - and indeed more there than one of the best teams in Europe is a strange one. By that notion, Birmingham should be teeming with Boca Juniors fans.
"It's just like driving anybody else," Parker replied. "Of course, I'm kind of elated to have the English here because I've had an opportunity to be over in England and I know how soccer is viewed over there. It's quite exciting."
Introducing some of that excitement to American fans is what the Champions World Series is all about — that and making fistfuls of cash and scaring the daylights out of Major League Soccer.
In a two-week span, fans in seven U.S. cities will have had the opportunity to see not only Manchester United but also Club America of Mexico, Celtic of Scotland, Boca Juniors of Argentina, Juventus and AC Milan of Italy, and Barcelona of Spain.
This is the first summer invasion of this nature since MLS was founded eight years ago. Next summer promises to bring another, and the summer after that, and so on.
In other words, just when MLS is beginning to find its feet, the world's most powerful teams are finding that the U.S. is a wealthy and largely untapped soccer market, one that is ripe for exploitation.
Just how ripe can be seen from the crowds at the first two Series matches. In Seattle, 66,722 saw Manchester United thump Celtic [start of several paragraphs of details about United's tour and Ronaldinho which need not concern us]
Ferguson, incidentally, did not get to the Coliseum aboard Parker's bus. Instead, the 61-year-old Scot arrived in one of four black chauffeur-driven limousines that sighed down the stadium tunnel and dropped him and his fellow ManU coaches just steps from the locker rooms.
Those who wish to conquer America have to do so in style.
"I'm not sure 'conquer' is the right word," Ferguson told Associated Press while the team was in Seattle. "I think we'd like to explore the country, and make people more aware about Manchester United."
American fans — expatriate and native born — might already be more aware than Ferguson thinks.
More than 3,000 turned up at the Coliseum to cheer and sing and collect autographs when Manchester United trained on Saturday afternoon. About half were wearing Red Devil red. Outside, vendors were doing a smart trade in Manchester souvenirs: shirts $75, T-shirts $30, caps $20.
Now, we don't like to suggest too hastily there's a connection here, but... Of course, this is much of a muchness. Of pictures we've seen, almost all the fans in question seem to be kids, and as everyone knows it's under 14 or so where football is running other sports ragged - baseball and gridiron fans take a perverse pleasure in doing the sport down, and more than one columnist has noted with barely disguised glee that 16 people greeted the United squad at the airport. Why these people airily dismiss football is a different matter entirely, but anyway.
The dollar signs are what it is all about, of course. That's why all these European teams are in the U.S. right now. That's why Real Madrid and Liverpool are in Asia and Tenthenham Hotspur is in South Africa.
Their spelling, not ours. Shall we call them anything other for a long time to come?
Jorge Valdano, Real Madrid's sporting director, got it exactly right last week when he said, "The aim of the club is to be universal."
Course, this is twisting the facts to suit the truth. Real already are universal, as are Barcelona, Juve, Inter, AC, Liverpool and, yes, Man Utd. These are the big hitters that everyone's heard of and you can buy their shirts from any high street sports stockist. It's not about branding and tours, it's about success and prestige, especially so in Real's case with those five European Cups, Di Stefano etc.
Manchester United earned more than $200 million in merchandising alone last year. If it can crack the U.S. market, that figure could jump higher still.
"Going to the United States is something we believe is important in the long term," club spokesman Paddy Harverson told England's Guardian newspaper before the team left on its tour.
"We believe there are a lot of people in the States who are followers of football but who may not have a club allegiance. So we are also hoping to win over new fans and get them to be part of Manchester United.
"It's about sowing seeds. The real profit could be several years down the road."
Thing is, how many people are going to end up die-hard Reds because they came over in summer 2003? Joking aside, what chance is there of forging a lifelong bond with a club who once came as visitors? This isn't the 'why support United when (insert non-league club name here) play just down the road' argument, as the United influence on British media of all types is pervasive while you really have to look around and pay for premium channels to watch Premiership games in America, let alone the small print in USA Today. Skip a couple more paragraphs about the tour's itinerary, and...
Coming to America and playing top-level teams is a new way for Manchester United to prepare for the season ahead.
"Normally, we take on an easier level of games, by going to the Far East or to Norway or Denmark," he said. "What we had in the Celtic match was a great atmosphere, a massive crowd and a competitive game."
Just like the real thing. The sort of excitement Parker experienced in England.
"Fans make the emotional, the spiritual part of the game," Ferguson said. "The rivalry between fans is very important in European football."
And again, what do potential fans gain from not being a direct part of this, rather hearing about it second hand? The Japanese girls who worshipped David Beckham during the World Cup and their promo tour are buying six tins of white emulsion and reading up on Raul as you read this.
Suddenly, MLS now finds itself with a rival, even if it is for only a couple of weeks during its season.
How the league responds will go a long way toward determining its future.
By continuing to play, we'd imagine. There's a convincing argument for saying the standard of American football has got a lot better since the MLS, especially since the 'ooh! Americans watching football!' British press bandwagon left town and as we saw last year, and the MLS is doing good things - helped again by the press from last year, attendences are up, the league is making a profit, the advertisers jumped onto players like Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley. Note the lack of evidence which asserts that just because Man Utd are playing a couple of games nearby Galaxy are going to the wall.
Meanwhile, Parker might have been blasé about rubbing shoulders with the likes of Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Ryan Giggs aboard his bus, but he was impressed by the players' friendliness.
"The athletes were great," he said. "They said, 'Cheers' and 'How you doing?' which was very good. It made me feel pretty good that they're not stuck up. That makes for a real pleasant working atmosphere."
Add one more fan to Manchester United's growing legion.
Well, clearly that's journalist hyperbole, and we don't mean the idea of Premiership players creating "a real pleasant working atmosphere". Is CWS setting out to damage the MLS' reputation? Did England beating Turkey mean you didn't feel so strongly about your club the following Saturday? Same difference after all - at a time when international players can be invited to officially open a day's NASDAQ trading, it's unlikely that the calvalry will charge back over the hill they've just come down because Boca Juniors are following them with a megaphone.
Note to BBC : we know that SARS was a big problem, but has Hong Kong really been quarantined a few thousand miles out into the Pacific Ocean?
Spotter's badge : Adam Keyte
So, what are we to make of these John Fashanu match-fixing claims? Not much, clearly. For starters, Fash appears to have pledged to throw a pre-season friendly - what next, John, a testimonial? Then there's the fact it's a Mazher Mahmood story - Mahmood's reputation is based on his Sophie Rhys-Jones scoop, where he wrote up a load of damning quotes and when the tape of the conversation was released a week later none of the quotes appeared in it. Where's Chris Vincent's video camera when you really need it?
Saturday, July 26, 2003
A unique opportunity for you to come up with your own smartarse punchline - Spurs launch their own ice cream "We did taste tests with three families of Tottenham fans" - oh, representative sample, then
Friday, July 25, 2003
Here's something we didn't know until today - Melanie Blatt's dad used to be chairman of the Football Supporters' Association
Guti in Beckham 'trousers' blast - what does it matter to him anyway? Has David's new hairdresser told Queiroz to keep him out of the team?
Wednesday, July 23, 2003
Simon Fuller wants to increase Beckham awareness "across music, fashion and TV" - notably, not across football
Perugia hunt for female players in an in no way publicity seeking move - if this gives the BBC carte blanche to claim Born Kicking was ahead of its time...
Tuesday, July 22, 2003
Signing Paolo Di Canio "may go some way to appeasing disgruntled Leeds fans" - if you like
Monday, July 21, 2003
The Hannah Who Used To Be In S Club 7 Conspiracy
So we once saw some footage of an S Club tour and spotted this:
This was reasonable evidence to suggest that Hannah Spearitt was a Coventry fan, and thus we put her in the relevant section of the Famous Supporters list. However, a correspondent this week has pointed us towards this:
Quite clearly Carrow Road, and some research has revealed she's from Great Yarmouth. Makes sense too, therefore. But in finding this piece of information, we also found a factfile which reveals... "likes Liverpool FC"! What's going on, like it matters but we like to make something of it anyway?
Churlishness alert - Inter Milan fine Francesco Toldo for suggesting they should be more successful
From our job desk:
TT TV Tyne Tees Television
Fixed term - 12 month contract Newcastle based
A great chance to cover just about the most passionate sports region in ITV. A genuine fanaticism for football is merely a starting point. You need to love your sport and know about it too. The sports reporter will contribute to the nightly sports desk on North East Tonight as well as the weekly programme Soccer Sunday.
If you've broadcasting experience, you've already taken an early lead - know the North East as well and you're two goals up. Most importantly, we're looking for enthusiasm and a passion about sport. Highly presentable with a good microphone voice, you should be educated to at least A-level standard. A formal journalistic qualification would be an advantage.
Liquid News hire full-time Beckham correspondent - note how they boast "it will be the only place viewers will get to see live footage and behind the scenes reports of what David Beckham's up to". Buying La Liga rights, are you?
Sunday, July 20, 2003
Friday, July 18, 2003
When AFC Wimbledon announced their Fans' Stadium promotion with a share issue, we did secretly think the idea of a brotherhood of supporters signing up off the grace of their hearts was flawed and unworkable. We were pleasingly wrong!
Thursday, July 17, 2003
Oh, we get our transfer speculation from golfers now, do we?
Did anyone else hear the 3.30pm 5 Live sport bulletin today? Did the presenter really say Real Madrid were interested in "Arsenal's Patrick Kluivert"? And immediately afterwards Alan Green seemingly taking a personal affront at that viral email about Abramovich signing every Premiership player except Emile Heskey, following with "I think that's going to implode, that story, I really do." Which story now, sorry?
Wednesday, July 16, 2003
May we say well done to everyone who decided to make the societal leap of faith involved in deciding to watch It Shouldn't Happen To A TV Presenter last night, as among the clips was an incident we saw live and have wished for ages someone would bite the bullet and show again in some context was the Great Central Weekend Women's Football Fight. Now, Central Weekend Live was a forum for all disenfranchised and Mail-sponsored controversial issues to be discussed, by which we mean shouted, but nothing ever got the audience's dander up as this 1996 debate on what you'd imagine was a fairly open and shut case of whether women should be allowed to play football, with Coventry City Ladies, helpfully laid out in a graphic alongside a Man Utd XI, in attendance. One man in the audience started swearing, presenter Nicky Campbell told him to calm down, to which came the magnificent response "are you going to show me the fucking red card?" Abusive, yet cliched. The bloke was ordered out of the studio to cheers, which became suddenly muted when he assaulted the floor manager off camera, followed by at least three audience members wishing to have it out with him, although the camerawork meant all you saw was some shuffling and half the audience rushing off while, brilliantly, Campbell continued with an elderly naysayer, admitting on last night's show that during his response, drowned out by the noise from across the way, that he couldn't believe that either of them were calmly continuing until the director cut them off, only for the man to sneak back in and restart the 'debate'. Four assault charges resulted, we think the only time anyone's ever been charged with criminal activity as a result of live TV. On a wider scale, that's our big anecdote ruined.
Think of Stan Mortensen - Blackpool hero, Matthews Final hat trick scorer, immediate post-war trailblazer. Who would you suggest play him in a film? Him out of Bush, anyone? Yeah, that's really going to help the reputation of football films
Monday, July 14, 2003
In what way, Mirror, is a documentary about Newcastle a Big Brother-style show?
In preparation for Man City, Total Network Solutions go that extra yard to show off the flexibility of their new kit
Sunday, July 13, 2003
Stop the presses! Hold the front page! Brooklyn Beckham has worn a suit! Sister Sledge at the reception? Blimey. Davina Taylor? Ah, the worst TV presenter in history
Friday, July 11, 2003
Sad, yes, in that this is goodbye to foil stickers, the big detachable list of numbers offering 5p a sticker to complete the collection and the little suit of armour mascot figure, but at least fans of hugely cliched sub-editor football story in non-football section headlines will be pleased to see Panini being 'shown (the) red card'
I'm feeling all angry about these modern day footballers, I know why they
have gone all soft - It's because of poncy names... Oh, you know how this goes, you've all seen the email.
What we were wondering is where's it from? The current mailout credits it to a Sheffield United mailing list, but its first Google Groups appearence in late 1999 reckons it's from a Crewe direction. Anyone?
Wednesday, July 09, 2003
Blatter tells countries' top flights to slim down to cut number of matches, presumably on his way to a Confederations Cup debriefing session
UEFA's market research? Were we on holiday that week?
Tuesday, July 08, 2003
Steve Howey, Keith Gillespie, Les Ferdinand possibly - are Leicester hoping for a long and successful Premiership life by trying to recreate Newcastle 1995-96?
19 search engine hits for 'Theirry Henry's wedding' today alone. We ask you
Sunday, July 06, 2003
Saturday, July 05, 2003
Ananova excitedly reports that celebrities are at Thierry Henry's wedding... then list a load of current and ex colleagues.
Wednesday, July 02, 2003
Let's get this settled straight off - no, ITN, David Beckham's new number 23 has nothing to do with Michael Jordan, and in fact has more to do with it being the only relevant number left. Thank you for not listening
Brazilian (of all nationalities) footballer pushes ref, gets arrested, Paolo Di Canio creeps away before anyone shouts 'double standards!'
Tuesday, July 01, 2003
Sometimes we wonder why we bother. Man decides changing name to Harry Gration isn't good enough