A three-sided stadium (WSC 221)? Luxury. Here at The Shay we’d probably settle for such an arrangement. We do have a quite impressive three-sided stadium but the embarrassing fourth side, a large main stand down the full length of one touchline, has remained incomplete for several years. Originally intended to raise ground capacity to around 12,000, it’s a mocking reminder of the brave, but ultimately doomed, ambitions of a previous board and their vision of Halifax Town as a thriving League club and Halifax RLFC as a successful Super League side. Today, as both clubs struggle to attract crowds of two and a half thousand, those dreams seem a very long way away. Various scaled down proposals for the East Stand are currently under consideration but, as those of us who remember being promised accommodation in there as part of a season ticket deal stare mournfully across at the handful of blue and white plastic seats dotted randomly along the concrete rows, the idea of knocking the whole lot down and turning it into a car park doesn’t seem such an outrageous idea after all.
Charlie Adamson, via email
Thanks to Tom Davies for his piece about the soap opera that is Cardiff City at the moment (WSC 221). Of course, the story has moved on in the intervening weeks as the club has sold even more key players, the recent “buy one, get one free” deal of James Collins and Danny Gabbidon to West Ham being potentially the most damaging, while the £30 million debt (at last count) has presumably risen greatly. All this has happened without a single brick being laid on the new stadium that we are informed by Sam Hammam is the only future left for the club. Of course, if we weren’t £30m plus in debt, maybe we would have more options. Perhaps more sinister are the recent events in South Wales. Firstly, Hammam saw fit to ban a local South Wales Echo reporter for having the audacity to print articles using “sources”. This, of course, is common journalistic practice but, maybe, it is the fact that the articles didn’t fit with Hammam’s idea of the story that was the problem. The club then issued the Echo with a ten-point media policy that instructed the paper how they were supposed to report future stories from Ninian Park. Later in the week, Hammam posted a lengthy and bizarre missive on the official website that personally attacked a Cardiff City fan by name for running a message board where both pro- and anti-Hammam Cardiff fans posted their views freely. This being a lifelong and well-respected supporter whose website, mailing lists and mailing board have, for years, been essential sources of information for City fans. As this all happened just before the sale of “crown jewels” Gabbidon and Collins to West Ham, I can only think that Hammam (or Peter Ridsdale) has been taking lessons from Alastair Campbell in firing warning shots across the media’s bows before bad news. It is going to be an interesting season in South Wales.
Marc Thomas, via email
Neil Forsyth’s article about the SPL’s squabble between Dundee and Livingston (WSC 222) would have been more informative if he’d bothered to give both sides of the dispute, instead of parroting Livi’s absurd arguments. Neil claimed that Livi had two aces up their sleeve: that Kilmarnock had signed a player in a “strikingly similar deal”, and that Livi had checked with the SPL on how to stay within the rules. In fact, Killie signed a player on an amateur contract, and gave him a job in their commercial office. Livi signed a player on an amateur contract and pretended to give him a non-existent job. As the SPL ruled, Kachloul was given the same sort of benefits, duties and, crucially, wages as the professional players. His “job” as a business development officer consisted of working three afternoons a week, doing the same as was expected of the other pros, ie giving interviews to the media, and putting in the odd promotional appearance. The job didn’t exist before Kachloul’s arrival, and mysteriously disappeared when he left the club. The second ace is even less impressive. Taking advice on how to stay within the rules doesn’t count for much if you then ignore the advice. Not even Livi’s demented PR machine has had the nerve to argue that the SPL advised them that they could pretend to give Kachloul a non-existent job. Instead they’ve been arguing that Kachloul had a real job, unrelated to football, in spite of the SPL’s detailed findings that Livi haven’t bothered to refute in any detail. That the SPL are highly embarrassed by the whole affair may explain the strange behaviour of the tribunal, which let Livi off with a light fine because of a technicality that they were kind enough to point out to Livi. They argued that while Livi had fraudulently registered Kachloul as an amateur, they would have been entitled to register him as a professional, so although they tried to cheat and clearly broke the rules, they didn’t actually gain any advantage from that. That was a shock to both Livingston and Dundee who had believed that Kachloul had been registered as an amateur with Reading since the end of the previous transfer window. Dundee believe Livi weren’t entitled to sign Kachloul as a professional. Livi know that if they were right about Kachloul’s status then they have to overturn the original verdict that he was signed as a professional before a higher authority decides that the punishment was far too lenient. As a Dundee fan I’ve been resigned to relegation since the end of the last game, as have nearly all fellow Dees. That doesn’t mean we should be expected to take a charitable view of Livi’s behaviour or that they should be allowed to break the regulations.
James Christie, Perth
After reading the article on the Ashley Cole situation in WSC 222, I couldn’t help noting the constant references in the media coverage to “normal” people not having the same restrictions when wishing to seek alternative employment. This, I believe, is the problem. Footballers are not “normal” and nor do they have ‘normal’ salaries. In return for exremely handsome financial packages, the employers, naturally, want to protect their asset and also have to think of the people they have to answer to: investors, banks, sponsors and, of course, the fans. With the salaries they earn (I’m sure even the “less well paid” Shaka Hislop is a millionaire by now) this is a price worth paying. I have no objection whatsoever with footballers’ contracts reflecting the “normal” person on the street... provided their salary matches that too.
Justin Brown, via email
In the editorial in WSC 222 you suggested that Rivaldo had “flounced in and out of a few European cities finally before settling on Panathinaikos”. In fact, he was lured to Athens for one last big payday by Olympiakos, another Greek club with considerably more money than sense (though in fairness he has not been their worst buy).
John Persidis, via email
Cameron Carter complains about the paucity of sporting options available to the football fan in the Summer (WSC 223) but neglects to mention the sport that is closest to football in terms of supporter culture and, indeed, stadia. Rugby league is now established as a summer sport and has been attracting a fair amount of interest from followers of other sports, not least when they get to compare it with the desperate “kick and clap” game whose finest exponents in the UK were recently thrashed on tour in New Zealand. You can even stand and watch on a terrace. Sadly the Murdochisation of the sport has lead to the odd display of balloons and people with painted faces looking for cameras to wave into but on balance it’s a price worth paying.
Stuart Bowker, via email
I would like to add my good wishes to both of the “mystery consortiums” who are, as I understand it, set to bid for control of Newcastle United. It’s especially gratifying to hear that both groups are keen to remove Graeme Souness as manager and install... Kevin Keegan, provided he can once again be lured back from the Spanish putting greens. Clearly an association with Super K is seen as a prerequisite for anyone aspiring to win over the Geordie faithful and I can only hope that he heeds the call should the time come. In fact I’m confident that all my fellow Sunderland fans (and Arthur Cox and Derek Fazackerley) will be keeping our fingers crossed. Come home, Kev.
John Marques, via email
Here’s an odd thing. One of the reasons David Trezeguet gives for rebuffing approaches from Chelsea in order to stay at Juventus is that his club have demonstrated their ambitions by signing Patrick Vieira. Yet the latter has been all but pushed out of the door at Arsenal who made absolutely no fuss whatsoever over his departure, in contrast to previous summers when they bent over backwards to dissuade him from leaving for Madrid. Anyone who saw Vieira lumbering around last season will know why he was let go so easily – he really is a spent force, at least as far as big matches are concerned. He’ll do a fine job of midfield enforcing against Lecce or Siena but the chances of his making an impact in a major match are remote. So, Italian giants celebrate snapping up Premiership has-been. That, allied to the fact that said giants, and the team that defeated them to win Serie A, both lost in Europe to the fifth best Premiership team does hint that all is not well in the land of sophisticated defending. They still have the best kits, of course.
Toby Eastlake, via email
Dylan Jones (Letters, WSC 222) asks where I became aware of “little known” facts “hinted at” surrounding Joe Jordan’s winning of a penalty against Wales. Well, the answer is straight from the horse’s mouth – I and some friends had the pleasure of meeting matchh referee Robert Wurtz some years ago. While we’re at it, I can also inform him that I did not incorrectly name the Welsh defender involved. My email merely referred to “Jones”, with no Christian name specified. “Joey” appears to have been added during editing. Puerile Jibes and pedantry cannot mask the fact that Dylan is silent on the two substantive points I raised. Firstly, the utter absurdity of labelling a particular footballer a cheat, as if this somehow makes him a rare bad apple in the barrel. Those with any understanding of the game whatsoever know that, sadly, the ability to bend and break the laws to their advantage is an essential tool of any player’s trade. They’re all at it. Secondly, regarding the incident in question I reiterate that it was because Jones also raised his hand that Wurtz got it wrong. That is the crux of the matter. Two players, contesting possession, acted in an identical fashion, yet one is apparently a heinous cheat, the other an innocent, wronged party deserving of our sympathy. Why, for heaven’s sake? Best suggestion wins a large bag of 27-year-old sour grapes.
Andrew Cowe, via email
There has speculation as to why Roman Abramovich never gives interviews either in print or on TV. I think there may be a simple explanation – he has a comically high-pitched voice, like Joe Pasquale or Mickey Mouse. It would account for why many of the people pictured with him are smiling in a very strained way as he simpers alongside them. It may have also have helped to make him what he is today, very much like the parable of the hardman named Sue in Johnny Cash’s famous song.
Roger Lamont, via email
From WSC 223 September 2005. What was happening this month