It was good to see your piece on York City Supporters’ Trust in WSC 239, which gave an excellent summary the position at York City. One minor point – it was never the intention of the trust to take a controlling interest in the club. That was dictated by circumstances whereby if the trust had not taken control the club would have folded. So returning to private ownership probably isn’t a setback for the cause of fan ownership. We still retain a 25 per cent share of the club and can now go back to our original objective which was to represent fans – we still have two seats on the club board. Taking the broader perspective, being the major shareholder brings the major responsibility of financial management and raising funds to fill the gap between gate and commercial income and costs. The fans of York City have been magnificent at raising money, but closing that gap proved impossible for the volunteers of the trust to do. Ultimately, “private ownership” was the only way forward. We do wonder if majority fans’ ownership can ever be a realistic option.
Steve Beck, Chairman, York City Supporters’ Trust
I have a query about Escape to Victory. We all know Sylvester Stallone played in the match, but the Allied keeper who was injured to give him his chance was Kevin O’Callaghan, the former Millwall, Ipswich and Portsmouth player. The only thing is, O’Callaghan was actually a left‑winger. Anyone know why O’Callaghan was cast as a keeper?
Ian Cusack, via email
One detail was missing from your report on the ridiculously named “futsal” (WSC 239) – it’s crap. A group of us ex-pats here in Spain tried it for a couple of years and ended up hating it. Non-contact football – no thanks. Finnicky little rules with two different codes, worse tantrums than I’ve ever seen on an 11-a-side pitch (and that’s saying something) and, worst of all, basketball-type scorelines that devalue the very idea of scoring a goal. Why is it so popular? Because grass pitches are hard to come by and expensive to rent. As to the pro game, maybe people go because it’s two euros to get in and it’s their family members who are playing – and even then you hardly ever get a decent crowd. I sincerely hope this childish nonsense where – as is the case with basketball and handball – “midfield” and “0‑0 draw” are anathema never triumphs in the home of proper football. “Futsal” indeed. On a level with beach football, if you ask me. (Yes, I know they’ve got leagues of that too in places where people must be very bored.) Why not do an article on how tiddly-winks is storming Albania? It’s about as relevant.
Chris Taylor, Zaragoza, Spain
I wholeheartedly agree with Barney Ronay in WSC 239. Video replays will solve some issues on the pitch, but will create others. How will people react when they have travelled hundreds of miles to find out their match is abandoned because of software problems? And I wonder which player will be the first to get booked for deliberately obstructing the view of a goalmouth camera?
Ernst Bouwes, Netherlands
It was with some trepidation that I approached the highlights of this season’s Champions League clash between Werder Bremen and Barcelona, the equivalent fixture in last year’s competition having produced the most eye-watering display of kits I can recall in a single football match: Werder wearing shirts of green and orange halves, complemented by Barcelona’s fluorescent yellow. My memory suggests that Werder’s keeper wore a pink jersey to complete the spectacle, but I am hoping this is just a ghastly figment of my imagination. Thankfully, Werder displayed a less striking kit design for this season, green and white halves with the minimum of orange trim. Unfortunately, Barça seem to have been inspired by the Germans’ startling use of colour last year and have reverted to an old theme, the Dutch-inspired full orange kit. I would have expected them to have thought twice about this. After all, memories of their first European Cup triumph must be mildly tarnished by photos and replays showing the Barça players in their pallid orange strip, which appeared to have been through the wash a few too many times. Perhaps this is just another of Barcelona’s praiseworthy anti-commercial ploys, designed to dissuade any potential sponsors from despoiling their hallowed shirts with corporate logos? Or perhaps they have a stockpile of branded sunglasses, and are hoping to offload them to the friends of any fans who unaccountably buy these replica away kits?
Steve Whitehead, via email
Tim Manns (Letters, WSC 239) doesn’t believe Match of the Day is “honest” in claiming to record a full 90-minute commentary of every weekend match He cites the recent Van Persie coin incident at West Ham as proof. Well, I can promise him that Motty was indeed there and furthermore that both ourselves and Sky send a commentator to every game every Saturday and Sunday. Just scan the gantry at the next Premiership game you attend – there’ll be at least two TV commentators up there.
The advantage we do have in a highlights programme over a live game is that we have several hours in which to edit sound, pictures or both. The coin-throwing incident at Upton Park took everyone by surprise, not least Robin van Persie. However, Sky ran in a replay a little later and Motty duly commentated on it. The edit shortened the whole process, but since we’re only allowed a ten-minute edit of a Sunday live game in MOTD2, we tend to reduce the time taken between, say, a penalty awarded and taken, or a save and the resulting corner. And if a commentator gets something wrong at the time (which Motty didn’t in this instance) we may even spare him his blushes at 10pm by removing the odd word. That’s why it’s called an edit, not cinema vérité... But honestly, they are all at the games. The producer editing the match has 90 minutes of words and pictures to edit down to size at the final whistle. This not only leads to a more spontaneous commentary, but is also easier technically. And while we do have budget constraints, we can still afford to send Motty to a gantry in east London rather than a booth at Shepherd’s Bush. For the time being, at least!
Paul Armstrong, Editor, BBC Match of the Day
The BBC are at least responding to criticism of the standard of punditry (WSC 239). They had three of them for MOTD2 on Sunday, December 10, which featured one game, Chelsea v Arsenal. Unbelievable.
Glyn Berrington, via email
Television viewers have long since learned to put up with Clive Tyldesley’s obvious sycophancy where Manchester United’s Champions League matches are concerned, but I thought that he had finally gone too far during the closing stages of their defeat at Parkhead. As Louis Saha had his penalty pushed away by the Celtic goalkeeper, Tyldesley appeared to blurt out a rude and clearly unprofessional exclamation that I was sure would have him dismissed forthwith. Only then did I realise that Tyldesley had screamed the surname of the heroic Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc and that he would be free to go on commentating – the thought of which had me shouting something that sounded like Boruc instead.
Keith Watson, Cam
Your readers, as well as Mike Newell, uncertain of the feasibility of allowing women officials into the men’s game, may be interested in the Swiss league, where Nicole Petignant has been refereeing at the highest level for approximately ten years. I am always pleased if I learn Nicole is due to referee a game involving my team, FC Lucerne. She has an almost Corinthian dislike of players’ attempts to deceive her (in her first Nati A game, she had the guts to send a player off for persistent diving). She certainly makes no more mistakes than her male colleagues and, when she does make an error, often has the good grace to apologise to the players concerned. Perhaps the main point in her favour is that she does not indulge in the alpha-male posturing often seen from other referees. (Many of whom, I am convinced, try to “stamp their authority on the game” by deliberately making a series of blatantly incorrect and illogical decisions in the first ten minutes, to underline the fact that they are in charge and there’s not a damn thing the players can do about it.) In her prime, Petignant had no problems keeping up with play. In the last couple of seasons, sadly, she has lost a bit of pace and now no longer seems to be given the highest-profile games. However, her current lack of speed did afford me one of the most amusing sights I have seen on a football pitch, when she attempted to get out of the way of a midfield pass hit (presumably accidentally) straight at her. Instead of leaping nimbly to one side she leaned backwards, then backwards some more, till she found herself in a position usually adopted only by limbo dancers. For a moment it seemed that she might be able to return to a vertical position with her dignity intact, but then the force of gravity took over and she ended up flat on her back. As far as I know, Petignant is well respected by all involved in the Swiss game. Actually, that should be nearly all involved in the Swiss game, as sadly some of the most vocal fans have still not accepted her. A chant regularly heard whenever she appears is “Nicole an der Herd”, which roughly translates as “Get back in the kitchen, Nicole”.
Brian Whitby, Switzerland
During a long car trip to a match, my companions and I were trying to recall the most bizarre penalties we’d ever seen conceded. But no one else could remember the one I thought of. It was film footage, in the days when brief filmed highlights were shown on the news and programmes like Sportsnight, of an FA Cup tie involving Scunthorpe and a non-League team in the 1980s. The Scunthorpe goalkeeper has the ball in his arms and is looking to take a goal-kick. An opponent stands in front of him, jigging about in the time-honoured fashion. The keeper feigns to throw the ball out, then, almost casually, knees his opponent hard in the groin. The player collapses, Scunthorpe concede the penalty that loses them the match. No one else can remember seeing this. Can it have been a dream?
Roy Cameron, via email
I have been watching and enjoying the new ITV drama series Strictly Confidential, all about the life and work of a Leeds-based sex therapist. I think it’s a very entertaining, intelligent and informative show. However, one thing has been disturbing me: the number of visual references to Leeds United in the show. Whenever the sex therapy clinic’s clients are seen sitting in the waiting room, the words “Leeds United” can clearly be seen above their heads in a wall-mounted montage of photographic images of Leeds. In the second episode, a startling scene in a swingers’ club was immediately preceded by a quick sequence of seemingly gratuitous exterior shots of Elland Road. The show’s writer Kay Mellor is known to be a football fan, so is she giving us a visual metaphor here? Something to do, perhaps, with an inability to score, a lack of penetration, trouble at home and difficulty staying up? I think we should be told.
Dave Jennings, Bradford
From WSC 24o February 2007. What was happening this month