Month: February 2014

Can the FA Cup Final be England’s ‘Super Bowl’?

A little over a week ago, the sports world basked in the occasion of the 48th annual Super Bowl.  The Seattle Seahawks embarrassed the Denver Broncos, dispatching them 43-8. Most of us on this side of the pond will have already forgotten that scoreline, but the spectacle itself will remain a little fresher in our minds.

In truth, the Super Bowl is more than just an American football match. It’s an occasion. The NFL have managed to fuse sports and culture perfectly to make it an event that the whole country is enveloped in regardless of their individual interest in sports.  People gather, TV stations change their schedule and the whole nation, for a day or two, is gripped by one singular sporting event. For instance, the Super Bowl has a grand history of spectacular half-time shows including performances from Beyonce, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson and more. Coupled with its corporate tradition of debuting spectacular adverts during the many intervals from play, there is genuinely plenty on offer to entertain all sorts of people.

Prominent… The NFL’s showcase game regularly draws in over 100 million US viewers. [Photo: Wikipedia]

The FA Cup final is the obvious contender to compare with the Super Bowl for English sport. A famous tournament of the nation’s favourite sport, settled by one single game that airs on terrestrial television. In fact, the comparisons end there. Now, I’m not saying that I want the FA to fervently promote the final by shoving Jessie J on the pitch at half-time, in a feckless attempt to maintain any interest in the event. But I do think Britain’s footballing body could do more to make the FA Cup final a bigger occasion on a national scale. There’s no reason why the FA Cup final can’t be an experience that grips the entirety of England in the days leading up to the event. There’s certainly no need for us to try and emulate the Super Bowl to too great an extent. The cacophonous pageantry of American Football and the orgulousness required to call the winners of a domestic trophy ‘world champions’ is not found on these shores but their blue print for sporting spectacles is certainly to be admired.

Super Bowl XLVIII brough in 111.5 million viewers for Fox last Sunday night meaning around 35% of the USA was tuning in, making it the most watched television broadcast in the nation’s history. In stark contrast, the most recent FA Cup final which saw Wigan Athletic upset the odds to beat Manchester City was viewed by 4.10 million on ITV (8% of England), being outperformed that week by an episode of Off Their Rockers and Paul O’Grady: For The Love of Dogs. It’s not like a boost in attention for the FA Cup final wouldn’t favour TV channels, if American trends are anything to go by. Fox’s comedy New Girl received 26 million viewers, an 867% increase in viewership on it’s season average.

Overlooked: FA Cup Finals are convincingly outperformed by entertainment variety shows. [Photo: Wikipedia]

Unfortunately, the FA Cup is a distant after thought behind the much preferred league campaigns, which I can certainly appreciate. England has two cup competitions. The Football League Cup has long been disregarded by the ‘bigger clubs’ unless they reach the latter stages; only then do they usually field their strongest sides. Even Championship clubs see that tournament as a chance for squad rotation. In recent years, the FA Cup has been heading in the same direction with many clubs simply not trying to compete, illustrated by falling attendances and of course ‘weakened’ squads.

It’s not like England wouldn’t embrace a grander spectacle, we see how much football fever takes hold of the nation every time the European Championships and World Cup roll around. And, it’s certainly not beyond us to forge such a special sporting event, given the overwhelming success of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. In theory, everything is in place for the FA Cup final to be a truly global sporting event. We really ought to be giving English football’s grandest competition a less bathetic climax, otherwise what is the point? But, until the FA and indeed the football clubs themselves start to take the world’s oldest football tournament seriously; it’s likely to remain a distant dream.

(Thank you to Kyle Andrews for helping with this article. Read his stuff; chrispowellsflatcap.wordpress.com)

They’re Not Being Racist But…: Don’t Vote UKIP

The party everyone is talking about in British politics is UKIP. Whether it be positively or negatively (hopefully negatively), Nigel Farage’s purple and yellow machine of racism national pride has continued to climb the opinion polls like a flesh-eating false widow spider up its unsuspecting victim’s leg. But I’m writing this to gently inform you as to why voting for UKIP in either the upcoming European or General Elections is simply inadvisable.

Remember, it’s not simply the parties that you’ll be voting for, you’re equally voting for its members to make decisions that will affect your life. So let’s have a look at some of the remarkable people that make the UK Independence Party possible;

1. They have links with Far Right European Parties

Yes, that’s right. Nigel Farage’s UKIP are associates of far-right political organisations on the continent. Shocking, I know. In fact, one of the organisations UKIP are part of, is the EFD (Europe of Freedom & Democracy). You probably don’t know a lot about them and nor do I. But, I do know Nigel Farage is co-president of the group alongside Francesco Speroni, who said Anders Breivik’s actions were “in defence of western civilisation”. Another member actually incensed Farage by stating that Breivik “had some good ideas”, he subsequently wrote a strongly-worded letter demanding an apology or UKIP would vacate the organisation. Instead, Marco Borghezio, the man in question responded by saying “Long live the Whites of Europe, long live our identity, our ethnicity, our race… our blue sky, like the eyes of our women. Blue, in a people who want to stay white.” Nigel Farage remains co-president of the organisation as of February 2014.

2. Some are racist and xenophobic

Who would have thought that a party rammed full of people so desperate to let us know that they’re not racist, are actually just that? It’s almost like they were in denial or realise racism isn’t a desirable political characteristic in the view of the electorate. Regardless, we all remember Godfrey Bloom’s “Bongo Bongo Land” gaffe and his incredibly convincing non-apology on Channel 4 news. Apparently the non-racist, definitely not racist, never have been racist, never will be racist, racist? Who? Us?! Never, we’re not racists party weren’t politically astute enough to purge the 2013 Plain English Campaign’s foot-in-mouth award recipient from the party. Another UKIP member when bemoaning the effects immigration had had on the NHS said “I am informed by past media that Black Caribbean and not Black African have a higher instance of schizophrenia. I wonder if this is due to inbreeding on these small islands in slave times or is it due to ­smoking grass.” More recently, Nigel Farage caused offence by negatively stereotyping Bulgarians on BBC’s Question Time. Paul Nuttall brilliantly defused the situation by claiming “Brits fear all immigrants, regardless of where they would come from.” Much better.

Leader: Nigel Farage is the face of UKIP’s xenophobic regime [Photo: Wikipedia]

3. Some are misogynists

Another stupefying fact, I know. To many, it will come as no surprise that Nigel Farage’s party prefer one gender to another, which certainly throws an upcoming section for a loop. In an interview with the Telegraph, Farage digressed his partiality to a lap dance or two, he even touched upon the issue of extra-marital affairs, saying that “everyone does it”, well accept gay men and women if dear old Nigel was to have his way. Of course, blithering sidekick Godfrey Bloom is able to provide us with a few more disbelieving head shakes. Bloom claimed that no employer in their right mind would offer a job to a ‘young, free woman’. Diplomatic, libertarian and equal rights champion Nigel Farage endorsed the comments and thus continues to observe the voluntary female exit rates from UKIP ticking over nicely.

4. Some discriminate based on ableness

Indeed, UKIP infamously refused entry to the party to Jack Biggs. Biggs was 65 at the time of his refusal and is an ex-servicemen who has had both knees replaced. He was told he could only serve as a paper candidate in 2007 but instead  ran independently against UKIP in Weymouth. One member, Geoffrey Clark went as far as to say that babies with disabilities ought to be compulsorily aborted because they will burden the state. Charming.

Repetitive…UKIP proudly promote that one policy they have [Photo: Flickr]

5. Some are homophobic

I know, I know! This latest revelation is painfully inconsistent with everything else in this article but yes the pestiferous purple army are anti-gay too. Of course, many members have made the illogical and laughably untrue connection of homosexuality and paedophilia, Dr. Julia Gasper even alleged “there is so much evidence that even a full-length book could hardly do justice to the ­subject” before condemning the gay rights movement as a “lunatic’s charter”. One member also vowed that homosexuals were not normal and shouldn’t try to shove it down his throat by claiming they are. More recently, Oxford UKIP councillor David Silvester claimed that the latest spell of bad weather was to do with the passing of same-sex marriage. Funnily, it was  some seven months late. But he did have a point, the Met Office revealed this week that Johnny and Danny’s flirting on EastEnders was likely the sole cause for flooding in the Thames valley – there’s your duff duff. The party’s official stance in the lead up to the same-sex marriage debate was as you would expect from uber-Liberal Nigel Farage; stern opposition. According to their official website equal human rights for all regardless of sexuality was “not a burning issue”, “not a matter that animates the discourse of our nation” or more accurately, not a matter that animates the discourse of heterosexuals. Thank goodness, this is one subject these bigoted tyrants were defeated on – looks like we can expect more wet weather to come.

6. Some are liars

Remember on New Years Day 2014 when 29 million Bulgarians and Romanians invaded the country whilst stealing the Polish’s stolen jobs? Well, Conservative MP Anna Soubry claimed that fliers had been handed out in the Broxtowe constituency by UKIP warning just that. An astonishing statistic given that the combined population of both nations is just 27 million. UKIP member Janice Atkinson claimed in February 2014 on an episode of Question Time that 70% of our laws were dictated to us by Brussels (the EU) whilst more accurately the House of Commons claims that is only true for 9.1% – just a slight exaggeration by their standards. Another member even claimed that more people settled in Britain in 2010 than in every other of year preceding 2010 combined. Unsurprisingly that breathtakingly moronic declaration is unequivocally false. In fact, UKIP’s wager against EU immigration is mislead too, given that Poland is the only European nation in the top 5 countries from which immigrants are arriving in the UK. Believe it or not, it’s also not just immigrants that are taking job-seeker’s benefits from the government, in fact, most benefits are paid out to those pesky thieving pensioners. According to a study by Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM) at University College London, immigrants were up to 45% less likely to claim benefits than native Britons. Recent immigrants also contribute 34% more to taxes than is transferred to them, a total worth £25bn. But UKIP are surely right to alert us to these job-stealing immigrants who are somehow subsequently living on job seeker’s allowance. Especially, since us Brits would never be so sly and underhanded. Meanwhile, the UK, the 8th highest emigrating nation in the world, has 10,000 nationals living on job seeker’s allowance in Germany, 86% of whom are fit to work.

Also read;

Sources: BBC, The New Statesman, The Daily Mirror, The Guardian, The Metro, thelocal.de, UKIP’s official website, BuzzFeed, Huffington Post

Ten reasons why Leicester City’s Vichai and Aiyawatt are better owners than Fawaz of Nottingham Forest

After what can only be described as a comedy post in today’s Metro (http://metro.co.uk/2014/02/03/ten-reasons-why-nottingham-forests-fawaz-al-hasawi-is-the-best-owner-in-football-4288747/), I’ve decided to offer a truthful endorsement of the better football owners down the road…

1. They’ve always been welcome

Unlike our friendly red friends up north, the Srivaddhanaprabhas have always been welcomed at Leicester City Football Club, certainly seeing as manager chopping maniac Milan Mandaric was their predecessor. In fact, the Foxes fanbase has never had a problem with foreign ownership unlike Forest fans. You remember those “you used to be English, you’re not anymore!” chants a few years ago? They were about ownership, right?

2. They’re fans of the club too

Leicester’s official owner, Aiyawatt has been a fan of the boys in blue ever since Steve Claridge dragged the ball in to the back of the net to win the 1997 League Cup at Middlesbrough. In fact, it was the first game that the Thai had seen in England. Fawaz knew Forest won something in the 70s.

3. They sign who they want

The Thais certainly have a frivolous past at Leicester City. We all know what happened in the summer of 2011 during Sven’s mega spending spree, well they actually do get all the players they want. Unlike Fawaz, who can be so frugal at times he even blames poor vision for an uncompleted signing. Classic.

Reward… Leicester’s owners gifted 1,000 Leicester fans a free scarf, drink and pie for travelling to Cardiff on a Tuesday night during last season’s collapse in form.

4. They have proven us right

There’s no questioning that the Srivaddhanaprabhas certainly got it wrong at first but they did begin to champion managerial stability and sustainable growth long before Fawaz invented it at Forest. Fawaz continues to ignore the Financial Fair Play Rules too. ‘Big-spending’ Leicester have made massive strides to fall in line with the new regulations, spending a net total of just £400,000 on transfers this season. Leicester actually accumulated £103m worth of debt from the 2011 transfer debacle but our owners wiped that clear in December. £103m just like that. But Fawaz signed Jack Hobbs, well the second time, he lied the first, I suppose that’s the same. Oh, and we certainly never doubted the authenticity of their credentials unlike the Tricky Trees. (http://www.forestfans.net/index.php?/topic/19294-wonder-if-fawaz-al-hasawi-has-the-money/page-3)

5. They listen to the right fans

It’s fantastic that Fawaz Al-Hasawi blindly follows the whims of the Nottingham Forest faithful. It’s certainly a much better idea than Vichai and Aiyawatt ignoring the Sven supporters and removing a man who wrongly or rightly thought he could spend the Foxes in to oblivion and the 50% of Leicester fans that wanted Nigel Pearson gone this summer.

6. They BACK their manager

The reason I capitalised ‘back’ is because making out that Fawaz Al-Hasawi is the greatest supporter of under-fire managers is simply ludicrous and entirely untrue. Vichai and Top (as Aiyawatt likes to be known) got rid of the feckless Paulo Sousa and careless Sven-Goran Eriksson and have since stuck by Nigel Pearson, who was in charge during Leicester’s dramatic collapse last season. Fawaz, on the other hand? He sacked one perfectly good manager, didn’t give another one a chance, brought back an old one and gets the plaudits for sticking with a manager that saved their season. What a pioneer!

7. They have their name on their shirts

I’m not sure why this is one of the ten best things about Fawaz Al-Hasawi but still, the Srivaddhanaprabhas do it better. Fawaz took the bold step of slapping his name on Forest’s shirt. The Thais did the same but trump the Kuwaiti by subsequently naming Leicester’s stadium after their business and opening a Leicester City merchandise section inside their duty free stores.

Committed… The Thai owners have invested heavily in to Leicester’s King Power Stadium and their Belvoir Drive training ground.

8. They have worldwide appeal

Credit to Fawaz for signing a deal to put every single one of Nottingham Forest’s home matches on Al Jazeera. Even our home matches aren’t always televised; most of them are, by Sky actually but that’s a different topic. The Srivaddhanaprabhas are pretty influential themselves, having been gifted with a new surname by the King of Thailand. They even claim that Thai football fans follow the Foxes as much as the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool. That’s certainly feasible if we were to look back on the pandemonium when Leicester played the Thai national team in 2010, winning 2-0. But then again, I suppose Nottingham Forest are already ‘world famous’, so it doesn’t matter does it?

9. They give more back to our fans

Fawaz takes pictures with the fans, tweets them and put a big old screen in the City Ground to broadcast an endless loop of King Billy’s unfinished business propaganda. The Thais have merely redeveloped the stadium, introduced a state of the art pitch, two giant screen TVs and an extravagant upgrade for the club’s training facilities, putting them up there with the best in the country. They’ve also regularly provided fans with freebies such as shirts, scarves, hot drinks, pies and season review DVDs. Oh, and who can forget the glamour friendly they arranged back in 2011 with Real Madrid to reward the fans for their loyal support. Forest got Aston Villa.

10. They don’t need the attention

The Thais are happy to sit in the shadows while Nigel Pearson’s Foxes strut their stuff. They don’t need a Twitter account to tease the City fanbase with empty promises and they certainly don’t need to impose a media blackout to prevent any bad press coming their way, and most importantly of all, we don’t need Natalie Jackson hanging around our boss like a bad smell.

So hat’s off to Fawaz and his gullible public, the Leicester City fans don’t need to label our owners ‘the best in football’ or dedicate a whole day to them in a bid to suit the cult of personality Fawaz has displayed at Forest. In fact, we know how lucky we are and the owners know how much they’re appreciated for the good things they actually do.