Friday, February 25, 2011

What a balls-up

Malvern Primary School in Huyton, Merseyside has caused a furore after banning footballs from the playground. Any ball made of plastic or leather cannot be used during break time for fear that it is too dangerous! The only balls allowed for the playground kick about are those made of sponge (I have vivid memories of these balls being utterly hopeless as a football!) According to The Telegraph the decision has been made on the grounds of health and safety and was brought to the attention of parents in the February newsletter. The reaction it has sparked has been all the more fierce as this is Liverpool Captain Stephen Gerrard’s childhood school. Whilst Gerrard’s status as an Old Boy of the school doesn’t guarantee future success it has certainly inspired the football loving children of the school to follow in their hero’s footsteps. The school has come under fire from national organisations such as the Child Growth Foundation (which as an anti-obesity charity presumably promotes upward or mental growth) with chairman Tam Fry arguing “Our children are in danger of becoming cocooned cotton buds.”

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Potter's politeness

Let us return to the world of magical Mr. (Adam) Potter who survived a 1,000ft fall from Sgurr Choinnich Mor in January (see He has been hitting the headlines once again as he prepares to tackle Mount Everest in the near future. Perhaps the most surprising thing about this story has been the media reaction. This heart-warming tale of good fortune has naturally been a hit with the press and public alike. However recent headlines, particularly from Scottish papers such as the Glaswegian and The Scottish Daily Record, have been concerned with Potter’s return to thank his rescuers. This writer is all for politeness and clearly it is a good, honourable and right thing for Mr. Potter to do, but should it be so surprising that it is newsworthy? As a child I was rewarded with stars on my star chart for saying “please” and “thank you” (and for being nice to my sister, sharing my toys and tidying my room for that matter) but have we reached a point in society when someone saying “thank you” is so rare that it deserves to be headline news? Are headlines the new star chart? Perhaps this story says less about Adam Potter doing the right thing than about others not doing it!

(Picture on Wikimedia Commons: Lerian)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Epic fail by French football team

If you have time (and a sense of humour) I recommend that you check out the Free Kick Fail video on YouTube (second one down on the listings). The match between Mulhouse and Louhans saw Louhans concede a free kick. Three Mulhouse players lined up to take it each one gracefully (ish) hopping over the ball in turn before realising that none of them had actually kicked it!

Seven games without loss brings harmony to Liverpool...

You may have noticed that Liverpool FC have had a sparkling run of form over the last seven matches. You would be forgiven for thinking that this is due to Kenny Dalglish being back at the helm but one of the Reds’ players, Dirk Kuyt, is claiming some of the credit for himself. Kuyt, who has just had his contract renewed with the team, believes that his choice of music has been an important factor in the recent victories. He told the Daily Mail “Ever since I’ve plugged my iPod into our music system...we’ve not lost a game.” According to Kuyt the Kings of Leon, The Killers and Amy Winehouse have been particular hits with the rest of the team. His inauguration into his new role as dressing room DJ coincided with Dalglish’s acceptance of the managerial post, making it virtually impossible to ascertainwho should get the credit for the club’s new found form.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

It's all about how you spin it...

Sporting headlines have been dominated this week by the drink-driving charges against Graeme Swann. The cricketer declined the services of Nick “Mr. Loophole” Freeman but his representative, solicitor Phillip Lucas, found a get-out-clause that would have made Freeman proud. Swann’s excuse came in the form of a bizarre tale regarding his “beloved” cat being trapped under the floorboards following building work at the home he shares with wife Sarah. In order to free said creature Swann was obliged to drive to a 24/7 Asda store to purchase a screwdriver. Unfortunately for both Swann and the cat the police stopped him en route and breathalysed him. On discovering that he was over the limit they demanded blood samples, wherein lay the loophole. The nurse took a first sample, decided it was not sufficient and then took a second. This second sample was unnecessary and according to an expert witness could have been contaminated. Therefore the case, which was based on the second sample, has been thrown out. It appears that Lucas is nearly as good at spin as Swann.

Telegraph reporter Andrew Hough has tapped into this rich vein of news stories regarding sporting heroes, their brushes with the law and the loopholes they have used to escape. The host of excuses range from the sublime to the ridiculous with gems such as “wrongly worded summons letter” to “being too stressed to give a drink drive sample.” ( See for more details.)

Picture by Richard Woods

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The civilising quality of cricket

The “civilising quality of cricket” is something this writer believes in strongly; so much so that I’m desperately trying to drag my pleb. Welshman to a test-match! One LA Cricket team has recently made the headlines due to its heart warming tale of rescuing several players’ lives and putting them back on track. Compton, one of the most notorious suburbs in Los Angeles had a cricket club founded in its midst over 15 years ago by Ted Hayes, a charity worker and Katy Haber, a British film producer. The team has grown and prospered and is about to embark on a tour of Australia as the first US-born team to do so. One team member, Ricardo Salgado, is unable to make the tour due to a parole order and several others have disappeared back into the gangland culture. However Salgado told EuroSport “If it hadn’t been for cricket I would have been in a lot more trouble. If you are busy playing cricket, you don’t have time to run with gangs.” The Compton Cricket Club has been so successful it can now field two teams, has toured the UK, met Prince Edward and been involved in advertising. Coach Hayes believes that this success is due to the “etiquette” of cricket, which introduces a superior level of respect in cricket...the king of sports.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Redditch council determined to be trailblazers

Just a quick update to the crematorium/swimming pool story:
Opponents of a scheme to heat a public swimming pool using excess heat from a nearby crematorium have a sinking feeling today as, according to Sky News, councillors in Redditch have given it the go-ahead. Work will begin this summer on the innovative money-saving, environmentally friendly project, which will be the first of its kind in the UK. There have been complaints about this “desperate plan” but it seems the majority are dying to get the project underway, according to Councillor Gandy “about 80 to 90% of the responses received by email, letter, phone calls and messages posted online, have been in favour of the idea.”

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Chasing a world record

I know two people who came out of the London Marathon vowing “never again”. Euphoria at having completed such a feat did not spark a desire to attempt it again, indeed serious blisters, blackened nails, muscle fatigue and the memory of just how tough it had been added to their conviction that it was a “once in a lifetime achievement”. But some people seem to get the bug; marathon running becomes an addiction as they vie to complete all the most famous marathons across the world. Belgian runner Stefaan Engels is an extreme form of the marathon addict, having run 365 marathons in a single year. The Telegraph reported that the 49-year-old world record breaker clocked up 9,569 miles in a year, running across seven countries and averaging four hours per marathon with a fastest time of 2 hours 56 minutes. Engels who regards the running as his “regular job” was told as a child to steer clear of sport due to bad asthma. This seems only to have fuelled his determination to walk all over the previous record, a mere 52 races in a row!

Photo by Chris Brown (originally posted to Flickr as Marathon Runners) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A hole new craze

For those who have long enjoyed the cries of delight, yelps of pain and general madness that is Takeshi’s Castle there is a new Japanese pastime to watch: competitive hole digging! Like the famous castle assault course this new sporting challenge has really taken off in Japan with over a thousand fans gathering to watch the latest Japan All National Hole Digging Competition. According to The Telegraph the Golden Shovel award was the coveted prize with more than 200 teams taking part in the event. Professional hole diggers, children and all-women teams participated, digging the deepest possible hole within the 30 minute time limit. As well as attempting to dig deepest the “most creative hole” was also rewarded. In answer to the question that is quite possibly niggling away at you: the deepest hole was 3.26 metres.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Cyclists driven to use helmet-cams

The popularity of cycling is rising across Britain, fuelled by environmental and economic concerns and driven by a desire to get fit. However there is one great threat to the cyclist: the driver. Britain’s roads are a hazardous place for the cyclist with careless and inconsiderate drivers ready to crash into them, cut them up and generally abuse them at every turn. Having been a cyclist in Cambridge I know the dangers all too well, near misses and small bumps are a daily occurrence in the city and drivers seem to have a blind spot wherever the cyclist may be. (In the name of fairness I must also mention that I have also been a driver in Cambridge and the cyclists’ disregard for traffic lights, one way signs and rights of way is infuriating at the best of times, there is certainly a sense of “they bring it on themselves” with regard to the less law abiding amongst them.) In a bid to highlight the cyclists’ plight the BBC reported on Ben Porter, who has installed a helmet camera to “capture bad driving”. Porter’s clips, many of which have been uploaded on YouTube, have become a talking point among the cycling fraternity following the conviction of a white van man using Porter’s footage. The man in question overtook Porter with very little room to spare and then in a case of road rage had got out of his van to shout abuse. All this was caught on camera and the evidence used in court to prosecute the van driver for driving without due care and attention and a public order offence. It is hoped that these cameras will revolutionise cycling in cities, forcing drivers to sit up and pay attention and restrain their tirades.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

When I was a lass...

“...No child would ever have dared to say words like that, I wouldn’t have even known the meaning” is a common complaint amongst anyone from about the age of 20 upwards, but one football team faces closure due to the language parents use at matches. The Daily Mirror reported that Marton Football Club may have to close due to an increase in anti-social behaviour from over-zealous and (according to the Mirror) “ignorant” parents. The adults in question have been the subject of many complaints to the FA. It has also received many requests that the club’s Charter Standard and funding be revoked, following abuse hurled at a 15-year old referee. The latest match to cause a furore was an under-nines match when one eight-year old boy was sworn at in abusive tirades from the parents on the side-lines. In a bid to hold on to its status and funding the club has sworn to clamp down on this behaviour by banning parents from matches if they use abusive language.