Hypocrite Straw just blows with the wind
00:44 GMT, 16 May 2012
Very wisely, the Premier League took one look at Jack Straw’s crowd-pleasing call for an investigation into Venky’s takeover of Blackburn Rovers, and ignored it.
As manager Steve Kean heads to India for another one of his interminable dances with fools, former home secretary Straw, Labour MP for Blackburn, has taken to the airwaves and the opinion pages following the club’s relegation, demanding an inquiry and calling into question the Premier League’s fit-and-proper-person test.
‘At last the back pages of our newspapers have woken up to what is really happening at Blackburn Rovers,’ began Straw’s piece in The Times, as if journalists had not been consistently critical of Blackburn’s new owners, almost from the moment of their arrival, with the sacking of manager Sam Allardyce and the unhealthy influence of Jerome Anderson’s SEM Group.
Poultry season: Indian chicken giant Venky's have been a disaster at Blackburn
Writing in the Lancashire Telegraph, Straw added: ‘At the heart of the Premier League’s wilful neglect of its responsibilities is its so-called “fit-and-proper-person” test. The test is laughable and almost everyone in the business knows this.
‘I cannot believe that this Indian family poultry business had any idea of the financial and reputational risks they were taking on. Why were they not warned’
Like all politicians, Straw is fully alive to the self-aggrandising moment. He seeks to establish himself as the lone voice of reason with the voters —sorry, fans — while decrying the contribution of others.
If only the Premier League had been as insightful as Jack; if only the media had listened to his words of wisdom and caution. He saw through this from the start. Why did they not heed his warnings To which we ask: what warnings
Want to know what Straw wrote when Venky’s bought Blackburn Want to know how prescient he was or how high the stringent application of a fit-and-proper-person test was on his list of priorities
Unrest: Rovers fans want Venky's out… but Jack Straw (below) welcomed them
This is an extract from his column in the Lancashire Telegraph, published October 28, 2010. ‘Venky’s growth from next to nothing is another story of the explosion of entrepreneurship which is turning India into a global power. Britain was the pioneer in world economic dominance. We exported far more goods than we imported, then used the surplus to invest abroad. India, among others, is now returning the compliment — and we should welcome it.
‘Top-flight soccer was once entirely local. But it’s now global too. If the Venky’s deal for Rovers passes the remaining hurdles, then it will be good news for the club and its loyal fans. And it may have the bonus of encouraging a trend, seeing many more folk of Asian heritage at Ewood Park.’ Although not the owners.
So, far from adopting a cynical or even ambivalent tone, Straw as good as got out the bunting. Now, in order to score cheap political points, he sheds his hands-across-the-ocean shtick, and feigns insight. The hypocrite.
‘The initial response to Venky’s venture has been mixed,’ wrote Jayadipta Gupta, a former columnist in the Indian Express, now executive editor of ESPN Cricinfo, India. ‘The media is cautious, welcoming the possible deal but raising an eyebrow at the 5million transfer budget Venky’s has proposed.
No help from politicians: Beleaguered Blackburn manager Steve Kean
‘A more unambiguous response has come from Jack Straw, the former British foreign secretary, who knows a thing or two about the global game.’
Doesn’t he just He knows how it can make him look good, how it affords easy headlines and publicity, and how it moves so fast these days that it is easy to evade consistency of thought from one season to the next.
Mike Hancock, Liberal Democrat MP for Portsmouth South, demanded a similar investigation into the demise of Portsmouth, forgetting that when they won the FA Cup in 2008 with money they didn’t have, he was so suspicious he tabled a parliamentary motion congratulating the club and calling for manager Harry Redknapp to be knighted…
So, one more time for Straw, and all those joining him on this populist charabanc: a fit-and-proper test is not an intelligence test. What is being proposed here — that Venky’s as good as set out their plans for approval before the Premier League — would make their chief executive Richard Scudamore the de facto owner of every club.
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All the league can do is ensure the buyers have the funds for the transaction and are not criminals, and the rest is down to them. Whether they then take the club to the skies, like Sheik Mansour and Manchester City, or into the shallows like Venky’s and Blackburn, is their business: literally.
Nobody gave Mike Ashley’s plans for Newcastle United a prayer at the start of the season, but Alan Pardew made them work, came fifth and was rightly crowned Manager of the Year by the League Managers’ Association.
Many thought Venky’s ideas at Blackburn were wrong from the start, but an owner has to be allowed to make his mistakes, providing he is not engaged in an illegal enterprise.
Take Cardiff City. The club are in desperate need of investment and a buyer has been found in Malaysia: but he wants to change the strip from blue to red.
Suppose the Football League had made him reveal this plan prior to purchase, refused to sanction it and the new owner had walked away. Cardiff’s fans would, rightly, be in uproar. Maybe they would be willing to trade blue for red and financial security.
Cardiff’s original colours were chocolate and amber quarters, and they once sported a thick yellow and white stripe in the blue, so who knows If red brought success maybe the fans would learn to love it. Either way, it is not the league’s call. In the end, Cardiff got their man, he floated the idea of change, the fans reacted negatively and he backed down.
There was always the hope Venky’s would see sense, too. Always the hope that they would set a different course from one that ended in relegation. The pain of the supporters is bad enough, however, without the opportunistic Straw pushing the right buttons to advance his own standing.
Welcome wagon, bandwagon, it is all one big ride for our political class.
Gary should be focusing on England
Gary Neville is a strong appointment by England manager Roy Hodgson.
Forget the talk of future England manager, we’ve seen plenty of them, young coaches being groomed for the ascension, from Bryan Robson to David Platt and lately Stuart Pearce. When the England manager leaves, the mood is invariably for regime change, not more of the same, and his staff go with him. Hodgson will have to be quite brilliant for Neville to be regarded as the man for the job in four years’ time.
Right here, right now, though, is a different matter. Neville knows the game, the international territory, is forthright and well respected. Undistracted by club duties, he definitely fits the bill.
For his media employers, however, his appointment is a disaster. Neville may think he can continue writing and talking without pulling his punches, but he can’t. He will soon find there are too many fragile egos around the England squad to have a senior coach out there, telling the truth.
England expects: Gary Neville (right) will have to change his media approach
On Sky, he will have to think before he speaks, in his newspaper column he will have to defend performances that would previously be analysed ruthlessly. Each word will be picked over for evidence of inconsistency.
In 2006, after England lost in Croatia, Steve McClaren’s assistant Terry Venables mounted a robust defence against the critics in his column in the News of the World. He mentioned that Stewart Downing was so intimidated by his hostile reception during the goalless draw with Macedonia that he was taken out of the firing line in Zagreb. McClaren had earlier said Downing was dropped due to poor form.
In essence, the two explanations were the same — Downing’s form had gone, because he felt under pressure — but this perceived disagreement was seized upon before the next match against Holland, where it dominated the news agenda.
Neville will learn to watch what he says — the last thing a newspaper wants from its columnist.
He is better off making a break because whatever loyalty he feels to his media employers, he will have to prioritise his England position. Indeed, the process has begun already. If it hadn’t, his newspaper or Sky would have broken the story about his new job.
Fair play to the London Games organisers
Canada wanted to own the podium at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, and did. They won a huge amount of medals.
The nation is more sensitive, however, when afforded ownership of some unfortunate by-products of this desire, such as the accidental death of Georgian luge slider Nodar Kumaritashvili, who crashed in practice on a course for which he was wholly unprepared.
Canada had given their own athletes months of training at Olympic facilities, while limiting the time allotted to rivals. Now it is proposed Team GB does the same.
Nobody has ever died from a Nike blow-out at the bend of a 400 metres circuit but, even so, do we never learn The Olympics is not meant to be about establishing a master race. We are not inviting the world to London to crush them like ants.
Barton poses problem for Hughes
How many games should Joey Barton miss next season Nine, at least, possibly 15.
It adds up like this. He gets three for the straight red-card offence against Carlos Tevez, plus one additional for it being his second sending-off of the season; the kick on Sergio Aguero, meanwhile, also constitutes a red card, so three matches, plus two additional for it equating to his third sending-off offence. If the Football Association then regard the contact with Vincent Kompany as a head-butt, that would make three red-card offences and an additional six matches, totalling 15 in all.
Either way, it leaves Queens Park Rangers manager Mark Hughes with a dilemma because it will be very hard to shift a player who might not be available until October, or even December.
It appears he is stuck with Barton until the January transfer window at the earliest. He cannot captain the club, obviously, and considering his actions could have got Rangers relegated, can hardly be given first-team responsibility in a campaign which must amount to more than desperate survival.
Still, many British team leaders are upset at the attitude of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, when insisting on fairness.
Rowing and flatwater canoeing had organised exclusive access to the facilities at Eton Dorney; LOCOG removed it; UK Athletics asked for dedicated access to the Olympic track every Thursday, LOCOG changed that to six afternoons shared with other athletes; the British Olympic Association wanted a specific home team dressing room at every venue: request denied.
‘All these little nooks and crannies of home advantage haven’t existed,’ says Dave Brailsford, performance director of British Cycling. ‘This is now the Fair Play Games.’
As opposed to what For there is another name for the little nooks and crannies, another term for owning the podium, or limiting access, certainly to the point where it becomes dangerous, as happened in Vancouver. It’s called cheating.
Athletes do not see it that way, because highly competitive people rationalise unsporting behaviour to water down its motivations. So when British Cycling requested that no foreign competitors be allowed access to the velodrome until it was necessary — LOCOG ignored them and held an international test event in February — they did not perceive what they were seeking as unjust, merely clever.
As long as it does not contravene regulations, all is fair in love and war. And that’s the nub of it. Sport isn’t war.
It’s a demonstration of ability and skill, not some patriotic flexing of muscle. Do it fairly, or don’t bother. This is the Olympic Games, not Moscow’s May Day parade.
Time's up for Carlos and Mario
The board meeting to discuss the immediate future at Manchester City was held the day after the title was won, and before the open-top bus parade. If the fate of Carlos Tevez had not already been sealed it probably has now.
Enjoy it while it lasts: Carlos Tevez (right) will surely get the boot from City
City’s last public celebration was partly overshadowed by the absence of Mario Balotelli, this one slightly soured when Tevez held up a placard with the message ‘RIP Fergie’. It was given to him by a fan, and was a reference to Sir Alex Ferguson’s comment that City would not overtake Manchester United ‘in my lifetime’, then there are language-barrier issues, it was only a joke and, well, you know, the usual.
The problem City will be addressing is why always them And the inescapable conclusion is that, to progress with necessary stability, they need to make Tevez and Balotelli an issue for another club now.
RVP could spoil Arsene's summer holiday
Arsene Wenger is predicting, as always, a very quiet summer at Arsenal. Having already secured German striker Lukas Podolski, he says economic recession plus the Premier League restriction on squad numbers and the return of Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby means there will be little transfer activity.
Wenger had a similarly quiet summer last year, one recalls, followed by a very noisy early autumn when he ran around like a man with his trousers on fire bidding for every player in sight because Arsenal were in crisis and had conceded eight goals to Manchester United.
Hot property: Europe's top clubs will be chasing Robin van Persie this summer
Robin van Persie has the capacity to disturb the peace this year, too. He wasn’t speaking like a man minded to stay after Sunday’s win over West Bromwich Albion, and Arsenal cannot afford to waste another close season with speculation.
The club are preparing a substantial wage offer and Wenger needs to know his captain’s intentions early, because if he loses Van Persie late, in the manner of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, he will prove impossible to replace adequately.
There is a difference between a nice bit of quiet and the gentle noise of tumbleweed blowing through.