Tag Archives: traditionalists

Cardiff City to play in red this season

It's Cardiff… but not as we know it! After 104 years, the 'Bluebirds' are playing in red

By
Michael Walker

PUBLISHED:

21:30 GMT, 16 August 2012

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 16 August 2012

Fantasy football 2012

Red alert! Bluebirds for more than a century, Cardiff City begin a red era on Friday evening, amid wincing from traditionalists, hard swallowing from supporters and anguished talk of Rangers, Portsmouth and the uncomfortable commercial compromises of these fragile financial times.

As Cardiff’s manager Malky Mackay put it: ‘I attended a meeting of a little group of those who wanted to return their season books. My message was, “Come and support your team; Cardiff City still have a team; and it’s because of this”.

‘The comparison with Portsmouth and Rangers is not scaremongering. A lot of clubs in the Premier League and Championship are being funded by “an individual”. If that person walked away there aren’t a host lining up to replace them. And banks aren’t lending. In the past banks bailed out clubs, to an extent.

Red is all the rage: Cardiff have undergone a makeover this summer

Red is all the rage: Cardiff have undergone a makeover this summer

Football League blog

‘That’s why Rangers went, that’s why Portsmouth are in the situation they’re in. We would be no different had this gentleman not come in.’

This gentleman is Tan Sri Vincent Tan, the Malaysian businessman who first bought into Cardiff in 2009 to fend off HM Revenue and Customs and who this summer decided that a club who have worn blue since 1908 and have a bluebird as a club badge would from this season be sporting red. There would still be a bluebird on the crest, but beneath a large red dragon.

Reasons offered, such as red being a lucky colour in Malaysia, have been unconvincing but the economic reality is that the 39 per cent Tan owns of Cardiff City, allied to the extra investment he has delivered in the past 24 months, gives Tan power. He runs the club, has Premier League ambitions, has funded the return of Craig Bellamy and, locally, Tan’s presence at Friday’s Championship opener against promoted Huddersfield Town does not seem to inspire as much dread as his potential boardroom absence.

Not for the first time, fans feel cornered, conflicted. A planned demonstration before kick-off by ‘Keep Cardiff Blue’ has been cancelled on police advice; the club shop continues to sell its Bluebird range and blue away kit as well as the new red strip. But the thought of what Cardiff might be were Tan not around is equally prominent.

Big spenders: Craig Bellamy is a high profile signing for the Championship club

Big spenders: Craig Bellamy is a high profile signing for the Championship club

WHEN AND WHERE

Championship: Cardiff City v Huddersfield Town.
Kick-off: 7.45pm, Cardiff City Stadium.
TV: LIVE on Sky Sports 1, 7.30pm.

Vince Alm, a fans’ spokesman, who has been watching the team since the 1960s, said: ‘I don’t know anyone who’s happy with the colour change and the badge change.

‘But the majority have reluctantly accepted the re-brand. This sort of investment doesn’t come along often for a club of our size. It’s huge — writing off this scale of historical debt. That doesn’t mean fans will be happy wearing red — they will continue to wear blue — but Cardiff supporters have also looked at the plight of other clubs, especially Portsmouth.

‘Two years ago the debt was 30million and the club are said to have been funded at about 1m or more a month since then. If the Malaysians were not around I think there would have been a fire sale and we’d be in administration.

‘I’ll keep wearing blue, but I’m glad of their investment. I’m glad Cardiff City still exist.’

It turns out that Portsmouth were not the only team in the 2008 FA Cup final on a precipice. The Football League have granted Pompey leave to begin life in League One on zero points, but the club’s position remains desperate.

Bad start: Cardiff were knocked out of the Capital One Cup by Northampton

Bad start: Cardiff were knocked out of the Capital One Cup by Northampton

Cardiff’s woes are less publicised but the fact that former owner Sam Hammam was mentioned in the morning’s Western Mail was a backwards jolt. Tan is negotiating with Hammam over debts of around 14m that pre-date Peter Ridsdale as Cardiff chairman, and Robbie Fowler and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in blue kits.

That money fuelled Cardiff. Five years ago the average attendance at Ninian Park was 14,000. Then came the FA Cup final run, and in the last three seasons the play-offs have been reached. Each time Cardiff lost, in May to West Ham.

By last season the average gate was up to 22,000 at the new stadium. Mackay replaced Dave Jones and led the team to the League Cup final in February, when they lost on penalties to Liverpool.

On Tuesday at Northampton, Cardiff went out in the first round but Mackay was far from downbeat. He had eight players on international duty and rested five others. The impressive 40-year-old knew he had Tan coming on Friday and the focus is on avoiding the 57 games of last season and gaining promotion over 46. The squad looks strong and will be added to.
And, like the lips being bitten, red it is.

Mackay added that ‘the colour of the strip and the badge, for me personally, doesn’t equate with us having to be promoted,’ but in this country at least, red is also the colour of pressure.

Drastic surgery needed to save the nation"s favourite

Drastic surgery needed to save the nation's favourite after deaths overshadow race

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 15 April 2012

The British Horseracing Authority have promised a balanced and comprehensive review of the two horse deaths that scarred the John Smith’s Grand National for the second year running.

But when they have collated the statistics and reviewed the videos, the decisions they must take are to level out the drop on the landing side of fences, notably Becher’s Brook, and reduce the number of runners by up to a quarter.

Traditionalists will blanch at the prospect. Some will accuse me of betrayal of the sport on which I report, but after the deaths of Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Synchronised and According To Pete, drastic surgery is necessary.

Tragic: Gold Cup winner Sychronised fell during the Grand National and was later put down

Tragic: Gold Cup winner Sychronised fell during the Grand National and was later put down

The aftermath of Saturday’s race should have been celebration. After four-and-a-half miles and 30 jumps, the John Hales-owned Neptune Collonges, the first grey to win for 51 years, had beaten Sunnyhillboy by the thickness of a cigarette paper under an inspired ride from Daryl Jacob to secure the trainer’s championship for Paul Nicholls.

Back in third, Katie Walsh on Seabass had secured the best ever finish for a female jockey.

But memories of a race that fired my love of the sport are joyless. They are the grief of Synchronised’s trainer Jonjo O’Neill and the grim faces of his owner JP McManus and officials.

On the opening day of the meeting, I wrote about the significant changes undertaken since both Dooney’s Gate and Ornais lost their lives a year ago.

Fatality: According to Pete also died as questions were once again asked about the race's safety

Fatality: According to Pete also died as questions were once again asked about the race's safety

They included beefed-up entry criteria to weed out potential risks as almost 250,000 was spent on a range of welfare measures.

Three fences were altered, including a
five-inch reduction of the drop on the landing side of Becher’s. /04/15/article-0-12987260000005DC-602_634x438.jpg” width=”634″ height=”438″ alt=”Neck and neck: Neptune Collonges (near) and Sunnyhillboy fought out a thrilling finish” class=”blkBorder” />

Neck and neck: Neptune Collonges (near) and Sunnyhillboy fought out a thrilling finish

Both deaths on Saturday were tragic
accidents. Synchronised fell at Becher’s Brook but galloped on riderless
and jumped five fences until the stumble that broke his hind leg.
According To Pete had jumped Becher’s Brook on the second circuit when
he cannoned into the prostrate On His Own and broke a foreleg.

The key objective for the BHA must be to
have fewer fallers. More runners on their feet is the safest option and
it would not detract from the spectacle.

It wouldn’t make the race risk-free but would establish firmer foundations for a defence against those hell bent on its destruction. And it would still be just as exciting if 18 or 20 runners out of a line-up reduced from 40 to 30 crossed the Melling Road with a chance. Most of us who remember the victory of Bobbyjo in 1999 do not reflect on it as a lesser contest — yet only 32 runners lined up.

Success story: Daryl Jacob on Neptune Collonges

Success story: Daryl Jacob on Neptune Collonges

More can be done at Aintree and not just because we are concerned with the cosmetic appearance of the sport that has wider implications for jump racing.

More than 70,000 spectators were at Aintree on Saturday and the same number will be there next year no matter what happens.

But we should want to make changes — want to build on the welfare successes that have been achieved.

I want to be proud of the sport’s biggest day, just as I was of one aspect on Saturday.

A jockey ban for excessive use of the whip for a second successive year would have added to the furore but Jacob and, particularly, Richie McLernon on the tiring runner-up Sunnyhillboy performed with admirable professionalism in pursuit of the prize.

Their actions showed how seriously the current crop of competitors take their responsibilities to their mounts and the historic prize, when it would have been easy for them to recklessly chase victory at all costs.

Aintree and the BHA have shown the same responsibility in the last year. Their decisions now must be brave and bold.

Grand National in safe hands: Aintree aims to keep the spectacle and protect the horses

Grand National in safe hands: Aintree aims to keep the spectacle and protect the horses

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UPDATED:

19:51 GMT, 11 April 2012

The John Smith’s Grand National meeting opens this afternoon with the man who has steered it through one of the toughest periods in its history insisting the mood is upbeat thanks to continued support from the public.

Managing director Julian Thick, who revealed that almost 250,000 has been spent on welfare measures since two horses died in the 2011 National, said the prospect of over 150,000 spectators, 70,000 of them on Saturday, underlined the enduring appeal of the one horse race in Britain that truly extends beyond the sport’s natural borders.

Only a few days after a protester caused chaos at the Boat Race, unprecedented security will accompany a first-day cast including six Cheltenham Festival winners, among them Big Buck’s and Riverside Theatre.

The calm before the storm: The main stand at Aintree will be packed tot he rafter on Saturday

The calm before the storm: The main stand at Aintree will be packed tot he rafter on Saturday

But, 12 months on from the storm that followed the fatal Grand National accidents of Dooney’s Gate and Ornais, it will be tough for any performance, equine or human, to knock the topic of welfare from the top of the agenda.

To its credit, the sport has recognised that as it seeks to balance safety with accusations of meddling by traditionalists.

There has been no retreat into a siege mentality but an engagement with the mainstream animal welfare organisations and implementation of 18 of the 20 recommendations of a safety review.

They include changes to the three fences which have claimed 50 per cent of fallers between them since 1990 — most notably the iconic Becher’s Brook — plus a raft of measures including improved pre-race screening of participants.

Rules on whip use, not prompted but influenced by winning jockey Jason Maguire’s excessive use on Ballabriggs last year, has resulted in a stiffer regime with a potential 10,000 fine for a rider ignoring rules.

Hot streak: Ballabriggs gets a hug from stable lad Ed Bourne and a cooling down after winning the 2011 Grand National

Hot streak: Ballabriggs gets a hug from stable lad Ed Bourne and a cooling down after winning the 2011 Grand
National

Most of the changes were first tested at Aintree’s December meeting but it is what happens over the next few days that really counts, starting with the Fox Hunters’ Chase, the first race over the famous fences.

Thick said: ‘The safety review was extensive and consulted with many parties and was not knee-jerk. Horse racing is not without risk but we believe these are a package of changes good for the long-term future of the race. Safety is our No 1 priority.’

The radical animal rights organisations like Animal Aid, who have called for a Grand National betting boycott, do not agree but crucially Aintree and the BHA have worked closely with both the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare.

WHW chief executive Roly Owers said: ‘Overall we think the changes are a good step forward. We appreciate that there is a balance to be struck between the accompanying risks of such a race and maintaining it as a unique and challenging event. Risk management can only go so far. Officials know there are no guarantees and selling that to an increasingly sentimental public is tough.’

Enlarge

Grand national plan

The simple fact is eight horses have died in the Grand National since 2000. That would be unacceptable if the numbers were greeted with disdain. They are not.

Even before this year’s changes, previous safety moves had seen the fatality rate almost halve in the last decade compared to the period around the early 1980s.

Jamie Stier, BHA director for raceday regulation, said: ‘The message we will give to the jockeys before the National is one of respect — for the horse, the course, the jumps and the race, to ensure it is there for future generations to enjoy.’

Those sentiments would be worth adopting by everyone — including those whose agenda is to see an end to Aintree’s big day.