Time Has Proved You Right

April 14, 2014

Tomorrow is the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. I’ve written about my experience before (Where There’s Blame There’s A Claim), and again shortly after the Hillsborough Independent Panel had published their finding (Vindicated Or Vindictive).

When the inspirational Anne Williams passed away I wrote a song – it was the only way I could think of to deal with what I was feeling (A Mother’s Love)

I began to get a bit frustrated by the lack of progress and the fact that the police service STILL seemed to be stalling as we learned that documents were coming to light that had not been made available to the HIP. (A Year And A Bit On)

On Wednesday, I am meeting with a civilian investigator from the new inquests to discuss the statement that I gave to West Midlands Police 25 years ago (actually on 19/11/1999 – 7 months after Hillsborough). There are things in the statement which I remember saying and happening, and a number of things which I don’t. Of course, 25 years on, my memory is blurred – as is my memory of much of the day itself – but I hope this will be an opportunity to set the record, as I remember it, straight.

There are others who have written and performed songs to try and express feelings and keep the events of that day in the present rather than have it consigned, unresolved, to the dustbin of history.

Cathryn Craig and Brian Willoughby wrote a song shortly after the HIP results were published. It says what I wanted to say far better than I ever could. Brian kindly sent me an MP3 of the song so that I could post it. It is far better quality than the video I posted a few days ago from when I met them both at Llyn Acoustic Guitar Festival last year.

c&b

Time Has Proved You Right

The song can be downloaded from iTunes – it’s only 79p – and a healthy percentage of that goes to the Hillsborough Families Support Group. Not only is it a great song, but it’s helping to make a difference.

Cathryn and Brian are performing at the Liverpool Acoustic evening on April 25th at the View Two Gallery, Matthew St, Liverpool,  L2 6RE.

It’s from their “Real World” album…please think about buying the song – or the full album; it’s full of great songs.

I hope that I only ever have to write one more blog post about Hillsborough – and that one will be titled “Justice – At Last”

#JFT96


jft96


The First Palm Sunday

April 8, 2014

palm sunday

 

It was, as it usually was, a blazing hot day in Jerusalem. There were a fair few more people in the city than usual as pilgrims came from around the country to celebrate Passover and the streets were busy. The crowds were swelled by those who were hoping to catch a glimpse of the latest winner of the prestigious Temple (Wood) Turner prize for Carpentry, a certain Jesus from Nazareth, who was rumoured to be coming to the city to collect his prize.

The competition, whilst prestigious, was also mired in controversy with a number of previous winners having been discredited. Noah had been awarded the prize for his sculpture ‘A Big Boat’ but the general feeling was that, as the judging panel consisted of his wife and sons (due to nobody else being alive) the voting was possibly biased in his favour. Joshua was discredited when his sculpture ‘A Tree in wood’ turned out to be, well, a tree that had just grown rather than been carved.

Still Jesus’ entry into the competition “Loaves and Fish in Olive Wood” had been generally well received by the judging panel. The workmanship was naïve, certainly, but that lent a certain air of authenticity to the piece and, so long as he didn’t make a meal of winning…

Anna was polishing the buttons on her uniform. She was proud of the fact that she was the only woman currently serving in Blue Watch of the Jerusalem Municipal Fire Brigade. Actually, she was the only woman serving in any Watch of the JMFB and she knew she had to work twice as hard as a man would in order to be accepted but she had proved her value time and time again.

Her shift had started mid-morning and had been unremarkable so far. A couple of flat-bread ovens that had been left unattended had needed attention but, other than that, attending to her uniform was all that was occupying her time. And it needed to look good because, traditionally, the JMFB provided the guard of honour for the winner of the Temple (wood) Turner prize for Carpentry as he (or potentially she – but it had always been a ‘he’ for as long as anyone could remember) arrived in the city to receive the plaudits and the Golden Lathe trophy.

Just after one o’clock, she gathered with the rest of Blue Watch and marched in formation down to Lion’s Gate. It was certainly hot and uncomfortable in her full dress uniform and she was carrying the ceremonial bucket which was heavy but, thankfully, not as heavy as the ceremonial hose that was being hauled along on its trolley by Samuel and Aaron.

When they reached Lion’s Gate the crowd was even more populous than it had been in previous years – ten or fifteen deep in places with people hanging out of windows and on rooftops, too.

As the Watch members stood to attention it was clear that some of the crowd were being overcome by both the heat and the occasion, with ladies swooning quite regularly. If the situation carried on, and the crowd numbers continued to swell, it was quite likely that Jesus would be damned with fainting praise as he walked to the Temple to collect his prize.

And it was not just the crowd who were being overcome – after the exertions of hauling the ceremonial hosepipe through the City, Aaron and Samuel had been given leave to go and refresh themselves as they were looking decidedly peaky.

Captain Fadi, a wise and experienced man, knew that the crowd needed to be cooled down. He could hear the cheers of the crowd as those further down the slope of Mt Moriah got their first glimpse of the prize winner and the excitement reached boiling point. He ordered Anna to splash the crowd with water from the ceremonial bucket to cool them down – but it was having little effect.

“It’s not enough, Captain,” cried Anna, “we need to do more.”

Captain Fadi knew that the situation could quickly get out of hand and took a brave decision – despite Samuel and Aaron not being back yet, and although Anna was, as yet, untrained in its effective use, he yelled over the tumult “Hey, Anna, grab the hose – we’ll use that to spray the crowd.”

As is often the case in these situations (Matthew 18.2, John 6.9) there was a small boy nearby and he took up the Captain’s cry: “Anna, the hose”… soon all the crown joined in yelling

“Hose, Anna, Hey Anna, Anna, Anna, Hose, Anna Hey Anna, Hose, Anna”

“We need to get the spray over more people, Anna,” cried Captain Fadi, “climb onto the roof of the tallest building and spray from there”.

Once again, the crowd echoed his cries “Hose, Anna, in the highest!”

And THAT’s when Jesus entered Jerusalem.

So now you know.

 


This lent I’m giving up giving up…

March 17, 2014

lent-2014-feature

How does the liturgical season of Lent normally affect us? Well, for many, it is a time when we ‘give something up’ – maybe chocolate, or alcohol, or biscuits, or … well, the list is endless. And why do we do this? Because, in some way, our small sacrifice of self-denial encourages us to relate to Jesus Christ and his self-denial during the 40 days and nights he spent in the wilderness.  It reminds us what it is like to confront temptation and, like Jesus, overcome it. And, what’s more, we can be morosely miserable about it and take great pleasure in telling people “No, no sugar in my tea; I’ve given it up for Lent.”

lent

Was it Oscar Wilde who said “I can resist everything except temptation”? What good and faithful followers of Jesus we must be if we can go 40 days without caffeinated drinks or lemon drizzle cake. True disciples, undoubtedly.

And, what’s more, these little sacrifices we make usually have an added benefit – we lose weight, or we save money or we get fitter. It’s almost as though we’re not actually making a sacrifice for Jesus but, rather helping ourselves out instead.

Would we put as much effort into Lent, into our self-denial, our sacrifice, if we knew that someone else was to benefit instead? If we didn’t accrue the benefit of our labours but they were to go to someone else? Maybe someone who wasn’t expecting it … God forbid the beneficiary was someone who didn’t deserve it!

But isn’t that actually what happened all those years ago? Jesus made the biggest sacrifice of all, gave his life, not for His benefit – but for ours. And humanity didn’t deserve it then – and doesn’t deserve it now, yet still the sacrifice was made.

So this year, let’s not look at making self serving sacrifices, let’s do something for others.. Acts of Random Kindness for people who maybe don’t deserve it.

I was the recipient of an ARK 20 years ago in Liverpool – I’d parked in the City Centre to go to a meeting which had overrun. When I got back to my car I feared the worst as I saw something tucked under the windscreen wipers and knew I’d been ticketed for outstaying the parking meter. But it was an anonymous note which just said “I’ve put 20p in your parking meter; maybe you could do the same for someone else. God bless”.

So let’s not stop doing something in these days leading up to Easter, let’s DO something instead. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, sometimes just a small word or act can change the world of someone in need. The Dalai Lama is quoted as saying “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a closed room with a mosquito.”

If you need help with ideas, why not register at http://www.40acts.org.uk/ and they will send you daily emails offering ideas of what you might do to make a difference to someone or a situation.

40acts-together

By the way, I’ve not given up chocolate for Lent so, if any of you have done, and want to make sure that you aren’t tempted by that bar of Dairy Milk…. my address is in the phonebook

chocolate


Relaxing and protesting

November 19, 2013

I love getting lost in a book. For me it is one of my primary methods of relaxation along with going for a walk (no running, please) and music.

Ah, yes. Music… little can be more relaxing, or more frustrating than writing and playing music. I’ve played guitar for many years and have written a few things along the way. A few years ago a friend asked me to write a song for him to do instead of a ‘best man’ speech and that was my first incursion into writing parody songs. I’ve carried on doing it for myself, and just for myself, ever since.

Until a few years ago …. I have a friend in Nottinghamshire who frequents the acousticsoundboard forum and will occasionally challenge me to write a song. We were bemoaning the lack of good protest songs and he sent me this link and challenged me to do something with it… so I did:

A Protest Song

The story developed and the individual concerned learned that he was going to be prosecuted for ‘vandalism’ which initially required another verse to be written (but not recorded):

It is so unfair I’m being prosecuted
For my protest on the cobbles of Red Square
But I’m up before the beak tomorrow morning
And I doubt that I will get much justice there
But I cannot stand by idly while the politicians lie
And at least my protest made the daily news
And that’s why I nailed me knackers, yes that’s why I nailed me knackers
Yes, that’s why I nailed me knackers to the mews

But I decided that, as in every democracy (and, surely, Russia is a democracy, right?) the State had a right, nay, an obligation to explain itself and so got to thinking what that response might sound like… maybe something like this:

Putin’s Right Of Reply

So, there you go … now you know my dirty little secret. When I get the chance, and when I am either ‘inspired’ or, more likely, challenged, I relax by writing and recording supposedly comic songs (although I do some serious ones occasionally, too)


A Year and a Bit …

September 12, 2013

A year and a bit further on from the publication of the Independent Panel’s report on the Hillsborough Disaster and what has happened?

Not a lot.

“But what about the investigation promised by Home Secretary Theresa May?” I hear you cry. Well, the team has spent 12 months being assembled and moving into new premises so it hasn’t actually had time to do anything apparently.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/hillsborough-disaster-an-investigation-going-nowhere-8810228.html

“What? not even easy stuff like strip Norman Bettison of his Knighthood?” Nope, not even that. Despite all the evidence that he has consistently misled the investigations, that he was more interested in preserving his reputation than finding out the truth and that, had he not resigned, he would most likely have faced disciplinary charges leading to dismissal, nothing has been done.

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/hillsborough-police-chief-norman-bettison-5854854

Anne Williams has died. She died not having the truth about her son acknowledged, but believing that this was all coming to an end. Thank God she isn’t alive to see the authorities dragging their feet once again.

But they need to be reminded – we will not give up.


2012 in review

December 31, 2012

I can’t help thinking that I made the same resolution last year, too …. but I really ought to try to be more active on my blog! WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog. Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 3,500 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 6 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.


Vindicated or Vindictive?

September 14, 2012

I don’t know how other people see me, but I like to think that I’m a reasonably laid-back sort of person; slow to anger, quick to forgive … that sort of thing.

3 years and 100 or so days ago, I wrote this piece about my experiences at Hillsborough on 15th April 1989.

2 days ago the Hillsborough Independent Panel published their report. They stressed that it wasn’t an inquiry – they hadn’t had witnesses or any powers – they had just been given access to ALL the evidence relating to the events of that day.

I was at a meeting in the morning, an important meeting about how the United Reformed Church (my employer) might most effectively meet the training needs of Ministers and lay people, but I couldn’t really concentrate. I was refreshing my twitter feed every few moments as new facts dribbled out as the panel, quite rightly, first reported to the families of those who had lost loved ones.

  • 164 Police statements had been altered to ensure that South Yorkshire Police Service wasn’t shown in a bad light and that officers were put under immense pressure to amend their statements. If they wouldn’t, it was done for them.
  • The ambulance service had changed statements, too.
  • Every victim (even a 10 year old) had their blood alcohol level checked and, for some, then had their names checked against the Police National Computer to see if there was a criminal record which could be used to ‘offset’ their innocence.
  • Potentially, 41 lives could have been saved if medical attention had been forthcoming on the pitch.

The facts kept coming and coming. I wasn’t sure how I was feeling – I had to pull over and stop the car to listen to the Prime Minister give his response. He sounded, on the radio, as shocked and genuinely appalled as anyone else.

My blood was beginning to boil … but I didn’t know what I wanted to happen next. Having been blamed for the events 23 years ago I, my fellow fans, my football club and my city had been completely exonerated. It was a weight off my shoulders… but, as my original post had said “where there’s blame, there’s a claim”… the blame for the disastrous events had been laid firmly at the door of the FA, Sheffield Wednesday Football Club and South Yorkshire Police. What did I want to happen? I couldn’t really think about that… I was happy, delirious in fact, that at last, 23 years on, the truth had finally seen the light of day.

Apology after apology started rolling in, starting with David Cameron and Ed Milliband. Quickly followed by SWFC, South Yorkshire Police, it took the FA a further 24 hours to apologise but even they made it eventually. The S*n and Kelvin MacKenzie apologised, too, but theirs was worthless and self-serving and, consequently, ignored by just about everybody.

David Duckenfield, the police officer supposedly in charge that day, had been allowed to retire on a full pension at the age of 46 as a result of ‘Ill health’. Ill health is better than dying, eh, Duckenfield?

Then Kenny Dalglish who did so much for the families, club and city in the immediate aftermath of the disaster tweeted: “Very positive outcome. 23 years waiting for the truth. Next step justice”. And I thought, “yeah; justice!”

And then I started wondering what Justice might actually mean in this context, what shape, form or action it might take. And I realised that I didn’t know. I certainly wouldn’t presume to speak for those who have lost in a far more tangible way than I, I can only speak for myself. What do *I* want?

Well, I would like to know that those who were responsible for all that happened that day, who caused the problem and then failed to react effectively to the problem they had caused had been censured. I would like to know that some particular individuals (David Duckenfield) had paid a practical price – although I’ve no idea whether he even feels in any way culpable for what he caused.

I would like to know that those who took deliberate actions to place the blame, knowing that the information they were giving out was completely incorrect, on the shoulders of Liverpool fans, both fully understand and accept their guilt and, I would hope are prosecuted to the fullest extent the law allows.

I would like to know that those in the ‘establishment’ who caused this whole thing to be unresolved for 23 long years understand the immense pain and hurt they caused to so many people, not just the bereaved although, God knows, their pain has been more than most.

Most importantly, I want the original verdicts of ‘accidental death’ to be overturned and new inquests held so that people like Anne Williams can get the answers she needs.

Having not been able to define what I mean ‘justice’ to be in this context, I am quite clear what it isn’t: it isn’t vindictive retribution. So long as people feel genuine remorse and are sincere in their apologies (although, as stated, those who broke the law should be prosecuted irrespective of how sincerely they regret their actions).

Except, maybe to Kelvin MacKenzie, the editor of The S*n at the time, who I hope burns in hell for eternity for what he knowingly did to besmirch the characters of the dead, of my fellow fans, of the football club, of the city, and of me.

My elder brother, an Evertonian, sent me a text on the evening the panel’s report was published saying that he hoped I felt vindicated. At the time I replied saying that I didn’t, but I did feel less guilty for having survived and being made to feel that I was, in some way responsible.

2 days later, having thought about little else, I realise that he was right – I do feel vindicated. My blog of 3 years ago was wrong – Liverpool fans were in NO WAY to blame, late arriving or not. The actions of so many brave, respectful people, from those who lost loved ones in the disaster, from people like Andy Burnham MP, Steve Rotherham MP and Maria Eagle MP who wouldn’t let the House of Commons have a moment’s peace until something was done and the actions and voices of people, many many thousands of people just like me in refusing to accept that what happened that day was an ‘accident’ and have fought for 23 years to get someone to listen and investigate has been vindicated.

People say that the most shocking revelation of the panel is that 41 of those who died could have been saved.

I would remind you that, if people had done their jobs properly in the first place, in selecting a ground which had a valid safety certificate, in allocating tickets sensibly, in stewarding the ground effectively, in postponing kick off to allow those who had been delayed by traffic to access the ground … if these people had done their jobs properly then 96 people would not have died in the first place.

Justice for the 96 … and for all those still affected by the events in Sheffield on the 15th April 1989.

Hillsborough Family Support Group

Hillsborough Justice Campaign

Hope For Hillsborough


parkrun….

August 18, 2012

Was it the Olympics? No, I don’t think so – I’ve been talking about getting fitter for a while, but it’s one of those chicken and egg things, isn’t it? I’d need to lose a bit of weight before I felt comfortable exercising in public – but a good way to lose some weight would be to do some exercise….

One of my sisters (Princes Park, Liverpool) and one of my friends (Strathclyde) have been telling me about parkruns for a while. The last time I checked the only one in Manchester was in Heaton Park which was too much hassle to get to (i.e. I’m too lazy – and they encourage you NOT to drive to them) and I bemoaned the fact that there wasn’t something a bit nearer.

Then Eddie Izzard tweeted about the post-Olympic #joininuk thingy and I thought I’d just have a sneaky look and see if there was a crown green bowling club locally…. There is, but I also discovered that there was a parkrun that started marginally less than a mile from my house.

Well, I thought, what harm can it do? Bearing in mind that I have a dodgy back, a tight calf muscle and a history of injuring myself any time I try to get active, quite a lot of harm actually! And given that I’m leading a group to Israel/Palestine on Thursday which will involve quite a bit of walking in reasonably severe heat I decided that, if I were to take part, I would deliberately not push myself too hard. Or at all.

You have to register for a Parkrun and print out a barcode which is uniquely yours. I thought the gods (I mean, God, obviously) was smiling down on me when the server crashed on the parkrun website and I was unable to register. Sadly, they fixed it and I had run out of excuses (excuse the pun).

So, this morning I got up bright and early, put on tracky bottoms and an old t-shirt and set off to walk the mile to the start (I thought that might count as my ‘warming up’)

I got there early (no surprise there) and was confronted by a smallish group of lithe young adults with Lycra bedecked legs and running shirts that seemed to suggest most had run marathons or 10k races fairly recently.

Intimidated? Of course I was but I had told myself that’s was going to do it and, besides, one of them spoke to me and made me feel welcome so slinking away was no longer an option.

By the time 9am came round (the scheduled start) there were quite a few more people. Still a predominantly young-ish group, some young families, but that was of no bother to me, I wasn’t going to overdo myself.

I hung around at the back of the pack, reckoning that those at the front would be the proper runners and that, if I started neat the front, I would only get demoralised as more and more people, including 3 year olds and a young lass pushing a kid in a buggy, passed me. It was a good call. Nobody passed me. Ever.

I set my iPod to shuffle and thought “run a track, walk a track, run a track, etc.” Unfortunately the first track was ‘Alice’s Restaurant’ by Arlo Guthrie… My cunning plan was scuppered from the outset!

So I jogged the first mile or so (by which time the front runner had already passed me on his way back to the finish!) and then walk/jogged the rest of the way.

I took the wrong turn once but realised after a minute or so, so turned back and met up with Mike (@worsleyparkrun) who was doing the ‘tail marker’ whilst carrying his baby in a papoose. So, I knew I was last, but I had someone to talk to (I must say that Robert is quite a slow walker, I’d’ve been loads quicker if I hadn’t taken the caring decision to assuage his loneliness – I hope the ‘humour’ is shining through there!). Turns out that Mike is one of the founders of the Worsley run and his wife is, yes, you guessed it, the one pushing the kid in the buggy… He was by encouraging and we chatted and walked for most of the ‘trail’ part of the circuit which was muddy, but not. Muddy as I’d expected it to be given the cent weather.

We were mopping up marshalls as we went and, once I was sure that Mike wouldn’t be lonely without me (more humour there, folks) I sped up a little and did a bit more jogging.

The end eventually hove into sight and I decided that it wouldn’t be even vaguely amusing if I did a Mo-bot as I crossed the line (given that Mo had run twice as far in significantly less than half the time). So I didn’t.

Unfortunately, the chap at the finish line asked me if I was one of the marshalls and didn’t seem to quite believe me when I told him that no, I’d been taking part… There was a short, uncomfortable silence before he was able to rustle up a condescending “oh, right, well done you” but do you know what? I didn’t care. I’d done what I had set out to do. I’d broken the ice.

The walk to and from the parkrun added a further couple of miles or so to my distance and he shower when I got home felt well deserved.

Today wasn’t about beating anyone else, it was about overcoming my ‘fat men shouldn’t be allowed out in public” fear. The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, apparently, and I’ve taken that step.

I enjoyed my time with the Worsley Woods parkrunners. Furthermore, provided they let me, I’ll do it again :)

p.s. there were 118 runners this morning …. I know because I’ve just had my position confirmed as 118th ;) Am I boverred?

20120818-124534.jpg


Unrighteous Indignation

May 6, 2012

I went to a football match yesterday.

All right, it wasn’t just any football match – it was the FA Challenge Cup final between Chelsea and Liverpool. It is, apparently, a showpiece for English football; the pinnacle of the domestic football season … which is why it kicks off at 3pm the Saturday after the domestic league season has finished. Except it didn’t. Both Liverpool and Chelsea still have 2 remaining league fixtures to play. There was another premiership game played on the same day as the FA Cup final – and an almost full programme of matches the day after. To make sure that the Football Association got as much money as they could from selling the television rights the match was scheduled to kick off at 17;15 – despite the knowledge that this would mean there would be no trains back to Liverpool for the thousands of fans who would want to go and cheer on their team in London.

This might lead some people to think that the FA Challenge Cup had been devalued. Quite the opposite it would seem …. 3 weeks ago I was at Wembley Stadium for the Semi-final. I paid £50 for my semi-final ticket. My ticket for the final cost £85 – and I was in almost exactly the same seat (except 6 rows further back!) The Wembley Stadium debt will be paid off in no time …

£50 ticket – expensive but, hey, it’s the semi-final.

This view, despite being less central and further back, cost 70% more than the semi final..

The build up to the match was the same as usual (except we now have an american-style announcer who extiolls us all to cheer on cue and ‘smile for the camera’.

We sing ‘Abide With Me’ – led by a pretty girl in a nice frock (I’m being deliberately patronising there – hoping for irony, but it’s not my strong point)

The teams get led out onto the pitch to shake hands with the guest of honour (presumably a member of the Royal Family but no, not this year. This year it’s Sir Jimmy Armfield. A proper footballer and, by all accounts, a nice bloke.)

Then we sing the National Anthem. or, rather, we don’t.

Despite having had music and banal comments blaring into my ears for the previous hour, I was completely unaware that another pretty girl, in another pretty dress, had actually started singing. Not that it bothered me, I’d never sing the national anthem at a football match. Why should I? What’s it got to do with football? I wouldn’t boo (as some did) … but I certainly wouldn’t join in singing.

Anyway, the match kicks off and, shortly under 2 hours later, Chelsea , by virtue of them having scored more goals than us, were awarded the FA Cup. Well done them, commiserations us.

We walk back to the car – as the tube was rammed – and turn on the radio ready for a ‘fan phone in’ of come sort, hoping that it would confirm our own thoughts that Carroll should have started the match but that, if we’d played the first 60 minutes like we’d played the last 30, it would have been a very different game. Oh, and there was the ‘did the ball cross the line’ debate for which we were hoping for a definitive answer.

We got none of that. What we found on the radio was the tail end of a phone in all about the fact that some Liverpool fans had booed during the National Anthem. But, not to worry, we were told as listeners, because the subjext/phone in was going to be continued in the next programme….

Such despair. such utter futility. Liverpool fans are often accused of being paranoid. well, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you …

The following programme (Stephen Nolan’s show on BBC Radio 5 Live) invited calls from both fans who booed and people who wanted to react to the situation. A number of fans rang in with reasons why they, personally, had booed:

(I’ll paraphrase)

1. “I am not a royalist and wanted to protest that this family bloodline still had power in today’s democracy”

2. “It was in protest aimed at the Football Association at the ridiculous kick off time which has resulted in me having to pay for an hotel as there are no trains home”

3. “Chelsea fans were disrespectful during the minute’s silence to commemorate the 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster, this was a protest against that”

4. “In a time of real austerity for the country, it was a protest against the millions of pounds being wasted on celebrating some German woman’s jubilee”

5. “What’s the big deal? We’ve always done it”

What, I hope, is clear, is that people had their own reasons for doing what they did – it wasn’t orchestrated, or organised – it just happened. Given that I was paying 60% more than I had 3 weeks previously for a worse view I might well have joined in if it had been an organised protest against the Football Association. And there’s the point – it was a peaceful, non-violent protest. Nobody got hurt (apart from some sensibilities in the home counties, presumably) and it didn’t cause anybody any inconvenience.. Her Majesty The Queen clearly thought the event was of such significance in her jubilee year that she didn’t bother to attend – she didn’t even bother to send one of her distant family relations to represent her. There’s no reason why she should, it was a football match, and it is as irrelevant to her as she is to it. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against The Queen. I’m neither a royalist nor a republican. The royal family cares as much about me as I do about them. I can understand playing the national anthem at international games involving England… but at club matches? Whatever. A non-violent protest was made by small groups of individuals.

I was quite surprised, then, when ‘Richard from Basingstoke’ came on the radio. He initially preached world peace (he would, apparently, happily stand next to a Scouser, or a Geordie, or a Manc, even an Arsenal fan) but then quickly went on to suggest that he was “appalled and disgusted” at the lack of respect shown by Liverpool fans to the National Anthem. He decided to use the sad fact that 2 British servicemen had died the previous day in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, to berate us further and heap indignity and shame upon our collective scouse heads. Did we not realise that “those 2 brave boys died yesterday because they’d sworn allegiance to the Queen and had sworn to protect the National Anthem?”

Well, Richard of Basingstoke (and all those who agree with him), I hate to burst your bubble of unrighteousness indignation but no, that’s not why they died. That’s not why they died at all.

In the purest sense, they died defending the democratic right of people like me to be able to protest, peacefully, about things which concern me. And it brings shame on YOU, Richard of Basingstoke, to try and use their tragic deaths to make your own petty point.

Richard of Basingstoke suggested that, if we felt the need to protest against the FA we should have booed during ‘Abide With Me’ instead but as one scouser remonstrated; “We couldn’t do that; that’s a hymn!!!” I hate to break this to you, Richard of Basingstoke, but as far as I am concerned God trumps the Queen any day of the week!

If booing the National Anthem is really so dreadful and disrespectful, maybe we’re all being disrespectful in not giving the anthem its due honour by only singing the first verse. I call upon Richard of Basingstoke to start an immediate campaign to show true respect to the monarch (and his/her national anthem) by singing ALL the verses. Just in case you weren’t aware there were other verses, I’ve reproduced the first and second verses for you below (and there are another three):

As you can tell, Her Majesty likes nothing better than sitting down with a can of Stella to watch the footy …

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1. God save our gracious Queen,
Long live our noble Queen,
God save the Queen!
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us;
God save the Queen!

2. O Lord our God arise,
Scatter her enemies
And make them fall;
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On Thee our hopes we fix,
God save us all!

There is much to get upset and indignant about in this country of ours … the booing by some fans of the national anthem is not one of them.

When the Chelsea fans booed and interrupted the minute’s silence in memory of the 96 who died at Hillsborough… was there a national radio phone in? No.

When the malevolent idiots at Football Association who ramped up the ticket prices by fully 70% claiming the market laws of supply and demand (when they control the supply) chose to ignore the advice of train operators, travel operators and fans and schedule a match to kick off at a time when THEY KNOW some fans will be unable to get home … was there a national radio phone in? No.

When some Liverpool fans decide to exercise our democratic right to protest in a peaceful manner … was there a national radio phone in? Yes. it’s apparently national news and the primary subject of 2 national radio phone-in shows.

Britain … get a life.

The Board of the Football Association


cheats,

April 16, 2012

I love football … well, I love watching it; I’ve never really been much good at it (even when I was young and thin) but this past weekend seems to have brought to the fore a number of issues that, in truth, have been dogging the game for some time. I’ve had an opinion about what we should do about them (in some instances, for years) but never had the forum, other than post-match chats in pubs or walking to the car, to share them with much of an audience. Well, now there’s Twitter and Blogs – Hello, world! So, 4 problems and a solution to each of those problems….

1. Football seems to think that it doesn’t have to operate to the normal rules of society.

If you get convicted of burglary you might get a suspended or community sentence if it is a first offence. However, get caught and convicted a second time and you will usually face prison. That makes common sense – and escalation of punishments as you show that you are unrepentant.

Seamus Coleman fouls Steven Gerrard - second yellow card?

In the incident that led to the free kick (from which Andy Carroll scored the winning goal for Liverpool  at the FA Cup Semi Final against Everton) Seamus Coleman fouled Steven Gerrard. The summariser for ESPN, commentating on the match, said, “Had he not already been on a yellow card he would have been booked for that foul challenge”. Where else other than football do you get a more lenient sentence for a second offence? This isn’t the first time such a comment has been made – it probably won’t be the last but, however you look at it, it is clearly ridiculous.

Solution: Referees need to grow a pair and realise that the football pitch is no different from anywhere else – second offences get punished MORE harshly than first offences.

2. More and more players are ‘simulating’ in order to gain an advantage.

Ok, let’s be blunt – by simulating I mean cheating. It is, potentially, the biggest threat to football in England since the hooliganism of the 70s and early 80s. It ruins matches, causes bad feeling between players, between supporters, between managers. It costs people their jobs as managers and coaches are sacked because their team wasn’t able to beat a team with a cheat in it.

I’m not in any way blind about this issue – just a fortnight ago, a player for my own team (Liverpool FC) decided to try and gain an unfair advantage by pretending that he’d been fouled by the opposition goalkeeper. You can judge for yourself if the keeper got anywhere near him or whether he dived …

Simulation? No; it's called cheating ... click on the pic to watch the video

But Carroll is not the only one. For two games in a row Ashley Young has deliberately dived in order to gain an advantage for his team. In the first game he was awarded a penalty AND had an opposition player (a fellow professional) sent off. In the most recent instance, he was awarded a penalty. On both occasions his team went on to win the game. In truth, young has history of trying to gain an unfair advantage – he was known for it when he played for his previous club, and has exaggerated contact when playing for his country, too. And we can’t pretend that these are the only 2 examples in English football…

Arsene Wenger (Manager of Arsenal FC) believes that the best solutions is a 3 match ban for any player who dives. But surely he, as a manager, should have the authority to tell his players NOT to dive – and, if he wants, he can ban his own players for three matches (unless the sanction doesn’t apply to him). For me, that is not enough. I have a solution that will eradicate the problem overnight…

But here’s the problem: I expressed my opinion that yesterday’s incident in which Young exaggerated WAS a penalty, which was rightly awarded, but that Young should have been booked for simulation as well. I got into conversation with someone who claimed to have refereed at international level who said that, had he awarded a penalty in an instance where a player had stayed on his feet, he would have lost his referee’s licence. I find that difficult to believe but, if players think that referees won’t give decisions unless they’re writhing on the ground ….

My Twitter conversation with Eric Ackermann, allegedly a referee.

Solution. If a player is shown to have simulated, dived, exaggerated to gain an unfair advantage then the team for which he plays has a 3 point deduction in order to penalise them. For example. Liverpool win 1-0 as a result of a free-kick awarded following a dive by a player. Video evidence is used retrospectively to prove that the player simulated. Liverpool lose 3 points (opponents are awarded 1 point). On another occasion, Liverpool win 2-1. Video evidence is used retrospectively to prove that a Liverpool player simulated. Liverpool are deducted 3 points, the opposing team gain a three points. On yet another occasion Liverpool lose 1-0. Video evidence is used retrospectively to prove that the player simulated to try and gain an advantage (even though none was gained – Liverpool have been rubbish at penalties recently!). Liverpool are deducted 3 points, the opposition retain their three points.

It is my contention that, faced with a situation in which clubs know that they will lose points if a member of their team dives/exaggerates/simulates then managers and coaches (and owners and chairmen) will ensure that it does not happen and, if it does, then a player would be unlikely to play for that club again. No other team would be tempted to buy him – cheats will be out of football very quickly. Problem solved.

3. Referees are unable to use the technology which is available to assist in their decision making

Chelsea’s second goal in their FA Cup semi final against Tottenham Hotspur was , to say the least, contentious. Did the whole of the ball cross the line? Did it heck. Within seconds of the goal being awarded, TV replays had proved that the ball didn’t cross the line (one could argue that the ball didn’t GET to the line, let alone cross it) but referee Martin Atkinson was unable to call on that evidence to back up his decision (or, in this instance, overturn it). Why not? I don’t accept that we need specific goal line technology for this. the normal TV cameras picked it up and provided proof with in seconds – certainly before the game re-started. A gross error of judgement has, again, changed the course of a football match.

The whole of the ball crossed the line? It didn't even GET to the line!

The argument against the use of technology is that it slows the game down – I reckon that if you were a player who truly believed that your goal attempt had crossed the line then you would very quickly hoof the ball out of play to engineer an opportunity for the 4th official to have a look.

Solution. a 4th official in the stands with access to the television camera feed (and there are cameras at every game now, remember) who can relay a decision based on tv evidence to the referee in seconds. If a decision is that close that it needs specialised goal line technology to prove something one way or another then the referee’s first call stands.

4. The Football Association Board  consistently fail to modernise the rules and laws (and their application).

Solution: Sack ‘em


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