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Everything posted by arwebb

  1. LOCOG's position on the stadium, though a noble one, was flawed from the very beginning for me. Born out of regret at seeing a very limited legacy for athletics in Manchester after the 2002 Commonwealth Games, it became, in my view, a dogma that has handicapped the legacy of the Games for too long and at too great a cost. From the very beginning of the bid process, I had, as I have made clear in these forums on many occasions, grave doubts about the legacy plan for the stadium. I believed then, as I do now, that a solution of the kind we have come to is the best chance of avoiding the kind of white elephant scenario we have seen too often elsewhere. Now, to borrow a line from Jeremy Corbyn's EU speech today, it is possible to believe we have a good solution in terms of the layout of the stadium and be critical of the deal that has been done with the anchor tenant. While I certainly don't blame West Ham for seeking the best possible deal for their business, there is no doubt they have got an extraordinarily good deal and, with the vast amounts of money already floating around within the Premier League even before the massive new television deal starts next season, more should have been done to drive a harder bargain with them. But I would much rather have this stadium solution and this deal than a smaller stadium inextricably linked to a sport that struggles to put bums on seats outside of its biggest events.
  2. I did a very unscientific straw poll in my area for work the other day and Out supporters outnumbered In by nearly three to one. However, Don't Knows made up nearly as big a group as the Out group and it's these people who will be crucial when we get to June 23. I'm very much in that category as well as, for all my natural scepticism about the institution, I have yet to see a convincing case for Brexit. I suspect I'll only make up my mind when I'm staring at the ballot paper.
  3. It seems extraordinary to speak of David Bowie in the past tense, The fact that his new album came out just the other day made the news of his passing all the more shocking when it broke here early this morning. I wouldn't class myself as a massive fan of his, but I enjoyed a lot of his music and the moment when Chris Hoy led the British team into the London Olympic Stadium to Heroes will stay with me forever. British music, British arts, British life has lost one of its very greatest today.
  4. At least when his visa is sorted. Seriously, though, I'm very pleased we've got him. Saw the hugely moving scenes from Jonah Lomu's memorial service the other day. It still just doesn't seem true that a man just a few years older than me, and who frightened the wits out of me and goodness knows how many other rugby fans in 1995, is no longer with us. A huge loss, in every sense of that word, not just to New Zealand, but to the whole of rugby.
  5. You mean 29 people here were that desperate for something to rest a cup of tea on? Haven't they heard of coasters?
  6. An awful lot of sense there. That needs to be shared widely, particularly among the world's political leaders.
  7. Happy to take a modicum of revenge for Wembley 2013.
  8. Among about 20 others, so it seems. One thing that I think is certain, however, is that the RFU will go for an overseas coach. I'm not convinced it will be Eddie Jones, though.
  9. Earlier this year, I travelled through Paris while heading to Madrid, where a long-time friend of mine now lives, just a few weeks after the Charlie Hebdo atrocities. I remember seeing two officers on patrol around Gare d'Austerlitz armed with automatic weapons and feeling a sense of reassurance that they were there. Last night, I was enjoying a boxing event when I saw the first reports of shootings in Paris on my phone. Immediately, my heart just sank. Having felt the resilience of that city, even if only briefly, a few months ago, the fact they are having to endure so much worse now just fills me with despair and anger. Despair at the sheer scale of our species' potential inhumanity to each other and anger at these bastards who wish to destroy our way of life. It is entirely right that those of us who can should gather at Wembley on Tuesday night to stand alongside our French friends and show the scum who celebrate these atrocities that they will never win. And let next summer's European Championship be a memorial to those who perished last night, not just as a feast of football but as a celebration of what is best about humanity. Of course, there are serious questions that must be addressed about what has happened and why. There are, for instance, reports in the British media this evening that one of the attackers was registered as a refugee in Greece last month. That, and others, are issues that must be addressed, though not right now. For tonight, we are all Parisian and we must stand together in this incredibly dark hour.
  10. Rightly or wrongly, I fear this may well seal Lancaster's fate. I just wonder about the extent to which Andy Farrell would have influenced it, given that he went through pretty well the same process when he switched codes.
  11. For anyone who loves sport, and particularly for anyone who loves athletics, today has been a very depressing day. The fact we've known it was coming for a while doesn't make the scale of what has been uncovered, or the implications of it, any easier to comprehend. Nor should we be under any illusions about the threat this crisis poses, not simply to athletics, but to sport as a whole. If people don't feel they can believe what they are watching, then the sport is dead and that is the very real risk facing athletics tonight. Perhaps we should not be all that surprised. I've just listened to Steve Cram on BBC Radio talking about how he first talked about Russian athletes cheating at the age of 17. He's now 55. As I drove home earlier, I was reminded of the occasion when Paula Radcliffe held up an anti-doping banner at the 2001 World Championships in Edmonton, triggered by a Russian athlete getting away with failing a drugs test, and having it removed by security personnel. Maybe something like this has been coming all along. There are two very real fears for me. One is that, if one nation is doing it in one sport, what is to stop other nations doing it in this or other sports? I fear the answer to that is not much. The other is that, given the extent to which the IAAF has been implicated in today's report, how can any of us realistically trust that body, under a president in Lord Coe who has been part of the senior hierarchy for a long time, to sort it out? I'm trying to find a reason why people can trust a leader who, just three months ago, described media reporting of drug problems in athletics as "a declaration of war" on his sport and I'm not sure there's a logical one. The only one I can remotely cling to is his record of delivery in other phases of his career. He took on the biggest challenge of his professional life when he was elected IAAF president. That challenge has just become so much harder.
  12. If ever a sportsman has earned the right to go out on his own terms, Richie McCaw has done just that. My main sporting pleasure of the weekend is that we didn't get our backsides handed to us by New Zealand in the other code of rugby in Hull this evening.
  13. AC/DC might have sang it - rugby's back in black.
  14. The best final will always be November 22, 2003 but I am biased in that regard. In the end, a terrific final. I feared a hammering at 21-3, but Australia showed tremendous character to get so close. For New Zealand to then take it away so emphatically at the death just shows how special a team this is.
  15. I'm sure plenty of lawyers would add loss of earnings to that as well. I have to confess that I was shocked this afternoon when I saw what Sepp Blatter had said. Not because of what he said itself, as I think most of us here at least have believed there was something wrong with the process pretty much from the moment the results were announced five years ago, but because of how it was said and the timing of it. It seems clear that he wants to try to put as much distance as possible between himself and Michel Platini, who we know supported Qatar for 2022, by implying he got what he wanted for 2018, not 2022, and is prepared to go down with the ship if it means taking Platini with him. The implications, of course, are much wider. Given that any pretence of fairness in those bidding processes appears to have been destroyed, I struggle to see what can now stop most of the countries that lost out from going for the jugular. The clean sweep that football so desperately needs may just have been helped from an unexpected source today. We just need to ensure we get the brush out of his hands and clean him up too.
  16. Two excellent semi-finals produced what I think most objective observers would agree is the right final. Australia and New Zealand have clearly been the two best sides in the tournament and I wouldn't predict the outcome with any confidence. The All Blacks have to be favourites but, if I had to have a punt, I'd be backing the Wallabies by 1-5 points. One thing I think we can be certain of is a funny line or two from the referee, Wales' Nigel Owens. I for one am delighted he's got the nod.
  17. Not seen much coverage of the trial here, though Brendan McCullum's evidence made a few headlines. Must say I'm enjoying the mind games between Meyer and Hansen before Saturday.
  18. Looking forward to that series enormously. Re your "rant", it reads very similarly to the prognosis for Test cricket, but I'd say its problems are more severe than 15-man rugby.
  19. I was going to mention Alain Rolland in the 2011 semi-final.
  20. For England (and France), I think I touched on this earlier when I talked about the club v country issue. As much as England had a great side, back-up squad and coaching team when they won the World Cup in 2003, a massive part of it was the understanding within all sections of the game that a successful national team boosts the entire sport and all parties should be working constructively towards achieving it. The evidence suggests that understanding broke down not long after 2003 and has yet to be properly rebuilt. That may well have led to situations like the exclusion of players playing outside the Premiership for selection, where the RFU can be seen to have done the wrong thing even if they think it is for the right reasons. More widely, Phillippe Saint-Andre made a very telling point last night about the far higher number of games his players had played during the season just gone, at club as well as international level, compared to their New Zealand opponents. If they're not already doing it, all the unions should look at how central contracts have immeasurably strengthened the England cricket team over the last 15 years and act accordingly. There also needs to be a fundamental re-think of the entire structure of the rugby calendar and competitions in Europe, at domestic, club and international levels, with nothing left off the table. If we want to be ready to take on the southern boys in four years' time, we must act quickly.
  21. He was just getting them in for his mates.
  22. World Rugby are insisting Joubert was right not to go to the TMO on the last penalty. Given that the laws say the TMO can be consulted on matters of "foul play", I would like to know exactly what infringements of the laws of the game do not come under that bracket because, to my mind, all infringements are foul play to some degree or other. I would also like to know whether World Rugby believes Mr Joubert's actions "protected the image of the game", as the laws also require. I would suggest they did not.
  23. The worst thing of all in this for me is that Joubert did not go to the TMO on that last penalty. The laws allow him to do so and yet he chose not to. When there are such fine margins in a game, particularly a knockout game, every precaution must be taken to ensure that, whoever it favours, the correct decision has been made. That Joubert didn't do this is, in my opinion, negligent, and that he compounded this by sprinting straight off the field after blowing the final whistle says it all.
  24. What a magnificent game. Just devastated for Scotland. Most devastated because I feel there's one man who's cost Scotland a famous victory and that is Craig Joubert.
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