07 February 2007

Have they thought about the root cause?

It appears that someone has a grudge against Government bodies responsible for the various aspects of car ownership in the UK. Targets have included the DVLA and the mob managing Ken Livingstone's pride: the Congestion Charge. The obvious culprit for this mentioned by the press is a disgruntled motorist (d'uh), however who is to say that it is one person? I propose that it may in fact it may be a newly-formed militant wing of the RAC.

Joking aside, the Government must look at themselves to a certain degree. While I don't condone violence, the fact is that the under the incumbent mob, the costs associated with motoring have risen manyfold, leaving more and more people out of pocket. The Government (local and national) have attempted to spin the fact that they are forcing a green agenda, but the facts do not back this up. The Congestion Charge gives Livingstone more money to spend on Cuban "fact finding missions" and duty on fuel and licence fees gives Brown more to pay for a greater number of administrators in the NHS.

As long as the government continues to penalise those that are easy targets, more and more people will become disgruntled. A change of Government is long overdue...

(not that things will probably change much)

05 February 2007

Damn English Thugs

Yet another major football hoolganism incident happened in continental Europe. In this case, an Italian policeman was murdered by a bunch thugs who had thrown a homemade inciderary device, which subsequently exploded in his face.

This sadly is not an isolated case, the English fans in Germany during the World Cup 2006 were among the best behaved of the fans. There were a couple of incidents that warranted few arrests, but by and large the English fans were well behaved. Not least part of the reason for this was that the German police had a really great policy of non-intervention unless necessary. When I was at the England-Sweden game in the fan enclosure, a cretinous English fan thought it would be clever to set fire to a German flag in front some riot police. The self-policing of the English fans soon ensured that the flag was soon put out (repeated chants of "You are a wanker" soon embarrassed him).

However despite the years of relatively good behaviour, there is still the perception of England fans being the troublemakers abroad. Repeatedly, the England team is threatened with expulsion from tournaments due to a small percentage of people getting drunk and causing problems. Some while ago (just after Euro 2004 to be precise) I posted on Usenet a counter-argument about English football hooligans which I have reproduced below
  • The largest incident of hooliganism in the tournament so far has between Germany and Holland fans.
  • Portuguese police have praised the English fans behaviour in recent weeks.
  • The "rioting" in the first week was well away from any games being played by England, and has been attributed to excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Any fan deported from Portugal will be subject to a ban ranging from 2 to 5 years (IIRC). This has already been used in this tournament

Some other hooliganism facts:

  • English fans have not instigated a major hooliganism incident for 5/6 years, both at club and national level
  • During the 1998 World Cup a French policeman nearly died after being badly beaten by German fans.
  • In 2000 two Leeds United supporters were stabbed to death by followers of the Turkish club Galatasaray
  • Italy's ultras (their organised hooligans) are said to view the English drunkenness with disdain because it impairs the ability to fight.
  • In 2000, Den Bosch (Holland) supporters rioting for three days after a match was called off after a fan was shot
  • In 1998, about 26,000 Manchester United fans travelled to Holland and there were just 28 arrests, mostly just for

Of course, I don't have answer for all these problems, but consistency of treatment would be a good start.

03 February 2007

Come on, England! x 2

Today is the start of the Six Nations tournament, and it's the first time that a certain England player who has not had an international start since 2003 will be having a run-out. Having been ravaged by injuries for so long, some are concerned that throwing Wilkinson straight into the bear-pit exposes him to unnecessary risks both to him as an individual and the team due to his lack of match practice.

Wilkinson however is the consummate professional and as long as Scotland do not go out to deliberately injure him, I believe he will be more than capable of holding up his end of the bargain. If anything the risks come from him throwing himself into the game with the same level as gusto and reinjuring himself rather than being a liability on the pitch.

The England Rugby squad do have a number of World Cup veterans who have not seen much International game time since 2003. The one I most delighted to see is the return of Jason Robinson. He scored a fantastic try in the World Cup final, and has an amazing ability to jink his way around a defensive line. Bringing him out of International retirement is great for us in the short-term, but we need to look to the future.

And on Wednesday, the England football play a friendly at Old Trafford against Spain. Hmm, an underperforming team playing against an underperforming team. I am a paid-up member of the England Fan Club, and to be frank I am not entirely convinced that I am getting value for money. There are players in the England squad that I have the utmost respect for, but England are constantly coming up short. As I said earlier, I do not believe that we are likely to qualify for the Europe, although if we do, it will be a struggle. We have (and have had for a long time) a problem with at the management level. Sven was risk averse to the detriment of the England game, and when he did take risks it was illogical ones such as taking Walcott, rather than adopting aggressive formations. If he seriously believed that a 4-5-1 formation was going to get England through to the finals of the World Cup, then he was misguided at best.

Despite my pessimism, I would have gone and seen the game if it was either a) not at Old Trafford or b) not on a Wednesday night. As it is, I am going to have to take my England regalia to work and find a pub showing it before kick off. And Wednesday is meant to be a gym night...

The players that I have the most respect for are:
  • Paul Robinson: the stick he got after the Croatia game from the gutter press was a disgrace. The team are responsible for the result - not one man.
  • Jamie Carragher: should be the first-choice right-back for both club and country.
  • Steve Gerrard: this guy is the best midfielder in England bar none, but carries himself off the pitch with humility.
  • Owen Hargreaves: I am not a bandwaggon jumper - I voted for SG as the fan's player of 2006 - however, Owen Hargreaves gained my respect a long time ago for no other reason than the abuse that was levelled at him by "fans" and he continued to put on the England shirt and play the game.