Football Gossip: If In Doubt, Make Something Up

One of my favourite parts of football gossip is what is known as “the transfer rumour”. This is when your local newspaper links your local football club with at least three or four new players in every week in order to try and shift more copies because to be honest no-one is really interested in the other big headlines “cat up tree safely recovered” and “job believed to be available in local area”.

As a Newcastle United fan, I’m used to our local paper — the Evening Chronicle — churning out this sort of information. But as I’ve criticised this in the past for linking us with fifty-three different players and when we eventually sign one, triumphantly announcing “we told you first” — conveniently ignoring the 52 times they were wrong — I’ve been delighted to uncover an even less reliable source of information.

This is known as the Sky Sports Rumour Room, where people are supposed to send in the latest transfer rumours they have heard, only it appears to be a mix of existing transfer speculation mixed in with local rivalry, wishful thinking, and complete and utter bollocks.

And obviously, I’ve been having fun with it… …continue reading Football Gossip: If In Doubt, Make Something Up

Thursday, January 14, 2010 7:39 | Filed in Newcastle United, Sport

Newcastle Supporters Trust: A lot to swallow

I’m generally in favour of the aims of the Newcastle United Supporters Trust (NUST). I’m a Newcastle fan, and I think it would be great for fans of the club to own a stake in the club (or even to fully own the club, if possible); I think it would be brilliant for there to be an elected fans’ representative on the board, and I’m well behind the idea of the club being more open and more accountable to the fans.

In fact, I think this would be a good thing for every football club. Putting rivalries aside for a moment, in general fans have a lot more in common with each other than they do with the directors of their respective clubs. Basically, fans are treated as a cash cow for the club to milk by whatever revenue stream necessary (TV, gate money, merchandise) in order to ensure that the club makes a profit to pay large sums of money to players, directors and shareholders.

Okay, it doesn’t always work that way, but who wouldn’t prefer to see their club run by the fans, for the fans?

And that’s why, despite being a little sceptical that they would be able to raise the amounts of money required, I’ve been firmly behind NUST up to now. Until what I can only see as misinformation coming out of their mouths at the expense of Mike Ashley.

I’m not a fan of Mike Ashley: I don’t see that he has the best interests of the club at heart, and I’m sure he’ll sell up as soon as he finds someone who will meet his asking price. But that’s precisely why this information coming from NUST looks completely bonkers. If I give them the benefit of the doubt and say that it’s not deliberate misinformation, then it looks like stupidity… and frankly neither of them look particularly good for someone who thinks that they would be able to run the club better and more openly.

What they said was this:

sources have told us that Mr Ashley is making up to £7m profit out of our club every monthNUST: Supporter Survey

Note that they’ve chosen to include the quote (they could easily have skipped it if they felt it was nonsense) — so either they attach credence to the sources or at very least they want the reader to — and they’ve associated it with a survey suggesting that the fans should buy the club from him.

If Mike Ashley was making £84 million pounds per year out of the club, do you really think he’d have tried to sell it only six months ago for around £100 million? There may be better businessmen out there, but I can’t imagine he’d want to sell an asset for only a tiny smidge more than it makes in profit per year.

In the Premiership (when we were making considerably more in TV money), the club had a turnover of £100 million, with £73 million on wages. That year, the club made a loss of £34 million (source: The Guardian, Jan 2009). This means that the other outgoings of the club were around £60 million.

Now, even if you were to assume that all club outgoings were down by two-thirds (a frankly ridiculous scenario), and that income was exactly the same (again, nonsense), then Newcastle would still not be making £7 million per month.

By allowing this sort of information to be associated with their cause without any justification (fine, if they’ve got figures to back up this level of profit, but it seems extraordinary so I’m not going to accept it on their say-so), NUST have made exactly the same false assumption about the credulity of Newcastle supporters that many others have made in the past — and they’ve pretty much destroyed their credibility in the process.

Of course, if they can back up this claim, then I’ll apologise…

But I’m more inclined to believe what I read from the independent NUFC Finances site, which looked into published finances:

A year ago the comment on this site was “In summary what Shepherd left was a club that was losing over £30m a year, had debts of £70m, had no assets they could borrow more money against, and had a set of players on long, lucrative contracts. Ashley can get rid of the debt but the £30m annual losses with over paid players will take longer to sort out.”NUFC Finances

NUST have a lot of explaining to do if they want to regain any credibility. And may I suggest that one of the first things they do — unless, as I said, they can back up that quote — is to apologise to Mike Ashley. He might have done many things wrong, but without him the club would be in a much bigger financial hole.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 7:04 | Filed in Newcastle United

Alibhai-Brown: A Dangerous Moderate?

I read an article by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in yesterday’s independent. I presume she’d describe herself as a moderate as she states she’s against the burkha. But while I found the article she had written to be interesting, and indeed thought-provoking, I found its conclusions to be somewhat dangerous.

Basically, her premise is that many Islamic people find it difficult to hold on firmly to their religion in a country which she sees as having no morals, and therefore they turn to extremism, and that therefore to combat extremism it is necessary to rein in some of the worst excesses of society. She references Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (the ‘underpants bomber’):

At university he apparently cut himself off, tried to hold on to Islamic Puritanism in a country of no shame, no restraint. Millions of Britons of all backgrounds are alarmed by the dissipation and debauchery that now defines Britain.Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

Don’t get me wrong — she is not in any way supportive of violent extremists and is critical of a lot that is wrong:

Sexual abuse, rape and forced homosexuality remain the dirty secrets of British Muslim communities, kept under wraps as it were, while they flap around proclamations of purity. I cannot stand these false virtues and self-reverential pieties nor am I pleading on behalf of screwed-up men who would murder us naming Allah.Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

However, whilst I understand what she is saying– that a society seen as permissive may make it difficult for people used to a much stricter regime — I cannot agree with the conclusion she arrives at. I find it very difficult to separate her arguments from these other two…

  • A society with a lot of sexual permissiveness is ‘pushing some Muslims to the edge of reason’ (her words). Therefore we must change our society to avoid having problems with extremists
  • A woman who goes out wearing a short skirt knows the effect that this will have on men. Therefore she cannot complain if someone rapes her as she was ‘asking for it’
  • Some British people don’t like Muslims, and don’t want them in their communities. Therefore Muslims should not be allowed to go in those communities

Basically, all of these arguments are along these lines.

  • A doesn’t like B. Therefore B is at fault and must change

It’s utter nonsense. I don’t particularly approve of people binge-drinking and sleeping around and being sexually permissive but — and here’s the important point — it’s none of my damn business. …continue reading Alibhai-Brown: A Dangerous Moderate?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010 11:26 | Filed in Faith & Forteana, Life, Politics

To The Spammer… (SFW)

…who has asked me about 80 times in the last week if I know where to get ‘pussy movies’, so here’s two of my favourites.

Cat Man Do

Ninja Cat

Sunday, January 10, 2010 10:25 | Filed in Funnies, Scams & Spams

Bad Ecclesiastical Hurting

I don’t know if any of my readers remember the spoof news show “The Day Today”, which produced a news item (featuring Steve Coogan) as a bullying bishop.

It would appear however that this wasn’t quite as much of a “spoof” as previously imagined.

Workplace bullying of the clergy has become “rife”, according to the union Unite which says priests are being picked on by bishops [...] “Bishops have got a lot nastier”, says the Reverend Gerry Barlow, chair of the faith workers branch of Unite. BBC News

When Chris Morris talked about it on the day today, it was a joke. It was a joke because this is not the way Christians — let alone people who have devoted their lives to Christianity — are supposed to behave.

It is disgraceful that people are allowed to represent a religion — any religion — whilst consistently behaving in a way which undermines the tenets of that religion. While I would suggest that as forgiving seems to be one of the important points, it may be appropriate, depending on circumstances, to allow people who are willing to change their behaviour another chance.

Of course, it’s not just those within the church who are capable of acting shamefully, but just as we expect police officers to uphold a higher standard of behaviour than the general public because it’s their job, then exactly the same should apply to those in the church.


Saturday, January 9, 2010 7:51 | Filed in Faith & Forteana, Life

Wootton And Co

Okay, there’s been a lot of things in the media recently about Muslims — it’s just a bit of a shame that the whole “protester” and “terrorist” aspects seem to have been shoved together by some sources who don’t seem to be able to tell the difference between those who want to raise a perfectly acceptable democratic right to complain about something, and those who feel that it’s perfectly appropriate to inflict violence on people who don’t agree with their opinions.

I’ll just make it explicitly clear at the outset: you don’t have to be Muslim to want to protest; you don’t have to be Muslim to be the sort of jerk who inflicts violence on others who you disagree with. It’s just that the main focus of the news has been of the Islamic side of things, so that’s where I’m going to look at mostly. Please take this paragraph as read throughout the rest of this post, as I have no intention of qualifying every statement with the additional statements like “…and there’s plenty of non-Muslims who disagree with the war”, or “…but you get nutters in every walk of life” or “…it’s only a tiny minority, most are perfectly happy to live and let live”.

Cartoon Violence

Remember that chap who produced the Danish cartoon which depicted the prophet Muhammad as a terrorist? That was a jolly impolite thing, I think most of us were in agreement about. But the reaction to it by some Muslims was not something which should be tolerated even less.

And recently there was the guy who tried to kill the cartoonist, when he was at home with his five year old grand-daughter. This is wrong on so many levels, as it suggests that you are not prepared to countenance any point of view which is different to your own, and the appropriate way to silence that dissent is through murder. I thought we’d all moved on from that, but it seems some haven’t.

But it’s the lack of self-awareness which makes it really stupid. Look at the steps:

  1. Person is offended by cartoon describing major figure in their religion as murderous terrorist
  2. Person decides most appropriate way to rebut this is by becoming a murderous terrorist, just to show how wrong the cartoonist was

What a fucking idiot. How exactly does that defend Islam against the charge of being murderous?

My God Is Bigger Than Your God

The beliefs of another person ought to be something that we are, generally, tolerant of. Whether someone believes in a God, in multiple Gods, or actively disbelieves in any of ‘em, ought to be something which is their business, not yours. But that is not to say that religions should be exempt from criticism. Particularly religions which react badly when you do criticise them.

I’ve been critical of the Catholic Church, in their attitude towards the use of condoms, which has led to more HIV infections and people dying. I’m critical of religions — and there’s more than one — which are intolerant of homosexuality. And I have a right to voice my opinions, and my beliefs, whether or not they are directly associated with a named religion or not.

When people are critical of the beliefs of others and speak about those beliefs in a critical way, implying someone must be stupid for believing that sort of thing (and/or assuming that because some adherents to a religion think X, that all adherents do), that annoys me. I find that a bit rude and unpleasant to be honest. I tend to feel that irrespective of whether or not that person is right, they are a fairly intolerant human being. attitude intolerant and offensive.

But when someone says that you are not allowed to be critical of beliefs or to speak about them in a critical way, at the risk of being attacked or prosecuted, then that annoys me for precisely the same reason. It’s intolerant and offensive. Plus it makes it seem as though people are worried that the religion won’t stand up to proper scrutiny and frankly, if there is a God, I rather suspect He is big enough to cope with a bit of disbelief. After all, he’ll get his chance to point out the error of their ways in his own manner…

And that’s why, I think this new Irish blasphemy law is a bit shit. If I were to say something in Ireland which you felt outraged or offended your religion, I could be fined €25,000 fine unless I could justify it. Not surprisingly, many people are critical of this (rightly in my opinion) as damaging to freedom of expression.

The Blasphemy Ireland website (set up, I presume, specifically to challenge this), sums it up perfectly:

In a civilised society, people have a right to to express and to hear ideas about religion even if other people find those ideas to be

And, to point of the stupidity of the whole thing — every religion will have, somewhere, something contained within it that adherents to another may find objectionable — they have a list of quotations from a variety of figures, but three of the main venerated types are represented — Jesus Christ, Muhammad and Richard Dawkins.

Wootton Bassett

And then there’s Anjem Choudary. He suggested that his group — which I’m not going to name because I think they’ve gone about this primarily for the publicity, and I’m not going to contribute to that — should march through Wootton Bassett, where British servicemen killed in action are returned, in protest against the Muslims being killed by British forces in Afghanistan (and/or Iraq? — not sure on this one).

If he’d wanted a peaceful march through the streets of anywhere else, no one would have given a toss. But he picked Wootton Bassett primarily because it would spark in the national consciousness, and infuriate people who felt that dead servicemen who weren’t responsible for the war in the first place and surely who had already sacrificed quite enough thank you very much should be used as pawns for his political ends.

And yet the media helped serve his political ends by this suddenly becoming a national media item; with everyone debating whether or not his potential march (which, so far as I know, he never actually asked permission for in the first place) should be banned — and he’s suddenly seen as the face of Islam in the UK. Do the papers speak to the vast majority of British Muslims to find out their views? Certainly not at first. Not until after they’ve painted Anjem Choudary as the face of Islam in the UK.

The vast majority of atheists, Christians, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, Pagans and God/Deity Of Choice knows what else are quite capable of doing this. So why do we spend so much of our time pandering to the intolerant?

So how do I feel about this. Should it be banned? Should it be allowed to go ahead? Well, there’s a You Tube video which expresses my thoughts probably better than I can here…

Dan Bull, thank you.

Friday, January 8, 2010 7:50 | Filed in Faith & Forteana, Media, Politics

Emergency Web Updates Are Snow Joke

Right: let’s just get this straight. On Tuesday night, overnight, there was what is known in meteorological circles as a ruddy great lot of snow over North-East England. As this was expected, according to the forecasts, when I’d picked up Bigger Lad from school on Tuesday, I asked his teacher whether I should check the school website in the morning to see if the school was closed and she said that was probably a good idea as she didn’t know at that point whether the school would be open.

Since then, I have found differing services advising of snow-related disruption to be of somewhat variable quality, so I thought I’d look specifically at Bigger Lad’s school, my Local Authority, and Go North East, the local bus company, and tell you what precisely I’ve thought about their updates.


So at seven a.m. on wednesday morning, I checked the school website to discover a message informing me that the school was closed owing to the fact that the staff couldn’t get in. By about eleven p.m. on wednesday evening, they had already updated the site to inform parents that the school would also be closed the following day.

Timely, useful updates. Well done.


Of course, my local council wasn’t quite so quick on the uptake… …continue reading Emergency Web Updates Are Snow Joke

Thursday, January 7, 2010 10:00 | Filed in Local Interest, Public Sector, Ranting, Technology