I Hate FIFA More Than You Do, a poem

I was going to write about the re election of that sexist bastard Sepp Blatter as FIFA president. He’ll probably change the rules so that he will be FIFA president after he is dead! But someone has done it far better than I could.So I’ve reblogged this poem by the excellent Jennifer Doyle instead. Sums up how I feel.

PS – I don’t hate Manchester United (apart from their dispicable treatment of their women’s team)

The Sport Spectacle

I hate Sepp Blatter

as much as I hated Jesse Helms, may that homophobic, racist monster rot in hell.

I hate FIFA

as much as I hate the contemporary art market, which is run by bankers and assholes.

I hate Sepp Blatter

more than I am disgusted by rotten meat.

I hate FIFA

in exactly the same way that I hate Capitalism.

I hate Sepp Blatter

more than I hate Manchester United.

I hate FIFA

with a white-hot passion that seems to know no scale.

I hate Sepp Blatter

only slightly less than I hate the assault on all educational structures that do not service the rich.

I hate FIFA

more than I hate the structural sexism of my workplace, which surprises me.

I hate Sepp Blatter

more than you do, unless you aren’t on FIFA’s payroll, in which case

You hate FIFA as much, maybe even more than I do.

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Sport is still rife with sexism

A couple of months ago I was watching TV when there was a knock on the door. I answered it and a friend came in. He noticed that I was watching a women’s tennis match involving Canadian Eugenie Bouchard and he said the following:

“You can’t like watching this crap! The only reason you’re watching it is to look at her legs!”

I don’t know how I didn’t lose my temper. At first I was angry that he thought I was so shallow as to be only watching Bouchard to look at her legs. He knew me. He must have known I wasn’t like that. But then when I had calmed down I realised it wasn’t me he was insulting but Ms Bouchard. And here’s why:

Although she hasn’t played as well this year Bouchard is a player who aged 21 has reached a Wimbledon Final and two other Grand Slam Semi Finals. She is ranked six in the world. In other words she plays tennis better than 99 per cent of the human beings on this planet. And yet this guy thought the only reason she was worth watching was because of her legs!

The reason I suddenly thought of this incident was it was an example of the sexism that still pervades sport. And recently there were two spectacular examples of sexism in sport.

One came in Italian football. The President of the country’s amateur football association Felice Belloli is alleged to have said when asked about funding for women’s football  “That’s enough, we can’t always talk about giving money to this bunch of lesbians”. He denied saying that but a woman offical said she was at that meeting and that he did make the remark. To no ones surprise he is still in post.

The other example is closer to home. On the 14th of May the women’s editor of the Daily Telegraph Emma Barnett wrote an article about women’s sport. The next week she received the most ridiculous letter I have ever seen It was written on pink paper by a person who did not reveal their name. The letter said:

No one wants to watch women’s sport love, its a joke, pony tails swaying, tits bouncing, come on get serious. Put ’em back in the kitchen where they belong and leave sport to the warriors of the species not the dykes.

As UK journalist Richard Littlejohn would say “You couldn’t make it up!’

While it is true that sport is by no means the only place you see sexism in the unique thing about sport is that the sexism generally does not come from male participants. They are exceptions to this – French tennis player Jo-Wilfred Tsonga made sexist remarks about female tennis players and footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic made sexist remarks about female footballers after the Swedish press asked him if  the best female player in Sweden Lotta Schelin was as good as him – cases of sexism by elite sportsmen are rare. Generally they respect their female colleagues. Most of the sexism in sport comes from journalists, officials like Richard Scudamore and Sepp Blatter or fans like my friend or whoever wrote that letter to Emma Barnett. And to my mind that makes the sexism worse.

While it is wrong for Tsonga and Ibrahimovic to make the remarks they did at least they are elite sportsmen. The likes of Blatter, Scudamore and what World Soccer magazine (April 2005 issue) called “intransigent, cynical, beer-swilling blokes plonked in front of Sky at four o’clock on a Sunday afternoon” would not last five minutes against elite female footballers. So why on earth do they make sexist remarks about people who play football better than they ever could? Same with my friend who made that remark about Bouchard. Why do people think they can get away with deogratory remarks about people who do the job better than they do?

Next month sees the Women’s Football World Cup in Canada. For some reason women’s football attracts more press and public odium than any other female sport (even women who play other traditional male sports like cricket boxing and rugby don’t get attacked as much). One thing that can be predicted with depressing certainty. There will be a lot of sexism at this tournament. And the really annoying part of that will be that the vast majority of that sexism will come from armchair critics who will be incapable of producing football anywhere near the quality the likes of Alex Morgan, Marta, Lotta Schelin, Eugenie Le Sommer, Vero Boquete, Lara Dickenmann,Toni Duggan, Nadine Angerer and the brilliant Dezenifer Marozan – to name but a few – will produce. And that proves that not only is sport rife with sexism, the sexism in sport is more nasty than in any other field.

For at least in other fields (politics to give one example) a lot of sexism is done by other politicians. Which doesn’t make it right but at least means the people who are doing it are good at the job. Where as in sport I would love to see the sexist journalists, officials and fans who spout this rubbish take on elite sportswomen on the field. They wouldn’t last five minutes. It would be very funny. And it might shut them up!

The male football blob that swamps women’s football

In football it is Champions League final week. This would be a surprise to most people who would say that the Champions League is only at the Semi Final stage but I’m talking about the women’s Champions League – the final of which is on Thursday night between Frankfurt and Paris Saint-Germain in Berlin. The fact that most people don’t know this only proves the sexism that still bedevils the football establishment.

The women’s Champions League Final is usually held on the Thursday before the men’s Final which is held on a Saturday. But not this year. Part of the reason is the women’s World Cup in Canada which starts in June. This meant the women’s final had to be played earlier than usual. But there was no reason why the men’s Final couldn’t have been brought forward as well. The last 16 of the men’s Champions League was played over four weeks from February 17th to March 18th to suit television. They could very easily have played both the last sixteen and the last eight in those four weeks and the final could have been played in the same week as the women’s Final.

Why does this matter? First of all putting the women’s final on in the same week  as the men’s Final gives the women’s final more publicity. Secondly the men’s Final is on June 6th this year. The women’s World cup starts on June 5th. The men’s Champions League Final being on at the same time denies the Women’s World Cup  the oxygen of publicity as we all know the media will concentrate on the men’s event.

And this is not the only example of the men’s game swamping the women’s game. During the period that the women’s World Cup takes place there are also qualifiers for Euro 2016, the Copa America in Chile plus the European Under 21 Championship in the Czech Republic. All of these events will deprive the women’s World Cup of publicity.

This just proves that men’s football is like the Steve McQueen film “The Blob” where an alien monster eats up anything and everything. Men’s football is like that. There is far too much of it. There is no reason whatsoever why men’s football shouldn’t take a break during the women’s World Cup. During the men’s World Cup it was the only football taking place. There is no reason that should also apply during the women’s event.

The reason that happens is the football establishment does not want women’s football to become popular so it swamps the market with male football. For example Michel Platini the president of UEFA is an ex footballer from the 1970s/80s which is a group of people that is not exactly the most sympathetic to women’s football. Same with the English FA. They know they can’t ban women’s football. But by swamping the market with men’s football they deny women’s football – which suffers from a lack of press coverage – publicity.

Its time to cut down male football – especially on TV. The Europa League (as I wrote before) should be scrapped. So should the League Cup in England which was created by Alan Hardaker – a guy so anti European if he was alive now he’d be kicked out of UKIP for being too anti European! Both are examples of stinking puss in the fixture list that frankly would not be missed.

Also another puzzle is why does fifth division men’s football get press and TV coverage  – more than women’s football does? That plainly is nonsense. If I was in charge of football only the top two divisions of male football would be live on TV. I would also insist that if a TV company has a contract to cover the men’s event it MUST also cover the women’s event. The semi-Finals of the women’s Champions League were not covered on UK television. Which is plainly nonsense .

Women’s football could grow – if the football establishment would only allow it to grow. It is time to cut the male football blob down to size. Men’s football on TV should be cut down in the interests of gender equality. And there should be no professional men’s football during the Women’s World Cup or the Women’s Euros. The male football “blob” is so dominant that surely taking a month off every two years will not harm men’s football. Women’s football deserves a stage all to itself every two years. The blob of male football should cut the women’s game some slack.

Some thoughts on the 2015 election

Well no one expected that result did they? Every poll in the UK General Election predicted a hung parliament. As it turned out we got a single party majority – albeit a small one of 11 for the Conservative Party – even more astonishing as it is only the second time the party of the incumbent Prime Minister has increased its number of seats after a full term in office since 1959 (also 1983). So what happens next? Here are some issues and questions that came out of the election.

1. Will the Conservatives behave themselves? The last two Governments with small majorities (1974-79 and 1992-97) ran into problems with rebellions from their own MPs and lost their majorities to by election defeats and defections. The 1992-97 Major government (the last majority Conservative government) was a shambles with the Tory right holding Major to ransom. Will they have learnt their lesson? The funny thing is Cameron’s majority is now smaller (10) than the one the previous coalition had (76). Will it last the full five years?

2. Labour are in a horrid dilemma. Iain MacWhirter in his book “Road to Referendum” said that “Scotland thinks likes Denmark and England thinks like the USA”. Labour lost in England because they were perceived as being too left wing whereas in Scotland they lost because they weren’t left wing enough. Whoever succeeds Ed Miliband has almost an impossible circle to square.

3. The union is in danger again. How on earth can you force Denmark (Scotland) to accept the USA (England’s) policies? You can’t. You also can’t force England to accept Scotland’s policies. I suspect it was the SNP threatening to force a Labour government on a Conservative voting England that drove enough English voters into the arms of the Conservatives to give them a majority. The only solution is either Boris Johnson’s idea of federalism or give the Scottish Parliament a veto on Conservative laws. If Cameron forces austerity on Scotland there will be a second independence referendum – and very soon.

4. Coalitions have no future in the UK. The decimation of the Liberal Democrats – down to 8 MPs compared to 57 – proves that the British people do not want coalitions. Coalitions mean broken promises and the UK people hate politicians who break their promises  but if you are in a coalition you have to break your promises. Disraeli said that “England does not love coalitions”  and what happened to the Lib Dems proves that. A consequence of the Lib Dem massacre is that no small party in the future will join a coalition because they now know they will get decimated.

5. UKIP could fade away. Nigel Farage failed to win Thanet South and promptly resigned*. The problem for UKIP is they are going to get what they want – an in/out referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union (EU). If the UK votes to pull out of the EU UKIP have got what they wanted and I suspect the party will split as that is the only issue UKIP members have in common. If the UK votes to stay in the EU they might get the membership boost the SNP got after the Scottish referendum but I doubt it. I wouldn’t be surprisesd if UKIP don’t exist in 2020 with their one MP Douglas Carswell – a maverick – standing in (and probably winning) Clacton as an independent.

6. But the Green Party won’t. The Green Party trebled their vote despite having an unimpressive leader in Natalie Bennett. if she has the sense to resign and make way for their one MP Caroline Lucas – whose Brighton Pavilion seat is now safe with a majority of over 7,000 – they could well get the anti establishment anti Tory vote. With the Lib Dems in meltdown and UKIP without the charismatic Farage the opportunity for the Greens is great as their environmental message could appeal to both fed up Conservative and Labour voters (for example current Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith used to be editor of the Ecologist magazine). I wouldn’t be surprised if during this parliament the greens go up in the polls and that Lucas might gain a colleague in parliament as they could win safe Conservative seats in by elections (as the Lib Dems used to do)

One thing is certain. The next five years will be crucial for the UK. The future of the UK in Europe – plus the future of the UK itself – could very well be decided during this period. It could be the most crucial Parliament the UK has seen since the October 1974-79 one – the last parliament  both with a European referendum and a single party majority smaller than this one (3). By 2020 the UK could out of the EU. It might even cease to exist. Once the euphoria of his win has died down David Cameron has a series of huge tasks.

*Events have overtook me. Nigel Farage is still leader of UKIP after the party turned down his resignation.

So what on earth will happen on May 7th?

As anyone who reads me will know I quite like making predictions. Some good (the 2014 World Series and the cricket World Cup for example) and some bad (too many to mention). But today I’m attempting my hardest task. To call Thursday’s UK General Election which is the most unpredictable since 1974.

I wasn’t even sure how to do it. I thought of predicting all 650 seats in the UK but most of them are safe (ie one party is a certainty to win) so it would have been boring to read – and boring to write. I thought of just predicting the marginal (the UK equivalent of “swing states” in the US) seats. Sky News has even produced a list of marginals for its “In The Margins” series but not all the 150 seats in that list are marginal. For some reason best known to Sky the list includes safe seats like Aylesbury (Conservative majority 12,648) but not Keighley (Conservative majority 2,940) a seat that has changed sides seven times since 1959. So Sky’s list is flawed.

What I decided to do is do a prediction range for each party – predicting the minimum and maximum number of seats I think each party will win. The range is actually very narrow. Since the war the conservatives have never fallen below 165 and Labour have never fallen below 209. But before I make the predictions for those who don’t know UK politics (or don’t remember) the 2010 election produced the following result:

Conservative 306 seats, Labour 258, Liberal Democrats 57, Scottish National Party (SNP) 6, Plaid Cyrmu 3, Green Party 1, Speaker 1 and Northern Ireland 18* (the UK parties don’t stand there) I should also say a party needs 326 seats** for a majority.

So here is the prediction and I’ll start with the two main parties:

Conservative: 275-295 (that means in my opinion they won’t win less than 275 or more than 295)

Labour: 280-300

As you can see that means it is not certain who will be the biggest party but I would give the edge to Labour because the UK constituency boundaries favour Labour as their seats are in cities thus smaller than the Conservatives and need less votes to win them. It is possible (like February 1974) that Labour will get more seats than the Conservatives but less votes. All the polls suggest a swing to Labour of 2-4 per cent which means Labour should gain seats from the Conservatives as most Con-Lab seats go with the swing. Only 32 Con-Lab seats went against the swing in 2010. I do think the Conservatives might gain a couple from Labour against the swing – Hampstead and Kilburn (majority 42) and Southampton Itchen (majority 192) are two possibilities. But it is clear Labour will make gains from the Conservatives.

But this election isn’t as simple as that. The result will be decided by what happens to the small parties – the Lib Dems , SNP, the Greens, Plaid Cyrmu  and the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). And they are very hard to predict. But I’ll try.

Lib Dems: 20-30. It shows how ghastly the Lib Dem poll ratings are (down from 23% in 2010 to 10% if they are lucky) that some people will be amazed that I think they won’t fall below 20 and might get 30. But the Lib Dems are hard to “dig out” of a seat – especially if they have a sitting MP. They will struggle in three scenarios. Where a sitting MP is retiring (ie Berwick upon Tweed) where there is a large student population – like party leader Nick Clegg’s Sheffield Hallam seat – and in Scotland which has not forgiven them  for joining with the Conservatives in coalition after 2010. So I reckon they will hold seats they should lose like Wells (majority 800) which is not a university seat and where the MP was first elected in 2010 but lose safer seats like Bristol West (majority 11,366) which has the university in it. It will be bad for the Lib Dems – but not as bad as people fear.

SNP: 20-30: This goes against the polls that think the SNP could win 50 seats or even all 59 in Scotland but I doubt that. There are signs of a backlash against the SNP with unionists thinking of voting for the party best placed to beat them in different seats. Plus the fact that in most Scottish seats the SNP are a  long way behind (for example the closest Labour-SNP seat is Ochil and Perthshire South (majority 5,197) and it would not take much of a “switch back” to save quite a lot of seats) The SNP will make gains. But I’ll be surprised if they get more than 30 seats.

UKIP: 1-5. I wrote about UKIP back in October  and nothing has happened to make me change my opinion they will get votes but not many seats. Douglas Carswell their first MP will hold Clacton but that might be all they get. Their other MP Mark Reckless could lose his Rochester seat back to the Conservatives and party leader Nigel Farage is a toss up to win Thanet South. Polls say they could win Thurrock, Castle Point (their best bet) Cambourne and Redruth, Great Grimsby and maybe even Rotherham but I’ll be surprised if they win more than 3 and they won’t win more than 5.

Plaid Cymru 2-4. Could gain Ynys Mon (Anglesey in English –  majority 2,461 ) from Labour or lose Arfon (majority 1,455) to them but I reckon they will hold their three seats and gain none.

Green Party: 1-2. Fairly easy to predict. Former leader Caroline Lucas has been a good MP and should hold Brighton Pavillion. They are targeting two Lib Dem seats – Norwich South and Bristol West. They might gain the Norwich  seat which needs a 7.3% swing to go but won’t gain the Bristol one.

Respect: 1-2. Didn’t win a seat in 2010 but gained Bradford West – with George Galloway the MP – in a 2012 by election. Galloway should hold it and they have a slim chance of gaining Birmingham Hall Green (majority 3,799) from Labour.

As you can see my prediction (as almost everybody’s is) is for another hung parliament. But this time I don’t think we will get a coalition but a minority government (that is where one party rules but other party/parties agree not to bring the government down). And since most MPs outside of the big three are more pro Labour (as I wrote before) it is possible that Labour leader Ed Miliband could form a government even if Prime Minister David Cameron has the biggest single party. In that scenario I reckon (like 1974) there will be another election before this year is out (October?) as Labour try to become at least the biggest party and gain legitimacy. In that situation I think the SNP, Greens and UKIP would all lose votes and Labour might even get  a majority.

One thing is certain. it will be a tense nervous night and it could very well be a case as in 2010 of “A  long Night with no winner” (as the “British General Election of 2010” put it)

*Four seats changed hands in by elections between 2010 and 2015 so the current total is Conservative 303 seats, Labour 258, Lib Dem 57, SNP  6, Plaid Cyrmu 3, UKIP 2, Green Party 1,Respect 1, Speaker 1 and Northern Ireland 18
**But as Sinn Fein’s 5 MPs don’t turn up in practice the number of seats needed for a majority is 323.