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Power in a Union

Last night Newcastle fought back to get a 2-2 draw with Everton in an entertaining game that had a brilliant opening goal from Leighton Baines after a free-flowing move, two clinical equalizers from the substitute Demba Ba and the farcical minute when the home side weren’t given a goal despite the ball being over the line before the referee stopped play instead of playing advantage as Newcastle looked to be through on goal when breaking.

As the host of Monday Night Football, Ed Chamberlin, said, it was the game of the weekend. But the main reason it will rightly be remembered was for the tribute to the victims of Hillsborough. Continue reading…

Leonard Cohen, Wembley Arena (9 Sept 2012)

In her first piece for The Substantive, Simone Webb reviews the return to the London stage of Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen.

Every time I set out to write this review, it sounded increasingly pretentious, as a result of my elaborate attempts both to express my feelings at last night’s Leonard Cohen concert and to mimic the style of other reviews. (You know – “pithy opening line, personal anecdote related to the artist performing, background information, etc, etc, quips, pithy closing line”. The Telegraph even managed to end their review with a truly appalling pun: “this remains a country for old Len”.) I’m not sure it’s much use my trying to do both those things at once, so I’ll stick with trying to express my feelings, and leave the puns and frills to other reviewers.

I can truly say, with no hint of exaggeration, that seeing Leonard Cohen perform at the Wembley Arena was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life so far. Continue reading…

Wheelchair Basketball – Being There

Having been to Equestrian and the Olympic Park at London 2012, Tom Bodell went to North Greenwich for his first experience of Wheelchair Basketball in the Paralympics, where, for just ten pounds, he saw Team GB compete .

It’s fair to say that my relationship with basketball is minimal, save for the odd lesson at secondary school and the even more infrequent dabble with the NBA video game. That isn’t to say that I don’t like basketball, it’s a sport which interests me but it does happen to fall at the bottom of a long list of other sports.

However, with a spare Friday on my hands & possibly my last chance to frequent an Olympic or Paralympic event in my lifetime, £10 seemed a steal. Continue reading…

Shake Your Money

For most of Europe the annoying leak that was the summer transfer window finally stopped its constant dripping in the early hours of Saturday morning, after a final day frenzy when Sky Sports News presenters talked up a “Totalizer” as if clubs were contributing to a charity telethon target rather than often spending their way to the road to ruin where Portsmouth, Leeds United and Glasgow Rangers have already taken the first steps in previous seasons. Continue reading…

Back To School

As the nights draw in and we enter the last week of August, in her latest series on Book Themes for The Substantive, Joanne Sheppard writes on school in literature.

September’s nearly upon us, bringing falling leaves, shorter days and  Keats’ ‘mists and mellow fruitfulness’ – but more importantly, endless ‘Back To School’ promotions in the shops and, despite being 36, an almost primeval urge to buy smart new black leather lace-ups and a new pencil case. I can only assume that spending thirteen years of my life at school has left an indelible impression on me, and I don’t think I’m alone: in the world of literature, stories about school are by no means confined to the children’s section of the library. Continue reading…

The Return

The new football season has entered quietly through the back door just seven weeks after the Final of European Championship, a tournament consuming at the time but now a distant memory in the shadow of an Olympics that brought a festival of sport to London as enjoyable as any in modern times. Every four years the Summer Olympics inspires in some-way, but sport of the highest quality played to capacity crowds in great venues with a captivated public took this summer’s Games to another level.

Following the success of Team GB is an unenviable task for the home nations’ national sides, and earlier in the week International teams played their annual August friendly games with the usual weaker squads, which as always provided little excitement. England’s pattern of play looked better in Berne in Italy than at any time so far under Roy Hodgson, with Michael Carrick, incredulously ignored in the summer, at the heart of a five-man midfield who actually looked comfortable in possession at times. Despite Hodgson’s semantics about both Carrick and tactics in his press conferences, maybe he has learnt from his mistakes.

In the first weekend of the English Premier League there was a quick glimpse of the entertainment sport as a spectacle brings as newly promoted Southampton briefly came from behind to take the lead at the Manchester City, cheering watching neutrals across the country tired of hearing City’s manager Roberto Mancini bemoaning the depth of his richly assembled squad after every game. Continue reading…

Olympics: Schools Legacy

Martin Cloake points out the knee-jerk policies and soundbites coming from the London Mayor and Tory Ministers following the success of the London 2012 Olympics highlight a Government back-tracking on funding decisions while perpetuating myths on competition that undermine technique and do little to encourage initial participation and activity.

Apparently, we’re all sports fans now

The Olympics have caught the public’s imagination so much that promoting school sport and getting kids involved in sport has suddenly become a hot issue. This is a good thing, but let’s get rid of some some of the bluster and codswallop. Setting something up on poor foundations is almost as bad as not setting it up at all.

A week ago I worried that by making the point that there needed to be a reversal of the cuts in facilities and time devoted to sport would be condemned as ‘playing politics’. Playing politics is a term used by politicians to dismiss something they don’t want to acknowledge. But now, this Government is falling over itself to make political capital out of the success of Team GB, and to rewrite history in the process. Continue reading…

Olympics: Being There – Hockey (Bronze Medal)

Mark Perryman was at the Men’s Hockey Bronze Medal Match, and reflects on the Olympics as a whole from his experiences and the legacy it will leave behind.

Having written a book entitled ‘Why The Olympics Aren’t Good For Us’ I might have been expected to be crying into my energy drink for the past joyful few weeks for having such a woeful lack of judgement. Not a bit of it.

On Saturday I was at the Men’s Hockey Bronze Medal Match. The organisation of the men’s and women’s hockey tournaments in lots of ways represents exactly what has been wrong with London 2012; not the scale of ambition, the lack of it. Every hockey match of a World Cup style group and knockout stages tournament played in the single stadium. Centralisation suits only those with easy access to the Olympic Park, most games take place during the working day too, further narrowing those who could take part. The stadium? Temporary stands, so no unwanted legacy issues, but the capacity was only 15,000. The alternative I have suggested was to base the hockey in a region well-served with sizeable football stadia. Reconfigure the stands, lay the astroturf over the grass, double, triple or even quadruple the capacity, run all the matches at the evening and weekends. Increase the numbers attending, reduce the ticket prices. A home Games for the many, not just the lucky, like me, few. Continue reading…

Olympics: Being There – Athletics

After the Games had started Alan Fisher managed to get an Athletics ticket for an evening session in which both David Rudisha and Usain Bolt made history on the track at the Olympic Stadium on Day 13 of the London 2012 Olympics.

Athletics, Olympic Stadium, Olympic Park

My first trip to the Olympic Park. Good timing for once – Thursday is the sunniest day of the summer. Everyone is so pleasant and helpful, everywhere you go. No customer care exercise this – transport staff as well as gamesmakers and paid security staff went out of their way to assist. I made the fatal mistake of looking confused for a microsecond. If they knew me they would not be unduly concerned as I spend much of the day appearing similarly bewildered, but three staff pounced to make sure all was well.

I could get used to this. Imagine, the lasting recollection of this once-in-three-generations opportunity is that people were nice to each other. TfL and the train companies now have a self-imposed legacy burden: they can make the transport system work under intense pressure but not when fewer people around. Public transport does work if it’s properly resourced. Continue reading…

Olympics: Being There – Hockey

Women’s Hockey Semi-final, GB v Argentina, Riverbank Arena, Olympic Park

The line-up and order of play for the two women’s semi-finals were announced less than 48 hours before they were due to be played, resulting in more than a day’s worth of trying to swap tickets for a number of ticket holders. Eventually, on the day of the matches, tickets for the Netherlands semi-final with New Zealand were exchanged for seats at the Riverbank to see Team GB play Argentina in an evening match for a guaranteed medal and place in the final.

Plenty of anecdotal evidence, a rousing National Anthem in the packed stands and a vibrant display of colours showed more than a few people had successfully swapped tickets for the 8pm match on the blue pitch, played against a backdrop of the sun going down around the open temporary venue in the Olympic Park. Continue reading…



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