Archive for October, 2008

Making the best of a bad mess?

October 26, 2008

I am not a supporter of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. I also find the claims that this is a “big club” somewhat ridiculous, as the last time that title could accurately be described was in 1961. However, as someone who is interested in businesses and the people that run them, I have to give credit where it’s due to chairman Daniel Levy.

The performance of the management of Spurs over the past summer has verged on the farcical. The person responsible for this state of affairs was Mr Levy.

However, the actions over the past few weeks, have, in retrospect been handled as effectively as I think they could have been.

First, the club had a series of games that, if keeping the team coach Juande Ramos and his assistant Gustavo Poyet (both very capable people and likely to succeed in other circumstances) was going to work, they had a chance.

First Spurs won a game on September 24, but in the useless Carling Cup (the competition the club won last season) and against Newcastle United, a club which at the time, if anything, was in an even worse state.

So at least, Mr Levy knew his coach and players could break their winning duck in the Premier League.

But then, against Portsmouth on September 28, there was a 2-0 defeat (made worse by a former player scoring the first goal).

This was followed this month by: 1-1 draw in Poland against Wisla Krakow in the UEFA Cup; defeat 0-1 at home against newly-promoted Hull City; defeat 1-2 away to Stoke City (another newbie); and defeat 0-2 away to Udinese (Italy) in the UEFA Cup.

Today, against Bolton Wanderers, a struggling team but currently above the relegation zone, was the last chance before tough matches against big rivals Arsenal, then Liverpool, Dynamo Zagreb in the UEFA Cup and Manchester City on November 9.

In my view, Bolton was the only credible chance of a win, but not with the existing set-up.

Mr Levy has therefore publicly owned up to the error of trying to have a coach/sporting director double act, the latter being Damien Comolli, who became a hate figure for many Spurs supporters. He sacked, Messers Ramos, Poyet and Comolli (with other coaches going) and swiftly appointed Harry Redknapp as the replacement, reportedly offering £5 million in compensation to the latter’s current employer.

In addition to a change of personnel, the result is a complete change of management strategy and how players will be treated. I don’t think it’s a surprise that today, Spurs beat Bolton 2-0 for the first league win of the season after 8 previous failures.

Mr Levy also provided a rationale for his position, making no excuses for not being flamboyant or for taking a commercially-minded view of the club. He did so in an open letter to the club’s supporters, which in my view was bold and clever.

By his actions in the past 48 hours, Daniel Levy has given his club a chance to turn things around, and made exactly the sort of appointment that could succeed. Mr Redknapp is renowned as a football manager for two skills: buying and selling players, and getting players other people have given up on and getting them to perform to their potential. It would be hard to argue that he isn’t exactly what Spurs need.

For Portsmouth, where Harry Redknapp was going a fine job and which has assembled a squad of players who have formed a strong working relationship with their boss, it could be a disaster. But that’s not Mr Levy’s problem.

When deciding whether to sack a manager, several factors come into the equation. One of these is “who is the best person to get us out of this hole?” Juante Ramos, whose spoken English was frankly not better than my Spanish would be after almost exactly a year, did not appear to communicate well with players from the touchline, according to this report for example. The sporting director Mr Commoli’s handling of transfers was, to put it mildly, incomprehensible to Spurs supporters and the media.

It may not work: the transfer window for players remains shut until the end of the year, by which time it may be too late to effect a rescue, the current strikers in the club squad do not seem capable of playing as a complementary unit, another indictment of Mr Commoli’s handling of the last transfer window in July and August.

But some chance is infinitely better than none. Will Tottenham Hotspur supporters be mollified? My guess is that they will, at least till the end of the season next May.

“A family blog”? Some blog…some family!

October 26, 2008

[Cross-posted from here at the Libertarian Alliance blog]

I don’t read this blog, because I find it an embarrassment. I don’t write for it as much as I’d like either for the same reason.

The header only carries pictures of dead people, most of whom weren’t Libertarians.

Most of the writing on this blog would be great, if trying to talk down at teenagers badly was a good idea.

The skimpy ladies are idiotic (get a life, failing that, go to Zoo, Nuts or FHM). It reminds me of the 1980s overgrown adolescents’ game of counting female nipples in copies of Sunday Sport.

And this prose: OMG!

This fairly pleasant-looking young woman seems to have brought several hundred hits to the bolg, merely by tamely repeating “I’m saving the planet” mantras on Sky news. Astounding really, since we are just a think-tank, and we don’t even agree with her with the people who have told her what to say.

And, she’s even from Bromley. Just down the road really. Marilyn Monroe, you are nowhere, stop hanging out with the corrupt, grasping, self-centred Kennedys, and get a life.

As this is a family blog, read by women and children too, ladies don’t take off their bras in front of people they don’t know:-

Apart from the insane reference to Marilyn Monroe, the bit that gets me is the claim that “this is a family blog”. What kind of family? You would have had to beat me near death to read anything as bad as this blog when I was child. How many women read this blog?

Using Tags like this: Tagged: , , , , may get some people who search for these words on Google to accidentally land on the LA blog. But this is no more than Spam. I’d be annoyed, not happy, to search for “bra” and “girls” to find myself pointed to some of the rubbish on this blog.

I could excuse this, if there was anything of immediate relevance to Libertarian Alliance supporters. (What has the Battle of Agincourt got to do with Libertarianism? Discuss in no more than 300 words.)

What people who are unable to attend the LA Conference this weekend might like is live-blogging [here’s a demonstration from the U.S. vice presidential debate recently] from the National Liberal Club. Instead we get Milton Friedman videos that, if I’m not mistaken, are nearly 20 years old.

Last year, I asked if we could have wi-fi at the next LA Conference so bloggers could report it live. Sadly, this was not done. I can’t be the only person unable to attend the Saturday events who would have liked to see something about the conference up by now. Does anyone wonder if the leftist Daily Kos would fail to ensure bloggers could cover their events? No, I didn’t think so.

If the National Liberal Club can’t accommodate wi-fi, the LA Conference should go elsewhere.

Was there any mention of the LA Conference on Facebook? MySpace? Google News? Guido Fawkes? Samizdata? No.

Was there any serious attempt at press coverage? Not even a press release in the run-up to the event.

Any broadcast media or live podcasts [Here’s a recent one by Patrick Crozier on the financial crisis]? No.

Any use of newer communications: Twitter? Qik? No.

Looking at the old conservative men peering down from the header on either side of Chris Tame, I see very little to inspire for the future.

The Peacock Has Landed*

October 22, 2008

Anyone who remembers the Six Million Rupee Man sketch from Goodness Gracious Me, will understand why I wondered if this was a joke. In my defence, I hoped it was for real. It is.

India is now ahead of the U.K. in the space race. Ahead of Germany and France. Could be level with Japan.

*The peacock is the national bird of India. Alright, I’m premature. Sue me.

Crying out for a blog: Sarah Palin and Joe Kinnear

October 4, 2008

This week, we’ve seen two people who are crying out for a blog: Sarah Palin, the Republican nominee for the Vice Presidency of the U.S.A. and Joe Kinnear, the caretaker manager of Newcastle United Football Club. Both have been the targets what one could call “the media narrative” or hostile bias.

Mrs Palin, the Governor of Alaska, let off steam in an interview on Fox News here.

Joe Kinnear vented with a lot of “c” and “f” four letter words here.

In both cases, they suffer from the need to communicate to an audience in order to succeed. But both are people that the media has decided must fail: one for being a Republican, the other for being old and not photogenic.

They both need to break out of the media box and interact with the public. Joe Kinnear bluntly announced he will not give press conferences again and will offer exclusives to two local newspapers, as a way of communicating to Newcastle FC supporters.

I’d like to think that Governor Palin is much too nice, but may have fantasized, to have this exchange with Katie Couric:

Joe Kinnear: Which one is Simon Bird [Daily Mirror’s north-east football writer]?
Simon Bird: Me.
JK: You’re a c**t.
SB: Thank you.

Funnily enough, I anticipated this sort of thing in 2003 when the Big Blog Company was starting up. I was asked by its founders to suggest some ideas for the types of businesses that would want to blog.

I said: “politicians and football clubs.”

I was very gently informed that I was completely wrong. Politicians could never tell the truth long enough to write a credible blog and football cannot possibly involve a communication, besides its sport and sport has nothing to do with blogging.

I regret to say that the Big Blog Company, despite some success, has never really made it as a major business. But, if instead of ignoring my suggestions, tBBC had taken the idea seriously, we can see where this could have led.

One cleverest use of blogging in the sporting world has been by the Association of Tennis Professionals to boost the popularity (and therefore commercial bankability) of tennis players. The ATP offered blogs for ALL ITS MEMBERS. Here are a couple of examples.
Daniela Hantuchova
Venus Williams

Today, the hardcore tennis fan reads the players views directly, unfiltered by the media. The media get their stories from the blogs too, but on terms dictated by the players. Someone, somewhere, has made a lot of money setting up these blogs.
It’s a shame that a silly bias against sport as a serious business meant that it wasn’t tBBC.

With politicians, to be fair, it would have been very hard to ignore the political blogging going on in the early 2000s. The business strategy I would have proposed would have been to offer all the political parties a deal to set up blogs for all parliamentary candidates. And I would have offered the Welsh Nationalists to do it for free as a demonstration for the other parties (about 38 seats in Wales last time I looked). But 633 seats in the Westminster Parliament.

As with tennis players under the ATP brand, a fair amount of standardization would have been possible. Lots of boot camps for politicians (tennis players I suspect don’t do group events quite as well).

But this wasn’t a business that tBBC wanted. Perhaps they should bid to do the PalinBlog and the JKblog.