Showing posts from May, 2011

Republic's player poaching to blame for stay-away fans.

From yesterday's Tele.

Barack Obama and the Queen may have been recent visitors to Dublin, but the vast majority of local football supporters are giving it a bye-ball. Thousands of Northern Ireland fans had been expected to travel to the Aviva stadium for tonight's Carling Nations Cup clash with the Republic, but now it's likely they will number in the low hundreds, with most supporters' clubs boycotting the match. The impetus for fans to take this action came when the IFA imposed draconian travel restrictions and levied a £30 fee for coach travel to and from the game. Digging a little deeper, though, it's clear that the boycott reflects growing disillusion among supporters with the arrangements surrounding the Carling Nations Cup - and even Northern Ireland's decision to participate in the first instance. The Amalgamation of Northern Ireland Supporters' Clubs insists that its problem with the game is not just an expensive bus ticket; it maintains that the IFA d…

Medvedev rolls them up and lets them down.

When either the President or Prime Minister of Russia wants to emphasise their liberal credentials they head to Skolkovo.  A business school, set to become heart of Moscow’s answer to Silicon Valley, it’s an emblem for the new Russia: educated, tech savvy, pro-business and punching its weight.
Something of a kerfuffle accompanied Dmitry Medvedev’s press conference, planned for Skolkovo this afternoon.  There was some expectation that the President would declare his hand and announce whether he would run for a second term, in next year’s election.
The conference followed hot on the heals of the announcement that Mikhail Prokorov, currently Russia’s third wealthiest billionaire, would lead Right Cause, the pro-business party which has backed Medvedev for the presidency, into December’s state Duma election.
Interesting choreography, but the journalists who flocked to the Moscow Management School were disappointed.  The President said that it is ‘too soon’ to announce his intentions, but the…

Celebrate the Lyric - new jewel in Belfast's cultural crown.

My column from Saturday's News Letter.
As last week’s election count ground on through Friday evening, I took a much needed break from the coverage to visit the reopened Lyric Theatre in Belfast.It’s been closed for the past year or so, as the old building was more or less rebuilt from the ground up and replaced by a gleaming, modern venue costing £18.1 million.
The Department of Culture, Arts and Lesiure stumped up about half of that total.A hefty price tag, but it seems to be money well spent.
The lack of sound-proofing at the old Lyric was a particular irritation, with the roar of traffic from Stranmillis Embankment, car alarms and the like constantly intruding on performances.Nothing quite explodes the illusion that you are in say, 7th century Denmark, like the cheesy jingle of an ice cream van.
There are no such issues with the new theatre.The heavy wooden panels surrounding the auditorium insulate it perfectly from the outside world.The first production in the reopened building …

What would happen to the Brits if Scotland were independent?

A nice column today from David Mitchell in today's Observer.  The comedian skewers a neglected issue raised by the spectre of Scottish independence.  How would us Brits feel, deprived of our country?

When I appeared on an episode of Question Time broadcast from Musselburgh, near Edinburgh, the issue of Scottish independence came up. One of my fellow panellists, the SNP deputy leader, Nicola Sturgeon, was at pains to make clear that her party had nothing against England and were admirers of that country.What I didn't say in response, what I've kicked myself for not expressing ever since, was: "Yes but you've got it in for Britain. You may be happily in cahoots with the morris-dancing English and the Eisteddfod-organising Welsh, but my country, the Britain of London where I now live, of Swansea, my mother's home town where I spent a lot of time as a child, and of Galloway, where my paternal grandparents lived, is something you want to destroy. I'm British, I …

Northern Ireland in Serbia - 4-4-2 Magazine

Time for a little shameless self-promotion, because today is rather an exciting day for me. 
Yes, we are on the eve of two elections and a referendum.  Yes, Northern Ireland is ninety years old to the day.  Yes, it’s Rory McIlroy’s birthday.  All landmark events - but none quite so compelling for me personally as the publication of my first article in FourFourTwo magazine. 
Let me explain.  I grew up as a football mad kid on a diet of football magazines.   You could map my development by these changing titles.  From Roy of the Rovers I graduated to Shoot magazine, sneering at those who preferred its rival Match, which I considered far too lightweight. 
Shoot was gradually supplanted by the edgier content of 90 Minutes, as I approached my teenage years.  During adolescence I experimented with fanzine inspired monthly When Saturday Comes and the statto’s bible, World Soccer, but I was more often immersed in the glossy pages of FourFourTwo. You can see the significance I’m sure.
Anyway the…