Sunday, December 10, 2006

Come back Temme, all is forgiven

It has been easy to criticise David Temme, the former Chief Executive of Cardiff City. Conveniently placed to take heat off Hammam, he became the public face and scapegoat for any of the unglamorous and unpopular difficult business decisions taken by the club.

But many of the Ninian Park improvements for which Sam happily took the plaudits were in place before his arrival. Apart from the bars, hospitality and web facilities, Temme's main contribution was the ticketing system.

Ninian Park used to see vastly fluctuating crowds. 4,000 could turn into 11,000 from week to week. In this environment it was always difficult to emply the correct number of staff, and even to forecast how many programmes to print. There were always queues at the turnstiles for big games, with some delayed due to crowd congestion.

Temme resolved this by creating the advance ticket sales incentives, and by putting in place a sophisticated electronic ticketing system which has helped create a commercial database of 30,000 supporters. With assistance from Sean Murphy, Cardiff's ticketing improved tenfold.
Both men have now left and it seems that efficiency has followed.

As a paid up member of the club, I had anticipated some priority when a big game turned up, but this was not the case. The club has since admitted to me and I quote; "It's not really a membership, more of an away travel club." Now you tell me.

But it gets worse. I ordered two tickets online on Tuesday for yesterday's game v Ipswich. Attendance at this game was to be the qualifying factor for ticket purchase for the FA Cup at home to Spurs next month. They didn't arrive.

After three phone calls, I eventually sent my receipt to prove the purchase and was told that I could collect on the day. I would need my ticket stubs for the Tottenham game.

It doesn't end there. Apparently, my Ipswich tickets do not guarantee me entry to the Spurs game. For this, I need to take my chance in the queues at the ticket office on 18th December.
But I live 200 miles away.

I sent a mate to collect my tickets yesterday. He now has to send me the stubs, and I have to send them on to the ticket office. Once they have been received, I will be allowed to join the phone queues and apply for my Spurs ticket on the 18th.

Apparently when I get through, they will have made a note that they have received my stub in the post and will issue my ticket for Spurs. Excuse me for being cynical, but experience tells me that the chances of this running smoothly are almost nil.

My point is this. There is a digitised ticketing system in place. I bought online. The club has a history of every ticket I've bought for the past five years. Why do I need to send in a paper stub to prove purchase? It's there in front of them.

I could have applied for the Spurs ticket with yesterdays purchase, and so could the season ticket holders. In fact everybody who paid for yesterday's game will be on the database. Why do we still need 4 hour queues and repeat dial phoning?

Why do they make work for themselves? And why do they insist on wasting my time? Just send me a bastard ticket will you?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Football in Welsh

There is a certain breed of football fan who watches the teleprinter on a Saturday evening and yearns to visit places like Stenhousemuir, to watch the Accies play, and to find out for themselves who exactly are Accrington Stanley.

It was in this spirit that I went to watch Lokomotiv Llanberis on a trip up North about five years ago. I remember nothing of the game, except that it was poor - the only 0-0 draw I have ever seen at this level . There was a gate and a programme, and a crowd of less than 100. But what shocked me more than anything was the fact that both teams, the ref, and the crowd were playing solely through the medium of the Welsh language.

As we were in the Cymraeg heartland, you may have expected this. But the truth is that when 25 men gather together anywhere in Wales, one monoglot will force at least some of the other 24 to speak English, simply out of politeness.

For me, this was a thrilling experience - the first evidence I'd had that Welsh could be a living language. But to a watching Englishman, one thing would have stood out amongst all the consonants; the language was peppered with English words. This wasn't the bookish and self-conscious academic-Welsh that I'd heard spoken on the field with CPD Inter Ifor in Cardiff.

And it all made perfect sense. Football was a game born in England, in the English language. Its terminology and jargon should not be translated for the sake of a lexicographer. If you go the the opera house, you still talk of libretti, of sopranos and leitmotifs. Jargon should stay faithful to its inventors. I am sure that English terms have always been used by Welsh footballers. It is only the recent media explosion that has imposed translation.

Of course the English find it all hysterical, this progression. The fact that our word for taxi is tacsi, that ambulance is ambiwlans, and that we say Coronation Street in the middle of an otherwise Welsh sentence. It is this ignorance of modern language development that has led to the urban myth of a pub full of English speaking customers all turning to Welsh the minute that a tourist walks through the door.

The most popular Welsh language programme of the past 20 years has been a comedy series about Junior Football in North Wales. It is called C'mon Midffild, not Ymlaen Canol Cae! as the BBC Cymru would have it. But that single phrase beautifully epitomises the North Walian football culture. There is a passion for the game here that transcends language. Nobody stops to think about correctness. This is just the language they speak, and that's it. No political statement, no chip on the shoulder, just a means of expression. And they have the self-confidence not to give a damn what it sounds like.

And do you know what? The term C'mon Midffild isn't English being spoken with a Welsh accent any more than using a defensive formation makes you a French speaker. It has been absorbed now into modern Welsh. They are our words.

The academic Welsh language just doesn't do football justice. The English word penalty conjures up instant drama, a shoot-out, a duel, a crime-committed. The Welsh term is cic o'r smotyn, a kick from the spot. It is descriptive but nothing else.

The offside law is a pretty complex, ever changing rule which requires detailed understanding of the game. The Cardiff-Welsh for this is camsefyll, literally wrong-standing. It's inadequate. Offside isn't much better, but it is the original term.

A Saturday afternoon visitor to Cae Seilo might hear the following phrase shouted from the home captain;

C'mon diffens, da ni'n ddistaw. Rhoi pel i'r middfild. Chwarae ffwtbol, a
iwsio'r wingars. Paid a phoeni am y gol, oedd o'n fwcin offseid eniwe. Mae reff
'ma yn ffwcin bleind, y cont.

Maybe not grammatically correct, but certainly evocative.

But there is nothing wrong in all of this. It is healthy. And before the English get too smug about their prime role in the football lexicon, let me remind you that players will sometimes make a challenge in the centre circle before distributing a beautiful diagonal pass. Not an English word amongst that lot.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Why Welsh?

That hilarious episode with the LWPCSF2L last night got me thinking. Why does it need a "W" ?
Why do we have to identify it as Welsh ? Why is it the Welsh Premier? Or for that matter, the Scottish Premier League when we only refer to the English competition as The Premiership? (Of course I can also argue that The Premiership, as a derivative of The Football League is no more exclusively English than the BBC).

It's all about confidence of course. I spoke in a previous article about our acceptance of England as the starting point to which we all doff our cap. This institutional dismissal is endemic in sport. The FAW or The FA? The England and Wales Cricket Board Representative XI, or just England?

Of course none of this matters very much. Just shrug and get on with your life. Except that it does. Every time that Eddie Butler talks about the Welsh scrum, but England's lineout, he is subconsciously disassociating himself from his country. He is talking about them, the Welsh, literally foreigners in the original Saxon term Welleas. And Eddie Butler does this a lot. Listen to him next time.

Our own use of the term Welsh to describe our own competitions is insulting, but it is also symptomatic of our weakness. If we used more of the Welsh language, then the Welsh word Cynghrair would suffice. We would know that it is the Welsh League because it is in our country's language. See Bundesliga, or La Liga for examples. No Need for Deutsch or Espanol in there.

But we let it go. We don't even think about it now. Life's too short. I went to Next in Bangor last week, where they will happily sell you a full range of England football bedroom furniture for your house. Nothing for a Welsh boy. Not a stitch. And this in Wales.

Four years ago, our campaign against Gilesports in Cardiff led to concessions against their promotion of England in the World Cup. And supermarkets across Wales have been shamed away from English flag waving across our country during international football tournaments.

That's the big stuff - the obvious stuff. It's the petty things that slip, which are creating cracks in our identity while we plug the dam. Like the England furniture in Next and our use of the word Welsh to describe our own organisations. We always refer to North Wales, never the North which immediately conjures up images of Lancashire, Yorkshire and Tyneside. Why should that be the case in Wales? We talk about the prosperity of The South, when we mean London, Surrey and Middlesex. It's a language issue of course. Welsh speakers all know where Gogledd is and Y Dde is some 150 miles away from London. But we use their language; ergo we use their points of reference.

But we shouldn't blame the English. It's not their fault. It's ours. We scrape and bow to their sporting culture like so many Commonwealth countries before us. We buy their newspapers and we subscribe to their television. Some of you even travel to watch their teams.

The death of Welsh culture has long been predicted, but if it happens, it won't be a case of murder, it will be suicide.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


During half-time of the Barcelona v Werder Bremen game this evening, where Barca are thankfully destroying brawn with their brains, I turned over to Sky Sports One where the results are preceded by the related competition.


PREM Charlton 0 Blackburn 0

A lower divisionwill be represented like this;
FL2 Torquay 1 Wrexham 1

A match from the BG Business League;
BGB Banbury 1 Yate 1

But then this one popped up;
LWPLCSF2L - Rhyl 1 Porthmadog 0

Any ideas?

I'll give it to you....

Loosemore's Welsh Premier League Cup Semi Final Second Leg

..Rolls off the tongue doesn't it?

City snub members

Cardiff City have just announced the ticket priority scheme for the 3rd Round FA Cup tie against Tottenham in January. Unbelievably, after Ambassadors(sic) and season-ticket holders have taken their allocation, those who attend Saturday's game with Ipswich have the next chance.

Then why have I paid £20 for membership ? Is there no advantage to becoming a member other than the "privilege" of spending lots of money to go to away games ? Is there really nothing else apart from an ID card?

I live 200 miles away. Still, I sometimes make it to home games, but as it happens, this Saturday is one occasion when I can't get there. So that's it. My membership counts for nothing, and some taxi driver who hasn't been to Ninian since they sold Toshack can take my place at the Spurs game.

I'd have been better off if we'd been drawn away. As a member, I would have had priority for an away game. . They should call it an away travel club instead of conning their own loyal supporters like this.

This stinks. The club has a history of making up absurd qualifying factors for ticket purchasing and this is one of them. Who has ever heard of a club where members can't buy tickets? Bastards.

As a postscript, I've now bought 2 tickets for a game on Saturday that I can't get to. In 1994 I had to do the same thing for an FA Cup tie against Luton. We played Wrexham the week before and I bought a ticket for that game to receive my FA Cup voucher, even though I was working that day. But City made things worse. It wasn't enough to just buy a ticket, or even present your ticket on the day of the Wrexham game. You physically had to go through the turnstile to receive your voucher.

All of which meant that I had to leave work, walk through a turnstile, and turn round again. But then, and you're not going to believe this...they wouldn't let me out! It took them 20 minutes to find a chief steward with the authority to open the gates.

Let's hope this isn't a pre-requisite for Saturday's game. There's no way I'm driving down from North Wales just to walk through a turnstile. What's that ? Give my tickets away and receive the vouchers? Nope, they're non transferrable. It says on the back.

But you see what I mean ? You wouldn't get a woman going through all this to get a ticket. But there'll be thousands of them at the FA Cup game, spoiling things for the rest of us. Though I'll put up with all of this, just in case we see anything like Peter Sayer's long distance strike from 1977. Was it really 29 years ago that he graced the MOTD titles for a season?