Wednesday 31 October 2007

Blanket Coverage

It’s midweek, it’s five o’clock, it’s … time to write nonsense. The task is to link seamlessly several half-ideas for a post, because individually they don’t really stand up. So, let’s see if it can be done.

To begin, I’m truly relieved that, according to the official site and the daily email, our reserves ‘made amends’ for Saturday by trouncing QPR’s second-string. Honour is satisfied and everyone is happy. Bet those guys over at Loftus Road would happily swap the three points for bragging rights between the stiffs – and just wait until I can laugh at the next QPR supporter I meet for the misery he/she must have suffered trudging away from the reserves game (no disrespect intended, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually met a QPR supporter).

I don’t doubt that the wording from the club is deliberately a little tongue-in-cheek. But it seems to me there is a growing propensity, also noted by friends, for the ‘glass half full’ approach to go a little too far. It sometimes smacks of trying to talk up a venture before selling it. I see Ipswich are the latest to attract fresh investment – and it’s been very quiet on what developments if any there have been since the appointment of Seymour Pierce. Being no longer listed the club has no formal obligation to provide updates, but it does have shareholders who are not board members (I dug out my certificate recently) and there is a moral obligation to them.

Any statement would presumably come from Peter Varney. I read with interest what he writes in the match programme, but usually find myself disagreeing with him when he ventures opinions, especially on European issues on which he tends to come across as a dinosaur (to declare my interest, I am pro-EMU – which does not stand for European monetary union, strictly speaking we should refer to European EMU – and, while taking special delight in players coming through the youth system, have no problems with Charlton fielding a completely non-British team if it does the business on the pitch).

In the QPR programme Varney was advocating a defined number of homegrown players in a first-team squad and having seven substitutes, two of which must be young, homegrown players. It seems the rationale is that “this country must have structures that allow young English talent to get the opportunities to develop”. Leaving aside this all being completely unworkable and contrary to the whole spirit of free movement of labour within the EU, which in other areas the UK embraces and benefits from enormously, just what’s wrong with open competition and meritocracy?

Then there’s Sam’s three-match ban. I wasn’t at the game and haven’t seen any replays of the incident, so I have no idea whether or not Sam deserved a red card. Charlton’s appeal was fair enough and Varney’s criticism of the FA for being unnecessarily secretive and dismissive, providing only a cursory rejection of the appeal sounded like a campaign worth pursuing (even if only to get our own back over the Sankofa affair).

However, according to Varney the referee’s report stated that Sam “threw a series of punches to the head and upper torso of the Hull player”. If the referee had that impression, he had no choice but to show a red card. The disciplinary committee seems to have found that the DVD footage could not determine whether the referee was correct but that as the ref was “in a perfect position” they had no grounds to conclude that he had made a serious and obvious error. Varney, it seems, believes the referee was not perfectly placed. He therefore has a difference of opinion with the committee, nothing more. He also seems to believe that the DVD footage does not prove Sam was guilty. In the context of an appeal it doesn’t have to; it has to prove that he was innocent.

Varney concludes that “justice has not been served, and the application of a principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is one that has my wholehearted support”. I’m sorry but this is just nonsense. On the pitch the referee is judge and jury and found Sam guilty. The appeal process is to determine whether he made an obvious mistake. Even from what Varney says the committee clearly could not do that (presumably unless the referee changed his view of the incident). Sam didn’t go into the appeal as someone not yet guilty. Can we please leave trying to play silly buggers with the law to a certain southerner called Jordan.

It is nevertheless of concern that Varney mentions the personal abuse he has had to put up with over the past year. There’s simply no justification for that. It’s just further depressing evidence that there is something seriously amiss with our fan base, not just that there aren’t enough of us and that we won’t be able to match the turnout that QPR and (especially) Plymouth managed. (Is this just a desperate attempt on my part to manufacture my first abusive comment?)

There are two abstractions from posts on the club site on the matter of booing the team: “You're telling me it's OK for Charlton to play like that and get no stick from the fans. They were simply awful in those two games, I would have rather stayed at home if I knew they were going to play like that.” And: “If people are paying good money week in week out and feel as if they aren’t getting the performance and commitment they deserve than they have every right to boo.”

I don’t recall a right to boo having been mentioned in the Magna Carta or any subsequent legislation. And let’s lobby the club to get Pardew and the team to text us all about how they are going to perform so we can decide whether it’s worth the effort. Maybe in this brave new world you do have a right to boo. Heaven knows we’re told every day we have ‘rights’ to everything else. But it’s one thing to have a right, it’s another to exercise it. You are not obligated to do so. Please just take a moment next time to consider what you are trying to achieve.

On rights and obligations, I have the proud record of never having voted in a UK general election. Indeed, were it not for the Valley Party my record would be spotless (I couldn’t ignore that one). And I actively encourage all I know not to vote. I have the right to vote (and I even get a postal ballot, which I decline to complete), I simply decide not to exercise it (and no, this does not mean I have no right to complain about our government).

This is a stance taken for what I believe to be positive reasons. I am in favour of reform of the UK electoral system and believe that there will only be change if the participation rate continues to fall, producing more independent MPs and threatening the major parties. It’s sometimes hard to get across to people what it’s like not just to live in a constituency that has voted the same way in living memory but also to live in a part of it which is not the natural support base of the winning party. Nobody bothers to campaign here; a few leaflets through the post is as far as it goes (which can of course be a blessing).

We seem to have embraced the principle of universal suffrage and one man/woman one vote. How can it not follow that the votes need to be of equal value? I am at least partially disenfranchised. It doesn’t have to be straight proportional representation; I happen to like the French system of voting over two rounds. If someone gets over 50% they are elected, if not there’s a run-off between the top two. So people vote for who they want, then for the lesser of two evils. And before anyone says the French system nearly let in the disgusting Le Pen it didn’t. The Socialists screwed up badly by not turning out in the first round and the system ensured that Le Pen would never have a chance of actually winning.

What we need is a blanket, nationwide debate leading to a referendum. Now blanket sounds a little like blanquette. And at least my Saturday is sorted now. No Southampton (what was that about not turning out for away games?). Instead I will serve my punishment devised by my French partner and cook a blanquette de vaux to her satisfaction. Disasters they say come in threes. We’ve had ours surely with the last three games. But food poisoning followed by defeat at Southampton and then accidentally sitting on a firework at the Blackheath display has to be a possible combination for the coming weekend.


Anonymous said...

Very interested in your comments on crowd booing BA.

We've had a lively debate about it on All Quiet.

Have bon weekend!

Pembury Addick

Lungrot said...

The first three Charlton matches I went to were in the 1969/70 season and they were all 0-0 draws. Sadly, all I can remember about them is that it was the first time I saw skinheads and that the crowd started slow handclapping because the matches were so boring. Whatever happened to the slow handclap? It was far better than booing which is just too negative.

Wyn Grant said...

Varney is certainly an English nationalist.

charlton north-downs said...

Admire your stance Blackheath
Long live the Revolution. Trouble is I keep hearing the words to that Who Song- "Won't Get Fooled Again"

Anonymous said...

Agree with most of what you say especially regarding voting and elections. Here, I am totally of the same mind. As far as investment goes, the club is in a position at themoment where it can be a bit choosy about which investments it accepts. The worry is that if we dont go up within the next year or two, our financial situation will probably become so desperate that we will have to accept anything that is offered. That is why it is vital that Pardew and the players get their act together soon, and it is why certain people, (me included) get very frustrated and boo when things are not as they should be. I dont think most people boo to be aggresive or over-critical, they boo because they fear the club is slipping back to the financial stae of the 60s and 70s.

Wyn Grant said...

Would be interesting to know whether the Blackheath Addick votes in European Parliament elections given his views and the fact that it is on PR lines (albeit party list) or does he vote for the London mayor where there is a supplementary vote? On the question of finances, I don't think we're quite back to the situation of the 60's and 70's, but it is (so I am given to understand) worse than has been generally made known, hence why we can probably only afford one player in the transfer window. What is interesting is that Southampton and Ipswich can attract substantial funds, but they benefit from being 'stand alone' clubs rather than being an 'also ran' club in London.

Burgundy Addick said...

On booing, I hope I'm not getting too precious. I do feel that it's not the best way to express frustration and/or concern over club finances. It is the players who get booed off and I don't think it does anything for their confidence, so unless they're clearly not trying (which I don't believe to be the case) the effect is only negative.

Wyn, can you seriously be suggesting that my reasoned, noble stance is merely a cover for being bone idle?

The European Parliament call is always close given the system and the Liberal Democrats' stance on the EU. But I usually end up getting totally alienated by the tone of the debate and the gutlessness of our politicians on European issues (when did 'victory' on policy issues become securing an opt-out?).

London mayor? On that one I'll plead guilty to indolence. Was disappointed that the process was just hijacked by the parties (what else to expect?). As for an elected mayor of Lewisham, what a pathetic scam.

Pedro45 said...

This may be of voting interest BA; see point 156 on page 46 and also reference page 45.

Best wishes.