Friday, May 28, 2010

Scotland v Brazil

Nostalgia Friday.

1974 when we went so close. So very close.

1990 when Leighton could only parry.

Memories are made of this!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

TV review: 3D or not 3D

I have seen the future. And it looks very much like Ian Holloway is standing in the corner of the pub.

Blackpool’s play-off game against Cardiff – "the richest game in football" itself – provided the entertainment as I dipped my toe into the brave new world of 3D football courtesy of Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Sports.

Actually too new a world. What a disappointment not to see the old cardboard specs with the coloured cellophane. At least then if the game had been dull I could have pretended that I was actually on a date at a 1950s drive-in movie theatre somewhere in America.

A fantasy that would have lasted until as long as it took me to realise that I was actually sat next to a septuagenarian – and temporarily one-armed – photographer.

Anyway the new specs are actually cheap and nasty black plastic that leave you looking like the world’s worst Men In Black impersonator. And they immediately turn everyone into a comedian: "Never knew there was so many blind men drank in here on a Saturday afternoon." You get the drift. My sides literally didn't ache.

Do you remember those funny patterned things that were inexplicably popular in the Nineties? The one’s that if you screwed your face up for long enough an image of a dinosaur or Whigfield jumped out at you.

Well I could never see them. Everyone else would have walked away saying "wow, it was a Ferrari" and I’d still be squinting like a young Denis Law an hour later.

So I was worried that I’d not actually be able to see the benefits of 3D TV. Apparently this displays my ignorance of both technology and the human eye.

This was confirmed before kick off when as if by magic Ian Holloway and Dave Jones were both suddenly jumping out of the screen. I was agog.

Trust me, when your only previous experience of televisual 3D was that risible Doctor Who Children in Need effort in 1993, what Sky are doing is spectacular.

At least in close up. It’s amazing when Holloway looks like he’s about to go to join you for a pint (I reckon he’d last for one and a half excitable one liners before you were shoving him back through the TV) or when they focus on someone in the crowd. Sky’s graphics department are the big winners, the channel’s over reliance on shiny trophies and spinning club crests has never looked so good.

But for the meat and drink stuff: when the camera is actually following the game it’s just so-so. The clarity is remarkable but is that not what HD is for? The 3D stuff looks like an extra gimmick that the technology hasn’t fully caught up with yet.

With separate coverage of the game on different channels, and with most pubs only having one 3D screen, there is a temptation to look round for different camera angles on the main sports channel. But to get a clearer picture of that you’ve got to flick the glasses away. It all ends in a bit of a kerfuffle rather than in the promised land.

The initial impact is excellent but about an hour in – and it was a cracking game – I was wondering if I’d not rather be watching it on normal TV, sans glasses from Coco the Clown’s House of Crap.

Mind you, not even his – surely somewhat embarrassed - dentist has ever had a better view of Charlie Adams’ chaotic arrangement of gnashers.

Drop the debt

Michel Platini has got his way. The madness that has cursed football is about to be, if not stopped, at least checked:
From 2012-13, just two years' time, clubs who wish to play in European competitions must not spend more than they earn. That, in a nutshell, is it.

The idea is to stop clubs spending on players' wages beyond their income to chase the dream of success – and not only here, where according to the most recent, 2008-09 accounts, 14 of the 20 Premier League clubs made substantial losses. In Spain, La Liga clubs have recently posted €3bn annual debts, and Italy's top clubs, one of which, Juventus, was graced by Platini himself in the 1980s, have long been addicted to financial fixes from owners.

From 2012-13 massive spending on players by owners, as at Chelsea, where Roman Abramovich has paid in £726m since 2003, or Manchester City, whose owner Sheikh Mansour, has spent £400m since 2008, will be prohibited. An individual club must pay their players and other costs out of the money they earn, from TV, sponsorships – and, here, the world's highest ticket prices – not from "benefactor" owners.

A positive step in the right direction.

But, I fear, not much more than that. It's unlikely that this is going to be used to punish the big clubs in Europe. They might rack up the most debt but they're also best equipped to cope with the payments.

Of course any regulations that would punish a Manchester United or a Real Madrid would not have got to this stage.

So a Pyrrhic victory for Platini at most.

And one that will probably end up costing smaller clubs. Say Kilmarnock have a run in the SPL or Scottish Cup that takes them into Europe. Are they going to be banned from playing - and earning some much needed money - because they don't break even?

The rich get richer, the poor get shafted. As in life, so in football.

More from The Guardian's David Conn here

Silly season

A few days away from the blog and the whole world goes crazy as Kris Boyd signs for Celtic.

Well, no he didn't. And was never going to.

It was nice little scoop while it lasted for The Sun. Which was about two and a half minutes.

How did it come about? Someone in Boyd's entourage looking to force the hand of either Rangers or other potential suitors? Somebody at Celtic wanting to have little fun at The Sun's expense?

Or the journalist - Iain King - simply making it up?

I don't know. Although I would say King and his editors were more likely guilty of wanting the scoop to be true after a dodgy tip off rather blatant fiction. Believe that, don't believe that. But it's probably what happened.

Anyway it gave The Sun another few pages the next day as they set about rebutting the rebuttals.

No legal action will be taken of course. No journalist will lose access to any of the named parties.

Clubs and papers know that this is how it works. Especially in "silly season." The journalists need their copy, the club's need the publicity. And so it goes on.

In other news Walter Smith signed on for another season at Rangers with a planned abdication in a year. That didn't work out too well the last time as I recall.

And congratulations to Peter Houston for signing a deal with Dundee United. Just reward for a job well done.