Sunday, November 12, 2006

Government Sporting Strategy “no competition”

“We are very proud of the performance of the English Cricket team in their first match of the Ashes tour, very pleased indeed.” remarked Vincent Billingsworth, Under Secretary for Sports planning. “We have deployed a lot of resources into returning the team’s ability back to the normal playing standard and any other result may have been problematic.”

Mr Billingsworth was speaking at a dinner for a large corporate sponsored sports charity. “Over the past decade we have worked hard on mediocrity in competition which is very important for the image of the UK and our sporting industries and media.

“The England national football side has been the foremost bastion of such mediocrity. They have attained a standard of competition, not so terrible that we could never imagine them winning but sufficiently good that we could raise our hopes as each tournament nears, with endless column inches and hours of TV and radio time speculating on their prospects. If they ever attained that winning formula, well speculation would be meaningless.

“Also, we in the government do get fed up improving hospitals and schools and buying the latest equipment for the armed forces – it is always divisive and offers only limited overseas fact finding tours. Promoting sport is almost a blank cheque for us to attend major sporting events.
“Further, sporting partnerships: whether it be sponsoring existing teams, or training academies; perhaps the creation of new playing fields, courts and arenas; give us in the public sector the opportunity to engage with you, in private industry – which is invaluable networking for our future careers outside of government.

“We have had some set-backs, Liverpool FC have had more success than we would like in European football in the last decade. Damon Hill was too successful at Williams, but his move to Arrows solved that. Indeed David Coulthard has achieved in F1 the level of expectation we hope to maintain for all competitions. There was the slight exception with Jenson Button fluking his first Grand Prix win - whilst we can’t allow for the weather and the major drivers having reliability problems, it does at least raise the speculation level on Jenson’s performances.

“Another outstanding success has been our work with the England Rugby Union team after their alarming World Cup victory. To be honest I think we need to review that programme as, frankly it may well have gone too far. The aforementioned opportunities for speculation are limited to the size of the defeat and this is no good for Rugby equipment manufacturers.

“In preparation for the 2012 Olympics we are hopeful of making use of expert consultants when Tim Henman and Colin Montgomerie retire. It is vital, after all, that Britain retains the image of plucky and capable underdog on the sporting field. Perhaps now you understand why we had to part company with Sir Steve Redgrave.”

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