Category Archives: Sunderland AFC

Do chairmen dream of eccentric sheep?

Hard Times

The Government is proposing to sell off English Heritage due to concerns about its financial viability. A consultation paper into the future of the organisation proposes that from 2015 English Heritage will become a charity organisation charged with running the national heritage collection.

Jimi Hendrix

Heritage can’t be bought, but can be sold

As you can imagine, this has signalled a wave of disapproval, with claims it is ‘privatisation by the back door’ and a chorus of promulgations about the preservation of our heritage – because once it has gone, we lose our history for future generations , and that would be a tragedy, especially in the name of profit. Culture should prevail, exceeding capitalist pursuits, should it not?

A Tale of Two Cities

Meanwhile, in Humberside a rich North African man is befuddled by news he has failed in his attempts to change the name of the local football team from boring old Hull City to the awe inspiring, exciting, linguistic roar of; Hull Tigers.

Elsewhere, in a bustling Welsh industrial city, a rich Asian man has successfully changed the uniform of the local football team from blue to red. The team had formally played in blue for many years and they were, until the time of this enforced colour change, affectionately known as the Bluebirds.

Great Expectations

Is it too much to expect that we protect our heritage?  It’s not just historians who battle to keep listed buildings or horticulturists who seek to maintain our scenic landscapes; so it should not just be Hull City or Cardiff City fans who fight to preserve their club’s heritage, nor should it be the burden of football fans alone.

Athletic BilbaoCardiff football club is 115 years old and Hull City has been proud of its name for 110 years. Sunderland (est. 1879) – my team – play in red and white, and the story goes that two men from Sunderland while working in Spain started a football team, insisting they played in red and white vertical stripes. That team was Athletic Bilbao, and yes, they still proudly don red and white stripes. Notts County (1862) are the reason Juventus wear black and white stripes, and Exeter City introduced association football to the Brazilians!

Association football clubs; their stadiums, names and jerseys are as much English heritage as castles, ship yards, mines and trains. Football clubs are part of a community’s historical identity; they have brought communities together through bad times and good, been the cause and means for towns and cities to come together and rejoice – often overcoming cultural and social differences.

The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain

Any talk of messing with this heritage is an atrocity, and the PR disasters which have beset the football club owners who try and destroy this integral part of our culture, in the name of profiteering, should be lambasted at every opportunity.

Hull_City_promotion_celebrationA football club is owned by the fans and the community, who will still be there long after the owners, millionaire players, managers and new found fans on some overseas market. The FA should be doing all they can to preserve this great heritage and protect it from those who want to carry out a vanity project or line their pockets at the hands of centuries of tradition.

Don’t let anyone take away our heritage. Football is ours. We are football.

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When sports journalists get political: the sensational case of Paolo Di Canio

Why let a proper news story get in the way of a good headline? Sensationalism in the press has long been a significant journalistic technique and recognised as a tried and tested tactic to sell copies of a newspaper. But does this compulsion to sensationalise reporting of events compromise the integrity of journalism?

The case of Paolo Di Canio

Unveiled as Sunderland manager

Unveiled as Sunderland manager

Paulo Di Canio was announced as the successor to the recently sacked Martin O’Neill on Easter Monday, which, in a show of calendaric rarity, also happened to be the 1st April; April Fools day. The position as Sunderland Head Coach was not Di Canio’s first managerial post; in fact it is his second in English football, following a spell in charge of Swindon Town FC.

However, unlike in 2011, this appointment has caused the media to hit the panic button on an epic scale. Where one would usually expect tributes to the former manager, mild outrage against foreign owners wielding swords of power, and questions over the tactical nuances of a top-flight rookie; all the press have concerned themselves with is alleged comments the man made 8 years ago, which he explained in his first press conference, and an official club statement as misrepresentative and out of context.

Asking the right questions

In the hours and days following the initial press conference the newspapers filled their websites, twitter feeds and front and back pages with speculation regarding the truth about the comments; the primary sources beginning and ending with Mr. Di Canio’s organised press conferences (which are standard fare at such embryonic stages of a new managers reign). The original source remains to my knowledge, un-translated and as such, unsubstantiated. The press have, however, published images of Di Canio saluting his own fans during his playing career, while at Lazio.

Di Canio celebrating with fans.

Di Canio celebrating with fans.

These pictures have become the basis for a campaign of hate, in the absence of any real investigation, and have been misrepresented as having connections to the Nazis. This is in conjunction with a dreadfully crass typecasting of several socio-political, historical parties, and a blind ignorance of the associated terminology and socio-political context.

The far right or far off the mark?

I would like to make clear that I am not condoning the actions carried out under the name of fascism in the past, but nor do I condone the actions of the press as they fail to differentiate between fascism and racially fueled hate crimes. Fascism is an ideology which is understood to mean a myriad of things to different people in various social and historical contexts.

We are talking about the comments of an elite sportsman, not a politician or academic. Why is it assumed Di Canio understands the connotations of his alleged comments, especially in a foreign cultural setting? He has clearly been instructed by the club’s press office to refuse to comment on any political issue – after all, he is a former footballer, not a political historian. How do we know for sure that everything he has read or heard outside of football isn’t understood in the paradigm of football discourse (probably the only thing he has ever known)? Refusing to deny outrageous accusations is being reported as if it were an admission of sympathising with the actions of evil by the press, and I expect more. It’s simply not good enough.

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