Friday, 9 February 2018

Darts in Cardiff

A Thursday night in Cardiff in February becomes a lively affair when the PDC Premier League roadshow is in town.

My dad always talked about wanting to go to the darts in the 80's in the smoke filled room of Jolly's in Stoke but I am not sure what he would have made of today's darts. I think he would be delighted with the way the game has connected with a huge audience.

I was privileged to join the Unicorn team last night as the Premier League Week 2 was played at the Motorpoint Arena.  The players are trying to get themselves back in the groove following the World Championships and some are taking longer than others.

First up was "Bully Boy" Smith from the Unicorn stable and Daryl Gurney. In what proved a cracking to and fro match Bully Boy just got the edge and with that my accumulator for the night had gone. Both players had impressive ton plus averages.

Next up was the Aussie "Wizard" Whitlock and "Champion of the World" Rob Cross. In the walk on area it is like viewing horses in the paddock working out whose relaxed and whose focused. Studying both, Whitlock laughing and smiling looked like he had just rolled out of the Walkabout while Cross stern faced was determined to turn around last weeks defeat to MVG. My money was on Cross. After Whitlock had beaten him 7-1 I realise that my paddock observations were not always going to be correct. The fact that no averages were ever seen on the screen speaks volumes about the quality of the game, however, the man from down under was top of the league with 2 from 2.

Number 1 v Number 2 in the world MVG v Peter Wright was match of the night. Paddock observations again favoured MVG's focus against Snakebites frivolity. Wright though shook of his dismal finish to last weeks encounter and to the surprise of the Buzz Lightyears, Bananas and Wally's in the audience got the better of the worlds number one.

Gerwyn Price the local lad then took on Gary Anderson. Both looked relaxed, Anderson so much that he took exception to the Unicorn's rep Dave Cannon's attempt at growing a beard. The Wizard he is not when it comes to hair. After a promising start from Price, Anderson showed his class to overcome to provide the Unicorn stable with a double and the next round was taken.

Finally Van Barneveld whose steely eyes ignored all in the Walkon area. Suljovic was relaxed and laughing and won the favouritism of those on the Walk on Barriers. Barny pulled through in a close encounter.

A great night, good humour and cracking atmosphere. Darts in the 21st century, bring it on.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

England Cricket T20 solution

With the Big Bash and IPL turned into global cricketing tournaments, what can the ECB do to create a similar global success in the UK.

The franchise model clearly works but how does that relate to the English game. Simple solution would be allocate 3 counties to one franchise.
Durham, Yorkshire, Notts
Lancs, Derbyshire, Leicestershire
Somerset, Glamorgan, Hampshire
Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire 
Middlesex, Northamptonshire, Essex 
Surrey, Sussex , Kent

This could work 10 games. Top two in final.
4 overseas players allowed for each franchise. Rest of the players drawn from the three counties.

This would run alongside a county competition similar to the current T20. I would also include a minor counties competition and try to include Ireland, Scotland in this format to get a complete national competition. Put aside the month of July for all of this to coincide with holidays and overseas availability.

The counties Would to keep their competition, be able to offer their quota of games but also benefit from the franchise. The knock on from a terrestrial tv franchise would feed downtown counties local offering. Younger players would get greater opportunities at counties and clubs would see more drawn from the club game for the counties and minor counties competition to enhance interest.

The structure and tradition of the cricket authorities makes it difficult to change the status quo, but a radical overhaul of the limited overs game is clearly needed. Some new ideas are needed and this one certainly has its merits.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

European Championship Qualifying Revamp

The European Championship in 2016 is expanding to a final of 24 teams resulting in almost half of Europe will compete in the finals. A qualifying competition lasting eighteen months based on the previous method of qualifying is bound  to produce tedious matches as some teams will have done enough to qualify within the first four games. With mismatches and meaningless games it is no wonder that club is becoming more important than country.
UEFA  promise an exciting qualifying tournament but I am not so sure. I propose looking at a new way of qualifying based on a European Nations League system which would result in Promotion/Relegation which would carry forward to the next qualifiers in 4 years time.

The system below would create competitive matches throughout. Positions would have double importance. First for qualifying for this tournament but also influencing the likelihood of qualifying for the next tournament. 

There are also a lack of competitive matches between the big countries in Europe. England haven't played Belgium, Spain or Netherlands this century in a competitive match. Spain and Germany have met twice in 20 years. European Club football thrives on matches between the top clubs, but international football shy's away from them. One game every four years would not mean overkill for these matches. South America doesn't seem to have a problem with Brazil playing Argentina.

Based on todays FIFA rankings the divisions would be as so
Premier Division 1
Greece  ----------
Premier Division 2
Ukraine -----------
Czech Republic

Div 3 NorthWest                    Div 3 South East 
Scotland                                Romania
Austria                                   Turkey
---------------                             -----------------
Iceland                                   Hungary
Wales                                     Montenegro
Norway                                   Slovakia
Finland                                   Albania
Republic of Ireland                 Israel
Poland                                    Bulgaria
---------------                              -------------------
Northern Ireland                     Belarus
Estonia                                   Macedonia
Div 4 North West                  Div 4 South East
Luxembourg                           Azerbaijan
Malta                                      Lithuania
---------------                             ---------------------
Liechtenstein                          Georgia
Faerie Islands                         Moldova
Andorra                                   Latvia
San Marino                             Cyprus
Gibraltar                                  Kazakhstan 

Each team would play each other once. 9 international for the top three divisons, 6 for the bottom league. This allows plenty of time for friendlies and get together in the spare weeks. There would be some teams playing four and some five at home but this could be reversed in the following tournament.

If the league tables finished as above, then those in red would qualify for the European Championship. Those in orange would qualify for the play offs. With a host nation making a total of 24.

Those in the bottom two or top two would be promoted or relegated for the start of the next tournament qualifiers ie.2020

The competition above would be competitive throughout with clubs having something to play for throughout the tournament. There are no mismatches. Clubs who have made big improvements in four years will still have a great chance of reaching the tournament final despite relegation in the previous competition.

This would lead to a new competition, the European Nation League every four years which could be marketed successfully by UEFA and provided much greater TV and sponsorship receipts that would be filtered through the nations, so even the weaker nations would be financially better off despite not having to play any top seeds.

Who would be the first nation to do the European Nations League & European Championship double?

Surely the above is a more meaningful and interesting way for European Internationals over the next two years. The World Cup format would remain unchanged.

Let me know what you think Sepp?

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

As Cheltenham 2013 kicks off on a wintry start, now is a good time to look at some of the greats and favourites and see how we think they compare.

This years Gold Cup is a transition year as the new hopefuls look to establish themselves as the jumping elite. Bobs Worth has the form and potential to be the next great but this will his biggest test yet. Long Run is the only one of the old guard in the field. After early promise and winning a Gold Cup in 2011 against a class field his form has levelled and now looks as though his best days may be behind him.
Kauto Star

Kauto Star was undoubtedly one of the best. My first Cheltenham visit was a snowy 1989 as Desert Orchid took the Gold Cup. This was undoubtedly the grittiest Gold Cup performance but Dessie didn't quite have the stamina of Kauto Star. Denman was a crowd favourite as he never game up and if not for injury could well have won more than one Gold Cup himself. Best Mate won three Gold Cups which is a fantastic achievement. We are still not sure how good he was as the opposition didn't seem quite as good as many other years, but he could only beat what was in front of him.

So a fantasy Gold Cup of the last 25 years, who would be in the line up. The Fellow was always a threat from France, Imperial Call was very impressive when he won and who can forget Norton's Coin triumph at 100-1 on fast ground. For a fantasy Gold cup there also needs to be some favourites that never quite won the crowd. My particular Barton Bank, I will never forget the last fence fall in the King George.

My 16 Runners for the last 25 years of the Cheltenham Gold Cup would be

Kauto Star - P.Nicholls R.Walsh
Denman - P.Nicholls S.Thoams
Best Mate - Henrietta Knite J.Culloty
Desert Orchid - D.Elsworth S.Sherwood
Garrison Savannah - Jenny Pitman M.Pitman
The Fellow - F.Doumen A.Kondrat
Cavvies Clown - D.Elsworth G.Bradley
Jodami - P.Beaumont Mark Dwyer
Barton Bank - D.Nicholson D.Bridgwater
Imperial Call - F.Sutherland C. O'Dwyer
See More Business - P.Nicholls M.Fitzgerald
Kicking King - T.Taaffe B.Geraghty
Neptune Collognes - P.Nicholls R.Thornton
Imperial Commander - N.Twiston-Davies P.Brennan
Doran's Pride - M.Hourighan P.Carberry
Rough Quest - T.Casey A.McCoy

Betting. 4 Kauto Star 6 Denman, Best Mate 8 Desert Orchid 10 The Fellow, Imperial Call 12 Imperial Commander, Jodami 14 Garrison Savannah 20 See More Business, Cavvies Clown, Kicking King 25 Neptune Collognes, Rough Quest 33 Baron Bank, Doran's Pride

Desert Orchid

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Concentrate on the League or Cup

Luton's victory on Saturday at Norwich was the first ever Non-League success over a top tier team since the Premier League began. Slightly surprising considering the weakened sides that often appear against lower opposition in the cup.

Taking nothing away from Luton's fantastic victory, it doesn't quite have the romance as a Tooting & Mitcham or Blyth Spartans run in the 70's. Luton are probably the biggest Non-League club and within the last 20 years have won a League Cup and reached a Semi-Final of the FA Cup and been in the top tier.

I have heard many people say that the league is more important and promotion is the priority. As a fan of a Non-League club I can remember every FA Cup 1st round game the highs and lows. I guarantee Luton Town fans in twenty years will remember Saturday rather than a victory to secure promotion.

The memories and emotion from being the underdog and achieving something so unexpected far outweigh a predictable promotion challenge. Luton are expected to challenge for promotion, they are one of the best supported in the League and their history shows they are playing below their level.

If the cup run results in tired players and injuries and another season in Non-League football would it be a disaster. What memories to take away from the 2012/3 season. Promotion may lead to a mundane season in League 2 next year. If Luton miss out on promotion this year then next year will see them in an even better financial position for their promotion push. Go for it Luton, be the first Non-League club to reach the Quarter-Finals. Forget the league concentrate on the cup, your fans will remember it.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Lance : half a story

So what have we learnt from Lance Armstrong's heartfelt chat with Oprah. He can't remember who he sues, he's not going to talk about others involved and he's a little bit sorry but not a cheat. This seems a half hearted apology which will surely fail to find the redemption he wants. Nothing short of a full open account is likely to inspire any kind of public sympathy.

Being a professional cyclist was no easy place to be in the 90's. From the accounts of Tyler Hamilton, David Millar and others it is clear you came to the point in your career where you came to the crossroads, to dope or not to dope. Starting with a few tablets to pop for recovery which were borderline, the gradual move to the stronger stuff, EPO and worse was inevitable for many. To ride clean meant you were extremely unlikely to be good enough to lead a team and so your career would stall.

We all would like to think that we would have made the right decision in the same situation, but sportsman don't like being left behind. It is not surprising that so many took the easy decision of doping encouraged by little chance of being court and short bans. So why was Lance Armstrong different?

It wasn't just because he was a winner that Armstrong became a target but more to do with his arrogance and continual self-belief of invincibility that meant people like David Walsh et al would not let it lie. The intimidation of those telling the truth and the increasing number of enemies he built up meant that the House of Prescriptions was going to fall down.

Now Lance, your invincibility has gone, break a habit of a lifetime open up and tell the full story. The UCI link is key and until the silence of this relationship is broken cycling will remain in the shadows.