Tuesday, December 22, 2009

World Cup 2022 Stadiums, Scheduling, Scaremongering

Melbourne, the world's sporting capital is facing a small scheduling problem. Cricket, Tennis, Soccer, Grand Prix, AFL, NRL, rugby union, and the local leagues all compete for the populations' affection and their ticket money.All of these sports have successfully coexisted for a number of years, but a hectic year-round schedule, and increasing demand for the MCG and Telstra Dome means that they do not see a realistic way to accomodate a world cup bid.

I however, think there is a simple way to accomodate this. Firstly, I must mention the assumptions that I'll take before tabling a reasonable alternative.

1) That all the domestic football leagues will grow, increase in number, and spread out across Australia. By the time 2022 rolls around, the A-league will have more than a dozen sides, the AFL will have at least 20 sides, ( Gold Coast, Western Sydney, Tasmania, Darwin), the NRL and Super leagues will no doubt grow in Melbourne and attract more followers.

2) Hopefully, we'll have a larger number of high capacity stadiums. Whether it be by upgrading current grounds, or building them from scratch, more grounds in and around Melbourne will no doubt help all the codes surviving in the long term.

3) England, could, should and will most probably win the right to the World Cup for 2018. And rightly so, they have the best facilities, great grounds, great transport systems and enough space to host the expected millions of tourists.

On to the plan...

The role of other sports.
Cricket, Tennis, NRL, Super League (union)
By my estimates, the summer of 2021/22 is an Ashes summer, and we should try to schedule the cricket season so that the Test series finishes by Jan 6 and the One-day and Twenty 20 series finish by the end of January.

The Australian Tennis Season usually concludes in January, with the Australian Open at Melbourne Park. So its not too much of a hassle.

I doubt the NRL will be able to expand in Melbourne, and the Storm will no doubt live long and prosper. The Super 15 expansion into Melbourne will quickly establish itself, and attract enough supporters to sustain itself in a rectangular stadium

By the time 2022 rolls around, the AFL will have no doubt expanded to a 20 team competition. The current 16, plus Gold Coast, Western Sydney, Tasmania and a northern territory team I'll loosely call Darwin. Given the increased number of teams in the league, I would think the AFL would look to reshape the landscape, having a "European" football style of home and away league, scraping the "finals", and awarding the "Premiership flag" to the most consistant side over 38 games.

The excitement of the finals series, can be regained by adding significance, prominance and prizemoney to the NAB cup, and turning it from a preseason warm-up tournament to a nationwide, multi level, knock-out tournament that gives non professional sides the chance to take on "the big boys" in one of australia's premier stadiums.

Another facet of AFL that I believe needs changing, is the amount of games AFL players play, and the number of rest days between games. Would it be hard to see AFL players playing more than 1 game per week?? With the size of current AFL squad lists, and the depth of talent in the competition, more games per week would lead to a general improvement in player skill levels as the younger and fringe players gain more experience due to increased squad rotation. A league schedule of 3 games in 14 days wouldn't be hard to cope with, and can be relaxed even futher post world cup to allow for more recovery time. Games on Saturday, the following wednesday, and the sunday after, followed by a 6 day break until saturday, would allow for travel, recovery and training. A smartly designed fixture list would also see clubs touring, playing 2 away games in perth in 1 week, before flying home to melbourne, or a game in darwin and then in adelaide, ect,etc.

Given the Australian WC bid is targeting 2022, 13 years away, we can make a few assumptions about what will probably occur, infrastructure wise. Public transport systems will increase in efficiency and frequency, the urban sprawl will probably see us travel longer distances each day, we'll aim to decrease our carbon pollution emmisions by either buying more environmentaly friendly transport vehicles, which will hopefully become more efficient and cheaper, or paying greater taxes to offset emmisions. Air travel will hopefully become cleaner, cheaper and quicker, ( Boeing 777 Dreamliner !!) and the current concentration of sporting stadia in and around the MCG will decentralize as teams look to get a better deal by playing games at other, more viable grounds. That said, we'd probably have at least 3 more multi-purpose venues around melbourne, one in the eastern suburbs, one in the northern suburbs, and one futher west. Smart planning, and shrwed construction will see these stadia meet FIFA's abitrary capacity requirement of 44000, and will make these available for use by all the sporting codes.

So the big problem is that the World Cup requires the major grounds to "shut down" for reconfiguration and "de-commercialization" for up to 10 weeks. It shouldn't be too big a deal if the AFL adopts the aformentioned changes, as it could play 18 games pre-World Cup, in the 12 weeks between Febuary and April, and then take a "winter break" of may, june and july, before continuing and concluding the league by the end of october, just in time for cricket season.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Movie Reviews: HP & the Half Blood Prince

The last truly great movie i remember watching at the cinemas was Nolan's The Dark Knight, and after watching Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, i must say, David Yates, and his band of young, highly paid actors did an almighty injustice to one of the more character defining books in the series.

J.K Rowling's sixth novel is one of the more traditional books in the series. The first two books were slightly introductory, was more about the adventure than the characters themselves, and the depth of character on show, both in the books and their film adaptations were limited, and with each consecutive novel, we have been exposed to the true nature of the characters, how they think, how they feel, what they do and do not like, who they are and are not romantically interested in, and what motivates them to do what they do.

Half Blood Prince is very much a story based upon the premise of Harry not liking Slughorn, but having to follow Dumbledore's orders to extract THAT memory from the potions professor. It carries on
the undercurrents carried on from Order of the Phoenix, of how the battle between good and evil has caused fissures between the Ministry and Dumbledore, and how the relationship between Harry and Dumbledore is strained post the Battle at the Ministry and Sirius Black's death. The book is essentially a growing up story, of how Harry, Ron and Hermione grow into their minds, body and the task that lies ahead.

The film adaptation, at best, flatters to deceive, and in the cold light of day, is simply wrong. There are plot holes everywhere, Yates tried to change things in the plot to make things more interesting for the viewers. A few scenes, the bridge exploding, the burning of the house, and the many scenes of awkward attraction between Harry and Ginny, as well as the "heart-break"/ unrequited love scenes between Hermione and Ron, are portrayed with a look to the future, but the accuracy of the plot is compromised in the futile attempt to make things easier to film. Changing the details of the climax was always fraught with danger, how are we, presumably not having read the series, meant to make the connection of trust between Harry and Snape, the helplessness of Harry being trapped in a "full-body bind" and the betrayal inherent in the scene?

The directorship of Yates, I believe, has collared the young actors, and in both of his movies, the acting skills of Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Bonnie Wright and Tom Felton have all been rendered surplus to requirements, none of them have been able to infuse their own personalities to their characters, leaving many of their scenes devoid of emotion and warmth. Order of the Phoenix saw many scenes of over-acting, pointless action that instead of adding value to the film, did exactly the opposite, but also some rare and telling signs of acting skill in the younger cast. Although all the young actors gained valuable experience away from the realms of Harry Potter, David Yates seems to have chosen to ignore all the evidence that they can act.

Its unfortunate that the final pieces of the jigsaw is to be directed by Yates as well. Hopefully the powers at be will reduce the length of leash afforded to him for creative license, and sticks to the major, and minor details of a great story, otherwise, many, if not most of my generation would wait for the inevitable remakes in 5-10 years.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Kids in Cars

Its not often i write about depressing issues such as death, and the road toll, but last weekend, a group of teenagers got into a car and they never managed to get out. It was reported in the newspapers that speed played a significant part in their demise. A day before that horrific crash, a21 year old was luckily pulled over for exceeding the speed limit by a whopping 131 kmph.

A radio broadcaster was discussing these events this morning, seeking answers to questions such as "why do young drivers speed?" , "why aren't the TAC's messages(Drink and drive our a bloody idiot/arrive-alive/speed-kills) making a noticable difference to the road toll" , "what can we do to lower the road toll?" etc.

He sought far and wide for reasons, explanations and answers, but amongst his callers, i don't think he ever asked a driver between the ages of 16-25. Although it would seem quite pertinant to ask the so called "target group" for answers to the aforementioned questions, the general consensous amongst the so-called "older and wiser" is that they know what's best, and that they know what/when and why youngsters behave as they do. "I was once your age" they'd claim, but surely things have changed over the years, man-kind has progressed, Darwin called it evolution, some might call it regression(the fact that we are killing ourselves by abusing machines we created is ironic, like a plot-line out of the Matrix??)

Call it what you may, but the cold fact is that youngs drivers are putting themselves, and their passenger friends in dangerous, life threatening situations by driving under the influence of alcohol and /or drugs, and driving at excessive speeds. The preceeding situations that young adults find themselves in have hardly changed in over 50 years. Alcohol has always been an instrument of social cohesion and celebration. Responsible consumption of alcohol has always been a problem for modern western society. Thousands of people across many age groups have struggled to limit their alcohol intake to that which is considered a safe and responsible level.

Public figures have been shamed in the media for acting irresposibly after having more than one too many drinks. The problem is alomost endemic, and reversing the nations' drinking culture will no doubt help reduce the number of deaths related to alcohol abuse.

The "speeding culture" of many young Australian's is with out doubt an age related problem. Anyone who says otherwise is talking nonsense. It's not generational, its not a sign of the times, its prely age-related. History shows that ever since cars where affordable, the number of deaths amongst young adults where higher than the rest of the population. Young adults are by nature impatient, hurried and have more demands on their time than ever before. Driving fast is without doubt the simplest solution to getting to their destination faster.

While i don't condone such behaviour, i undersand it, and those seeking to have a positive impact upon the problem must do so quickly , or else risk missing the problem completely. Why young adults are driven ( forgive the pun) to speed from one destination to another is another underlying "fault" of the human condition. Its well known that young-adults think of themselves as invincable, reckless levels of over-confidence, mis-placed faith in their own abilities, both to drive and to consume alcohol turn a self reliant, self-confident, headstrong young adult into a dangerous liability on the roads.

A few years back, a spate of high-school shootings and classroom violence sparked an international debate over how absorbant children and young-adults are to violent video-games, music, tv-programming and the coverage of violent incidents by journalistsin the news-media.
Strangely, the interconnected issue of how absorbent young adults are to car racing games such as Gran Turesmo, Need for Speed etc etc, and movies such as Fast and the Furious, Gone in 60 Seconds etc etc .

In my humble opinion, the number of young adults, boys in particular, who are attracted to enourmously powerful cars, with exorbitantly priced customizations, which they showcase proudly to their friends at illegal, impromtu meetings has increased ever since the turn of the century. No coincedence I think, since 2001s premier of The Fast and the Furious , more and more action movies premised around street-racing have enjoyed box-office success.

Such cultures have to be firmly, but gently removed from the mainstream media, because driving them "underground" will only lead to the mess experienced overseas, a situation no well-wishing policy maker wants.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Problems with Australian News-Media

The Australian news media love a good tale. Not unlike other news services, the australian New stations like a story that captures and engages their target audience. But how often do they actually report the news that matters.
The last month has seen some big news around the world. The furore over alleged voting irregularities in Iran, the upcoming elections in Afganistan, the continuing wars in Afganistan and Iraq, the world-wide spread of Swine-flu, the response to the Global Financial Crisis, and of course the seemingly out-of sight,out-of-mind human rights abuse in Dafur.
In Australia, the government has been making news with its attempts to get an Emmisions Trading scheme through both houses of Parliament, coupled with an equally controversial Clean/Solar Energy Bill. Indian students have been making their presence left over the last few weeks, after being a string of allegedly racially motivated assaults in Victoria and New South Wales.

But the news media, on TV, radio and the interent don't ever do any real analysis of the underlying issues. Why bother when you can lift a piece for a news scource like Reuters or AAP, and make bold headlines that attract attention without accurately representing the story. I'll give you an example. On Friday, the Age.com.au reported under its breaking news header,"Australia's First Swine-Flu Death". Without a doubt, it grabbed my attention, i was pretty relaxed about swine flu, as all the reports i had read from Mexico and the USA said that the people who had died from Swine Flu had died because of other illnesses and that the strain of influenza known as Swine Flu was virulent but had mild symptoms and was overall, not very dangerous. The story took some time unfolding on the Age's website, and after 10 or so minutes, it revealed that the person who had died, had Swine Flu as one of many other chronic illnesses, which caused complications leading to his demise. IN summary, a poor bloke living out in the middle of desert in Western Australia, miles away from any decent health care, had died from complications to his various chronic ailments, and he so happened to be diagnosed with a disease that's currently a buzz-word for news paper editors!

Another grievance i have with Australian News outlets is their lack of detailed analysis of the GFC, and what the world's governments are doing to try and reduce the severity, longevity and impact of Recession. Last night, World News Australia(SBS) ran a story on how the American Senate are complaining that Barack Obama is trying to "make a grab for power". They included a short clip of a senator addressing the House, using a strange analogy to question why Obama either needed the power to pass those reforms, without actually mentioning what those reforms are, why they are needed nor why Obama needs executive power to get those reformns passed.
Do they think the Australian public don't care? Or are we simply not smart enough to understand the complicated world of politics, finance and economics?
Isn't it the media's duty to make the complex understandable? To inform the population as to what is being done by governments to make the world a better place?

If the media can't do their job, how are the people of the nation going to inform themselves of the issues that matter. Especially in a year that may end up being an election year, after Rudd and Co's inability to bow to the overwhelming tide of logical arguement presented by the Coalition and the greens in against their "packaged" Emmisions trading scheme, the media should be presenting all sides of these highly politized stories. Portraying either side of politics in a negative light is wrong, and clouds the judgment of the population, who must be kept aware of the dealings of the Government, immaterial of the nature of the story. Developments should be analysed by correspondents, giving the viewer the neccesary background information to contextualize the incidents, and in time form their own opinions.

The current media coverage of politics in Australia is playing into the LAbor government's hands, the media is potraying the Turnbull and his Liberals in a bad light, and although they are demanding what is right for the country, the propaganda machine that is Kevin Ruddis spinning a great yarn to the media to cast himself as the victim. Watching the news, it seems like he's getting away with daylight robbery, and the population are none the wiser.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Northern Reds, why Manchester United are so much better than Liverpool

I'm hoping Chelsea drop as many points as possible, so that Liverpool start getting overconfident and sloppy again. Liverpool aren't a real threat to our full strength line-up. Line-for-Line we are better than them.

VDS, Foster, Kuzszack,Heaton Amos, Zieler >REINA, Cavalieri, Gulácsi,Hansen.

Ok, Reina may have won Golden Gloves a couple of times, and may make some great saves, but he's never won any important domestic silverware there, fluck that they won the Champs league after letting in 3 to AC Milan. VDS and Co. have a harder job of not falling asleep behind UNited's defence, and remaing alert to the one-or two shots that actually get past the back-four.

Rafael,Neville, Brown,Eckersley, Simpson, Rio, VIDIC ,Evans, Chester, Evra, O'Shea,Fabio > Dossena,Degen, Hyyypia, Agger, CARRAGHER, Skrtel, Arbeloa, Aurelio, Insua, Kelly Carby,.

Absolutely no doubt, UNited's defence is about 5 times better, both technically and physically than Liverpool's. Taller, Better Faster Stronger!!

RONALDO, Park, Nani, Tosic, Martin?, Giggs, Scholes, CARRICK,Anderson, Fletcher, Gibson,Possebon, Cleverley, Hargreaves > GERRARD, Alonso, Mascherano, Reira, Pennant?, Babel, Benayoun, El Zhar, Spearing, Plessis.

Other than Gerrard and Mascherano, we have them covered 2: 1in every depeartment, so much so, i'd even hazard a theory than Ando can keep Gerrard quiet, and Carrick, Giggs and Scholes can overpower Masch. Therefore, when we play them,a 5 man midfield will overpoer them easily, and win us the game.

Rooney, Tevez, BERBATOV, Welbeck, Macheda, King, Ajose, Brandy?,Campbell?, Manucho? > TORRES, Keane, Kuyt, N'Gog, Linfield, Ecclestone.

Hands down, Torres is the best forward there, but as a unit, United's Trio are more effective and more dangerous than Liverpool's. Now that Keane and Kuyt's careers as strikers have effectivly been killed by Rafa, the task of actually scoring weighs enourmously heavy on Nando, i don't think he'll cope, probably buckly under the pressure and tear his hamstring again.

With liverpool's title aspirations resting heavily on the shoulders of Reina, Carragher, Gerrard and Torres, they are paper thin and prone to failure, unless Alonso and Keane step up and deliver( which would require them to be on the pitch, in the first place, hint,hint, nudge,nudge, Rafa! ). Whereas SAF uses all 30+ members of his squad to win multiple trophies. Even though we all rode the Ronaldo wave(ably assisted by Rooney, Nani, Ando and the defence) last year, this year, everyone seems to be chipping in and contributing to a possble quaddie!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Man City's wealth, the death of Football

With City and Chelsea being bought by oil magnates, and other clubs being owned by somewhat-less rich billionaires and millionaires, football has become more than a sport, and has become wholely commercial. Kaka's transfer from Milan to City will hopefully be seen as a rarity, but with the possible transfer of CR7 to Real also being of that value, it may become commonplace to spend 100's of millions of dollars on players. 10years ago, a 20-30mil fee was seen as huge, and even now, people wonder whether Tevez and Berba are worth 30mil each. When Rio, Veron and Rooney were bought, 30mil was alot of money, but with inflationary pressures, tax rises and other costs involved with playing and running a club, the amount of money coming in has also increased, and deservedly or not, players and their agents have sought, and consequently been given, higher sums. These are being sourced from higher TV rights deals, and higher ticket prices, ( just imagine what the big-four would do if half their stadium were empty each week for a season. )

These creates commercial tiers inside the BPL, with City up there on their own at the top, Chelsea, United, Liverpool, Aston Villa, Tottenham, and Arsenal forming the rich clubs, of which Newcastle and Everton are hoping to become. This has formed gradually over the years, with only United, Arsenal & Liverpool , really deserving of their current financial stature, having won something significant before coming into wealth.This leaves the "rich" clubs in such a position so as to use the "poor" clubs as feeders. for example, if West Ham had had the resources to have kept Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole, Michael Carrick, Glen Johnson and Frank Lampard, there is no doubt in my mind that they would be dominating the BPL. Just as United are once again looking to raid a smaller club for their talent, this time Wigan for Palciaos and Valencia, other smaller clubs have been forced to sell up and coming talent to stay in the black. Another club comes to mind in Southampton, if they were able to build a squad around Bale and Walcott, they may be progressing up the BPL instead of struggling in the Championship.

The problem with City's, and now to a lesser extent Chelsea's, large influx of spending money, is that it has forced the rest of the "rich" clubs to spend more on transfers and consequently drive up the asking price for any player. No doubt, Tottenham would have sold Dimi to us for 25mil if City weren't interested. Now that the world knows of City's spending power, any club can simply raise the price on any player by saying that City can pay more and hold a "hoax auction". Of course, City can't buy everyone, and some clubs will obviously realise that some players aren't wanted by City, but there is no doubt that City and Chelsea have been ripped off by smart sellers including United ( the sale of Veron to Chelsea), who made some money by inflating their asking price. remember these names? Shevschenko, Elano, Jo, all are signs of the bad business that top clubs engage in.Even United isn't foolproof, we bought Veron to england in the first place for 28.1mil and sold him to chelsea in 2 years for 15mil.

This leads to another problem, being the lack of pitchtime available to up and coming youngsters. Gone are the days of seeing a flock of up and coming, fresh-faced youngsters, playing for the super-rich sides. Middlesborough once fielded a side totally from its academy, and United have for a long time given time and space for their own academy graduates to flourish on the biggest of stages. However, recent history hasn't provided Old Trafford with young, home-grown talent, with the exception of Danny Welbeck and Jonny Evans, and before them Wes Brown, our home-grown players have increasingly been loaned out, then sold off, populating the 1st Division and Championship, as United have focused on winning and retaining trophies without the cyclical downturn. We have seen ex UNited players playing very well: Eagles doing very well for Burnley against Arsenal and Chelsea, rating as 7.8 and 8.3 respectively from Skysports, Danny Pugh against UNited for Stoke, McShane left after not featuring in 3 years. Simpson is making his precesnce felt at Blackburn, Campbell likewise at Tottenham and now Manucho is out on loan to Hull, along with Martin, Cathcart, Gray, Heaton and Brandy out to various other clubs. If this can happen to a club that utilises its academy to such an extent that it produced the Class of 92( Giggs, Scholes Neville, Beckham, Butt etc ) imagine the fear such riches has struck into the hearts of City's youth system.

I'm hoping, Richard Scudamore realises his "product" is killing football,or that the FA or FIFA introduces some tighter reigns on wages( club salary cap at 35mil per year) or at least on transfer fees,( capping them at 50mil per club per year) and forces clubs to operate in the black, instead of having clubs, including united, massively in debt to the banks, instead of allowing them to run on operating profit.

Finally, i think Kaka would flop at City, i really don't rate Kaka, and actually think he would flop everywhere in the world but Italy, such is the lack of defensive pressure in Serie A ( no wonder Italian teams need such good keepers, their defenders are so shiiite). Sparky will deliver City a great team if he realises that second rate Brazilians don't play well against top-rank defenders. How would Robinho and Kaka fit together without some seriously awesome central defensive midfielders? Already Hughes' side scores lots of goals and leaks just as many, so he needs to stem the flow at one end without effecting the other. Ireland plays similarly to Kaka, obviously not as good, but potentially better suited to BPL than Kaka ever will be.