Cardiff City

Jan 132018
 

Llais y Sais (Voice of the English) is an alternative name for our much-reviled and laughingly self-styled ‘National Newspaper of Wales’. It’s readership has plummeted over the years and I think it’s now down to me and some old bird in Ponty.

Yes, I still read it, but then, I’m a masochist; I have to be to stay in Wales and witness the idiocy, duplicity and corruption at all levels of our national life. What’s more, as a blogger, I feel it’s my duty to read it so that you may be spared, with me bringing you the occasional report here or on Twitter. (God! the things I do for you.)

Today is your lucky day because I’m going to give you four stories from today’s issue. So relax, and enjoy.

BIGOT FODDER

First up is a strange little story about someone complaining that a Santa Claus couldn’t speak Welsh. Does this really merit half a page?

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As I suggest, this is a curious non-story designed to get the likes of Jacques Protic and Clements of Llangyfelach pounding their keyboards. It’s news value is zero, especially weeks after Christmas, which makes it nothing more than a ‘Welsh bastards!’ story designed to suggest intolerance or extremism on the part of Welsh speakers.

Which makes it entirely predictable that this ‘story’ originated with English Heritage West (aka Cadw) and ended up in Llais y Sais.

‘A BIGOT WRITES . . . ‘

It would be easy to dismiss this reader’s letter from today’s issue as more bigot fodder . . . but it comes from a bigot.

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If I’m reading this letter correctly, then Dennis Coughlin believes that ‘Welsh’ Labour’s undemocratic internal processes are there to keep in power “dominant quasi-nationalists whose raison d’etre is to placate those of a direct lineage to the sons of Owen Glendower”. He seems to hate things Welsh so much that he can’t even bring himself to write Owain Glyndŵr.

As if that wasn’t enough, in his final paragraph he goes on to accuse these ‘quasi-nationalists’ of racism, for there’s no other way to interpret his reference to skin colour.

And yet, this idiot does represent traditional Labour in Wales – the anti-Welsh Labour Party of George Thomas and Neil Kinnock. That party we’d hoped was behind us . . . but maybe it’s just been biding its time.

Is he a member of the Labour Party, and if so, will he be disciplined? And why did Llais y Sais publish such a disgraceful, anti-Welsh smear?

Out of curiosity I Googled ‘Dennis Coughlin’, and came up with this letter, published by Llais y Sais on January 8th. This man clearly has a problem with the Welsh language. Rather than pander to it maybe Llais y Sais should have a word with his family.

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And not publish any more bigoted garbage like the two letters it’s published this week from Dennis Coughlin.

TAX AND SPEND

A regular columnist in Llais y Sais is economist Dylan Jones-Evans. I read him with no great enthusiasm but it helps pass the time. In today’s piece he again attacked the possibility – no more at this stage – of the ‘Welsh’ Government introducing a tourism tax.

Some of what he’s written deserves comment.

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As you may know, I support a tourism tax because I would like to see the money raised spent on those areas suffering excessive levels of tourism. I live in such an area and I know that the great majority of local people see no benefit from tourism.

Worse, they are disadvantaged in a number of ways: tourism provides low skill, low pay and often seasonal employment; tourism results in people wanting to settle, which leads to higher house prices and, due to the age profile of these immigrants, increased strain on our NHS and other services; tourism also results in Anglicisation; then we have the issues of traffic congestion, environmental degradation, waste, etc.

So if we are to have a tourism tax then I would want to see the revenue collected used to alleviate some of these problems, perhaps by helping local young people get on the housing ladder.

But Dylan Jones-Evans questions if the revenue from a tourist tax, “will really go towards improving the tourism facilities as promised”. Promised by whom? What is the point of levying a tax on tourism only to put it straight back into tourism?

Any tourism tax in Wales must be compensatory or it’s not worth bothering.

Elsewhere he tells us that “the tourism industry generates nearly £9bn for the economy and supports around 242,000 jobs”. Which if nothing else, reminds us that when it comes to tourism figures can be plucked out of thin air, because there is no independent source for figures on tourism and no trustworthy verification.

To illustrate the problem, and even though Dylan Jones-Evans tells us that tourism “supports” 242,000 jobs, StatsWales gives a figure of just 131,300 jobs in “tourism-related industries”, for 2015, so your guess is as good as mine as to where his figure came from.

Perhaps it came from some body run by tourism operators, which looks at towns like Llandudno and Tenby, or areas like Snowdonia and Gower, and concludes that everyone working there must be involved in tourism. Deceitful and deliberately misleading.

And the same can be said for the figure of £9bn.

‘AS LONG AS HE’S FROM CARDIFF’

As you probably know, I’m a football fan. Obviously I support the Swans and Wales, but I also watch games involving other clubs and countries. In this year’s World Cup I shall again be supporting Argentina, though I had hoped to be swearing at the telly wearing red, but a combination of bad luck and cynical Irish tactics put paid to that prospect.

So football coverage is one reason I buy Llais y Sais, though even this is marred by the contributions of Paul Abbandonato, ‘Head of Sport’, no less. But I should be used to it because I remember when that shyster Sam Hammam took over Cardiff City Abbandonato went into overdrive using photos of the National Stadium and insisting that Cardiff City would soon need to play there because they’d be entertaining the likes of Barcelona.

Hammam it was who played his role in Swans-Bluebirds relations by insisting that Swans’ fans should switch their allegiance to Cardiff City. And Abbandonato lapped it up. Abbandonato is not just biased towards the football club, he’s something of a Cardiff nationalist, singing from the ‘Welsh’ media’s Cardiff über Alles song sheet.

Today’s contribution from Abbandonato was in keeping with all that has preceded it except that it wasn’t a report or a preview of a game, instead it was an attempt to influence a decision soon to be made by the Football Association of Wales.

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As far as Abbandonato is concerned the FAW’s decision is between Ryan Giggs and Craig Bellamy, there’s nobody else in the frame.

Though if you read the article there is – given its subject matter – one glaring lacuna, and that is that despite bigging up his favourites he has nothing to say about their experience. Because quite simply they have none. Which means that Abbandonato wants our national football team to be managed by a man with no experience and for no better reason than that he comes from Cardiff.

But there are other considerations, especially with Giggs. To begin with, I don’t think most fans would accept him due to his reluctance to turn out for the national team when selected (which he has blamed on his manager at Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson).

But then there’s a question mark over what kind of a man he is. I’m referring now to his eight-year affair with his brother Rhodri’s wife, which seems to have taken its toll on his brother. Do we really want such a man in charge of our national football team, and impressionable young men?

I believe that following the performance of our national team in Euro 2016 the FAW could aim a bit higher and get a top coach, someone with experience. So I urge the FAW not to be swayed by Abbandonato and the Cardiff lobby and to cast the net wider, find an experienced coach and a man we can all respect.

UPDATE 16.01.2017: And lo! it came to pass as predicted that the selection committee empowered by the FAW did appoint the aforementioned Ryan Giggs as the new manager of our national football team. The media was forced to admit that the news was not welcomed by all Welsh fans but tried to play down the hostility.

Unfortunately for the BBC it ran a poll which showed that only a minority thought it was a good decision. And this, remember, was on the UK BBC website, which means that a lot of Manchester United fans would have voted ‘Yes’ for a club legend. Which tells us that most Welsh fans oppose the decision.

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So there you are, I’ve reminded you why you no longer read Llais y Sais – I bet you’re glad!

♦ end ♦

Jun 032013
 

It’s official! Vincent Tan’s Malaysian Red Dragon Hobby Team is “bigger by miles” than the Swans, and will soon be Wales’ equivalent of Barcelona. How know I these things? Because they were written by Craig Bellamy and published today in the Wasting Mule. Two sources that can be trusted to give balanced and impartial assessments of all things Cardiff. But there was more to it than simply having a pop at the Swans.Bellamy

For example, “We could control Merthyr, Rhondda, Caerphilly. We could have them in lockdown.” “Lockdown” is a term used in the penal system, it means prisoners confined to their cells. A loss of even limited freedom. (Maybe it ties in with a theme I explore below.) Used in this context it seems to suggest that Bellamy views the Valleys as a possession of imperial Cardiff. After reading that, and if I lived in the Valleys, I would be getting worried about the prospects offered by the Cardiff city region.

Then there’s his flawed understanding of the roles played by Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona. Bellamy says: “We can build on our regional identity in the way Athletic Bilbao have placed themselves at the centre of Basque culture and Barcelona have become a focus for Catalunya.” “Regional”! He seems to see Euzkadi and Catalunya as nothing but regions of Spain. He doesn’t seem to appreciate that both clubs (Bilbao with its Basque-only players rule) represent the desire of two small nations for independence. Something else Bellamy overlooks is tBellamy 2hat Bilbao and Barcelona are owned by those sharing this ambition. Neither Bilbao nor Barcelona is owned by an unknown Oriental tycoon for whom the club is just another investment . . . someone who could walk away tomorrow.

I don’t want to sound too harsh, but Craig Bellamy has had more clubs than Jack Nicklaus, most of which have been glad to see the back of him. For throughout his career he has displayed a genius for wearing out his welcome wherever he’s gone. And that’s without the court appearances for the odd ‘altercation’. To counter the image this projects he goes to Africa now and again to be photographed with poor black kids. Image management of the kind Al Capone – the philanthropist to Chicago’s poor during the Great Depression – would have understood.

His publishers seem to have appreciated this and run with the theme, to judoctor-with-stethoscopedge by the title of the book, GoodFella, an obvious reference to Martin Scorsese’s 1990 gangster epic, GoodFellas. So which one is Bellers? Not Henry Hill, played by Ray Liotta; nor Robert De Nero’s Jimmy ‘the Gent’ Conway; I see him more as Tommy De Vito, played by Joe Pesci; the short one with the hair-trigger temper. The gangster motif is so blatant that even the noir-grungy picture used for the cover makes Bellamy look like a long dead associate of the Krays.

So what have we got here? Yet another book written by a fading footballer who never realised his potential. His publishers hope to sell more copies of the book by promoting the ‘bad boy’ image and by being provocative. As a result, this book is only for the most blinkered of Cardiff fans. Because I predict with certainty that it will not fly off the shelves in Glasgow, Liverpool, Newcastle or any of the other cities where Bellamy has played. And I can’t see any Swansea bookshops running out of copies either . . . that’s if they bother stocking it.

 

Apr 202013
 

I have almost enjoyed reading the Wasting Mule’s coverage this week of Cardiff’s promotion to the Premier League. It has been relatively restrained, almost balanced. There has been no ‘Bigger than Barcelona’ nonsense, and no insulting attempts to suggest that all Welsh people should support the club. Maybe that all belongs to the era of previous owner Sam Hammam and the excitable Paul Abbandonato acting as his amanuensis. I hope so. Here are my thoughts on Cardiff’s achievement and prospects.

CardiffBadge_250x3_1522755aLet me start by saying – and there is no way of avoiding this – that the quality of the teams in the Championship this year, and consequently the standard of the football played, has been pretty poor. Every time Cardiff faltered the chasing pack went into collective foot-shooting mode. But they proved capable of screwing up even without Cardiff getting them in a tizzy. Last night, for example, Hull had the chance, at home to bottom club Bristol City, of securing second place and automatic promotion, but could only eke out an embarrassing 0 – 0 draw. This lack of quality in the Championship this season will not prepare Cardiff well for the much more testing Premier League next season.

Inevitably, there have been comparisons with Swansea. One theory propounded by more than one I’ve read is that Cardiff are guaranteed more success than the Swans because Cardiff is bigger, or has a bigger ‘catchment area’. Rhodri Morgan, in his Wasting Mule column today,* seemed to be arguing that Cardiff will be successful because of “the chimney pots issue”! Then he went on to say, “Provided Cardiff establishes itself in the top tier, that status will be enormously helpful in attracting conferences and tourists to Cardiff, in competition with Edinburgh, Dublin, Bristol and top European cities”. (Barcelona?)

Though if that linkage of Premiership status and international recognition were true, then when can we expect to see the G8 meeting in Sunderland, or the Bilderbergers gathering (behind closed doors, of course) in Stoke-on-Trent? The truth is that sporting success and economic prosperity have little influence on each other. Just think East Germany. And if that’s not enough to convince you then remind yourself that during the time Liverpool FC was the most successful club in Europe the city was in permanent and almost terminal economic decline. On the other side of the coin, Munich and Milan would be prosperous cities even without successful football clubs.

If comparisons favourable to Cardiff have been made in terms of size and catchment areas, one aspect of the game the ‘Welsh’ media has been somewhat more reluctant to explore is the financial models of the two clubs. After nearly CCFCgoing out of business a decade ago, the Swans were rescued by a consortium of local businessmen determined to run the club responsibly. The fans also have a big share in the club’s ownership, and a director on the Board. Last month the club posted a profit of £15.9m for the second half of 2012. (And this figure does not include the potential sale value of the players.) Swansea City Football Club is therefore locally owned, responsibly run, does not pay outlandish transfer fees or exorbitant wages, makes modest profits, and does not owe a penny to anyone. By comparison, Cardiff is owned by Vincent Tan, a Malaysian businessman no one had heard of a couple of years ago (and had probably not heard of Cardiff), and is said to still owe tens of millions of pounds to various creditors, including Sam Hammam. According to a reader’s letter in today’s WM, the figure is £83.1m.

Whatever the true figure, Vincent Tan has promised Malky Mackay £25m for new players in the close season. Which sounds good . . . until you remember that Queens Park Rangers have spent much more than that on players this season, and they are bottom of the Premier League tonight, virtually guaranteed to be relegated. Let’s now go beyond finances to look at other aspects of the two clubs.

Swansea have consistently been praised for their continental, possession style, of play. But this didn’t happen overnight. The club’s owners not only decided on a new financial model but also a different style of playing the game. What you see today began with the managership of Roberto Martinez, continued under Paulo Sousa, then Brendan Rogers, and now Michael Laudrup. A multilingual Spaniard, A multilingual Portuguese, an Irishman who speaks fluent Spanish, and a Dane who was one of the greatest players of his generation, speaks Italian and Spanish, and is a great ‘pull’ for players who might not otherwise come to Swansea. By comparison, and with the best will in the world, I don’t think Cardiff have the continental contacts to land a player like Michu for £2m. And excellent manager though he might be, Malky Mackay is unknown on the continent, and therefore has no reputation to trade on.

Aside from comparisons of Swansea and Cardiff, there is another issue worth considering. There have been background rumblings about Swansea’s ‘right’, as a Welsh club, to be in the English Premiership; and this can only increase now that there are two Welsh clubs there. The noises won’t come from Manchester United or Chelsea, but from those ‘big’ clubs that have known better days, but now find themselves in the Championship, or even lower. And with English particularism on the rise, perhaps we can anticipate Nigel Farage chasing votes by banging the ‘Welsh Out!’ drum in cities such as Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Leicester. A bit far-fetched, maybe; but I still predict that those who objected to the presence of one Welsh club in the Premier League can only become more vocal now there are two. And maybe they’ll attract new voices. If so, then this could have unforeseeable consequences.

I wish Cardiff City well, and I’m looking forward to the Swans’ games against them next season, but I urge the Cardiff fans not to get carried away. Enjoy the promotion success by all means, but also remember that reaching the Premier League can be the easy bit . . . it’s staying there that’s usually the problem. Just ask Blackpool, QPR, or half the teams you’re leaving behind in the Championship. Now for the really serious bit. As a Swans fan I know that whatever else might befall the club, it’s in safe hands and almost guaranteed to stay solvent. But if I was a Cardiff fan, my biggest worry would be, what would happen if Vincent Tan went bankrupt or just decided to walk away?

 

* The print version was somewhat less restrained, and headed: ‘Bluebirds’ boost could transform our capital into a roaring Celtic Tiger’. (That’s more like it! Move over Barcelona!)