Naming Clubs and Shirts

In September 2006 NEC Harlequins played their first game in National Division One having been relegated from the Premiership the previous April. Amongst the unfamiliar teams that they would be playing in the 2006-07 were Pertemps Bees. For several weeks I wondered to myself where exactly Pertemps was. The word sounded vaguely Welsh, was it there? No, it turned out to be in Birmingham. A district? No, it turned out to be not a place at all but the sponsor’s name.

As the season progressed, NEC Harlequins and Pertemps Bees turned out to have little in common except the fact that their sponsors’ names also formed part of their club names. Quins kept winning and the Bees (for the most part) kept losing so that, last April, Harlequins were promoted and became unique: the only team in the Premiership to have the sponsor’s name alongside the club name. But this is about to change for it has been reported by Brand Republic, the advertising website, that Harlequins intend to ‘reclaim’ the Harlequin brand by ending their ‘club name’ association with NEC.

Like other Harlequin fans, as grateful as I am for the money that NEC has put into the club over the last decade (long before I ever started supporting the club) I am very pleased to see the end of the club name deal. I know that you can’t separate money and sport now, but it seems to me that some things should be kept clear of commercial interests. The club name should be one of those things. The club’s name is the heart of the club. It identifies the team, the men that run out on the pitch to win glory. It does not and should not identify the sponsors. They have put up the money but they are not out on the pitch putting their bodies on the line (as the saying is) for the cause.

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Ideally, I should prefer shirt sponsorship to be outlawed as the shirt is an extension of the badge for which the players are fighting. However, I realise that when it comes to club rugby, this is a non starter. But only for club rugby. In regards national teams, is it really necessary for them to have shirt sponsors? England and Ireland, for example, are both sponsored by 02. Now, neither the English or Irish Union is short of a few euros or pounds. Is the few extra that 02 pay them really worth the association of our countries with a mobile phone firm? I don’t think so. For that reason, I congratulate France which does not carry a shirt sponsor. When you see the French shirt, you see in your mind’s eye all that you know about France. Hopefully it will be good – the architecture, the wine, history etc. There is no sponsor to interupt your conscious or unonscious thoughts. But when you see the other five nations, you have to get past mobile phones, beers, whiskeys and a bank before you can imagine the countries that these players are bravely representing. However, it may fairly be said that people pay no mind to sponsor’s logos. While good, this is also sad because it shows how seeped in sponsorship we are. Oh, to be free of sponsorship! But now I am turning into a nostalgist (if that is a real word) – desiring a world which perhaps was never better than that which, for all its faults, we have now. Ironically, it seems, there is nothing as hard to bear as success.

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Nepal’s King in hot water again

Loyal readers of the RCC’s website will no doubt be wondering what has been happening recently in the Kingdom of Nepal. Well, wonder no longer because our man behind the Narayanhity Royal Palace drinks cabinet has managed to convey the disappointing news that it has not been a happy couple of weeks for His Majesty King Gyanendra Shah.

It all started to go wrong for the King last week when the Nepalese government announced it would take action against 40 people, including two dozen ministers of the erstwhile Royal cabinet, for ‘misuse of power and suppressing demonstrations’ held against His Majesty’s takeover of absolute power in February 2005.

Then the news broke that 18 royalists had sustained serious injuries when vicious Maoist thugs attacked a meeting of the pro-monarchy Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP). The assailants used bricks and rods during the attack, and forced RPP leaders to chant slogans in favour of a democratic republic.

In times of trial, the King can at least be confident of a warm reception from religious groups, and so, under cover of darkness, he sneaked out of the Narayanhity Palace to visit the Pashupati Nath Temple to offer ‘puja’ on the occasion of the Hindu Mahashivaratri festival. However, as he was driven in a black bullet-proof Mercedes into the main throughway of the temple, sections of the crowd pelted stones at the vehicle. Security personnel had to use batons to disperse the crowd, and one policeman was injured. The extraordinary scenes even prompted an apology from the government, albeit half-heartedly.

Not a little miffed by this deplorable turn of events, and perhaps following the wise advice of the ever-reliable Royal astrologers, His Majesty then decided two days later to issue a message to the nation on the occasion of Democracy Day, defending his absolute rule. Oh dear.

Democracy Day marks the occasion when King Gyanendra’s grandfather re-asserted his power over the hereditary Rana prime ministers in 1950 following a popular revolt. Although technically the then King Tribhuvan had fled to India with the crown prince and his grandson and returned only after the Rana regime was overthrown, King Gyanendra in his message chose to portray his ancestor as the ‘architect of democracy in Nepal’, and continued: ‘Nepal’s glorious history is guided by the fact that monarchy has always abided by the aspirations of the Nepalese people, on whom sovereignty is vested. It is clear that the prevailing situation compelled us to take the February 1, 2005 step in accordance with the people’s aspiration to reactivate the elected bodies by maintaining law and order.’ The king blamed the inability of then prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba to hold elections in time.

Predictably the message has created something of a stir. The Speaker of the interim legislature has condemned the message as unconstitutional, while the main Nepali Congress party has described it as ‘objectionable and unauthorised’, warning that it ‘reveals the state of mind of the king and indicates the possibility of another conspiracy that could be hatched’. The Maoists’ reaction has been to beat up more people.

So, another great success for monarchy in Nepal. We can only hope that the forces loyal to the King will gain strength from their sovereign’s words, and that, by some miracle, the people will warm to their legitimate ruler. God save the King. Sigh…..

Deep joy

…as the late Professor Stanley Unwin used to say. Watching England finally come good was  precisely that. Is it too much to expect that England may now  come good in the World Cup. I’m not going to put the mortgage on it.

The most significant thing was the reclamation of a degree of pride in the team. The Vaughan effect cannot be discounted:  Vaughan’s tactical nous in the matches he captained was evident. Australia it must be said were lacking the ominously impressive young Symonds. I wish him a speedy return from injury but hope he can find some way of staying out of commission. Like early retirment.

So I guess we must accentuate the positive: Liam Plunkett didn’t let his head drop after an appalling first over against NZ eventually taking 3 for 60. Panesar’s movement to maturity continues quietly – he will undoubtedly become an irreplacable part of the England setup. Collingwood put in masterful displays which, in truth, won the day(s). It is also clear that Andrew Flintoff finds the burden of captaincy too great – he is at his best giving all with bat and ball. I do wish he would find more, ahem, genteel ways  of celebrating a wicket. The hand of Vaughan was clearly behind much of what went on in the final matches.

The BBC television highlights were great (for those of us with digital TV) Watching the highlights  of the last 3 games on a loop was heartening indeed (though quite why Aussie commentary input was necessary is unclear).

Most importantly it was nice to see Glenn McGrath in his last Tests (if not his last ODI):  to paraphrase Cardinal Pell – he’s someone who needs kicking as he always looks like he’s about to get up. I daresay he will still cause trouble in the World Cup. I will not miss his mullet.

Will we win the World Cup? That seems unlikely – but it may be a time for the next generation of England cricketers to show their mettle.

Startling news from Nepal

Startling news has reached us from the Kingdom of Nepal news which may just save the monarchy.

It was reported last week that His Majesty King Gyanendra Shah, who now prefers to live in the new luxurious mansion he built in Nagarjuna on the outskirts of the capital, had made a rare unannounced visit to the Narayanhity Royal Palace in central Kathmandu.

Flanked by two aides de camps, the king, looking glum, spent a long time in the grounds of the palace, watching the peacocks bred inside at play. Our man still behind the Royal drinks cabinet there says that it looked like His Majesty had a lot on his mind, and that the appearance had the feeling of a farewell visit. Despite riots in the south of the country, presumed by republicans to have been instigated by royalists hoping to delay the constituent assembly elections planned for June, the government remains adamant that the polls will proceed on time and all commentators expect the first session to vote for the abolition of the monarchy. Time appears to be running out for the 238-year-old Shah dynasty.

However, there may yet be another dramatic twist in the gripping soap opera that is the story of Nepalese monarchy as it starts to become clear what was occupying the King’s mind so much as he stared at his beloved peacocks and ruefully surveyed his once secure palace. Opinion poll data consistently suggests that ordinary Nepalese citizens are still attached to the institution of monarchy – despite the best efforts of almost every politician to pretend that a republic is inevitable – but are hostile to the person of King Gyanendra himself after his disastrous period as absolute monarch. Therefore, in a desperate bid to save the monarchy, it is reported in todays Nepalese papers that His Majesty has offered to abdicate in favour of his four-year-old grandson Prince Nava Yuvaraj Hridayendra and leave the country. Apparently his son and direct heir, Crown Prince Paras, who is even more unpopular than himself (due to his penchant for high living and, erm, dangerous driving allegedly), has agreed to renounce his claim to the throne preferring golf and partying to kingship.

With the Maoist guerrillas starting a new campaign from next week for a republic and the nationalisation of Royal family members property, the King has been holding a series of hectic consultations with royalists to find a way out. It is reported that, before the interim constitution was promulgated last month, he tried to meet Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala with his abdication plan. However, the meeting is said to have fallen through at the last moment. Then, about two weeks ago, Maoist chief Prachanda told his guerrillas in southern Nepal that the King had sent an emissary to him, suggesting a meeting and saying he was ready to abdicate. However, apparently the conditions laid down for such a meeting were not acceptable to Prachanda.

It is also rumoured that if the Kings plan were to be accepted, he would almost certainly move to London. Apparently a Royal son-in-law, who was present in the Narayanhity Palace during the infamous massacre when Crown Prince Dipendra killed his father King Birendra and almost the entire royal family (although the present Crown Prince Paras was miraculously left completely unscathed), is already living in the grounds of the Nepali Embassy in Britains capital city.

We at the RCC are sure that King Gyanendra would receive a warm welcome should he come to London (and apparently our man presently behind the Royal drinks cabinet in the Narayanhity Palace would be interested in applying to become His Majestys press & communications director in exile). However, we hope of course that this step will not be necessary and that the Nepalese people will quickly come to their senses. God save the King.