Month: February 2014

Getting Serious About Commercialisation in Sport…

The old adage from the grumpy old pundit goes something like this: “It was a harder game in my day.” Generation after generation belittle the current generation and claim they had it harder; they had it tougher. “These guys wouldn’t have lasted a week back in my day” they say. While this could be the case for many sports, most notably soccer, this of course is mostly down to an evolution of player safety, insurance and common sense.

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The main reason that modern sport “stars” are considered as “soft” or “pampered” and not as tough or as “hard” as players “back in the day” is because of the rise of celebrity and the brand, with this in itself stemming from the vast amount of money that television companies such as Sky have pumped into certain sports.

Back in the early 90’s, the old English First Division was transformed into the Premier League or Premiership, which ushered in the Sky Sports era of mass commercialisation and broadcasting of hundreds of games every season. Sky would dictate when certain games where played, and would decide if they’d rather big games such as Manchester United vs. Liverpool, for instance, should be moved to a Sunday afternoon so as to avoid it clashing with other televised or non-televised matches.

From these matches the exposure that comes with them, star and names were made, coinciding with this new celebrity fascination that was sweeping the world around the same time. Back in the 60’s and 70’s the golden boy of football, especially in the United Kingdom and Ireland, was Manchester United’s George Best. A European Cup winner and European Footballer of the Year, Best’s popularity rose due to a combination of his vast skills on the pitch, his good looks and his womanising ways. But Best’s celebrity was small scale compared to so many that came through in the 90’s, and those who truly burst the stratosphere in the 00’s.

The first name that comes to mind when you think of sport transcending the game and entering into commercialisation and the celebrity world is David Beckham. One could be forgiven for being unaware that Beckham was actually a very, very good football player. He may have played for Manchester United, Real Madrid, L.A. Galaxy, A.C. Milan, Paris St-Germain and captained England, but worldwide “Goldenballs” is known better simply for ‘Brand Beckham’. He’s a global icon, with his own line of clothing, cosmetics and underwear. He has made himself into one of the most recognisable face on the planet, not just in sport. Someone who has truly transcended his code into something much bigger.

So has this level of commercialisation damaged sports in any way? Using the example of soccer, you would have to think in most ways it hasn’t. Commercialisation has bankrolled the sport to such a level that soccer is hands down the most globally watched sport on the planet. The purity of the game may have diminished however, with players terrified of suffering with an injury that could keep them off the pitch and away from the cameras for too long. Such things affect sponsorship deals and bonuses. This brings us back to earlier where the older football pundit or fan might argue that these guys today are just not as hard as they were back in the day. This is most certainly true but it’s understandable when there’s a multi-million multi-year boot deal from Nike or Adidas on the table. The biggest players are such precious commodities nowadays that they’re wrapped in cotton wool and treated in the same ilk as rare, precious vase.

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Such is the scale and power of brands in sport that the likes of Nike has been alleged to have funded transfers in conjunction with teams for certain players. They were allegedly involved in helping to fund a potential bid by Manchester United to bring Cristiano Ronaldo back to Old Trafford from Real Madrid, whom they had sold him to back in 2009 for a then world record fee of €93 million. The deal never came to be, but imagine it had. What kind of power would Nike have then when it comes to Manchester United’s future commercial dealings? And would other clubs they sponsor such as Arsenal and Manchester City and Barcelona have something to say about them helping out Manchester United in such a way? These are some of the questions that can arise from how commercial the game has become.

Not just in soccer though, fledgling and amateur sports such as mixed martial arts and Gaelic games, football and hurling, are hugely reliant on television and broadcast deals, as well as outside sponsorship in order to not even thrive, but to survive. The GAA need their television deal. Dublin GAA have just signed a monumental sponsorship deal with insurance giants Aon, the first of its kind in the sports and many other counties have signalled their displeasure at how unfair it is that Dublin now have even more money than they do. Is this sour grapes? Or is it an example of commercialisation upsetting the fairness in the game financially?

It’s all a money game nowadays though. From the amateurs up to the professionals. The traditional notion of sports is long gone. Sure, the reason you get into a sport is love of competing, but what keeps you being able to compete in that sport at the highest levels is whether you can make money for yourself and for other people. “Back in the day” you made only the money the club told you you were going to earn, but nowadays players have so much more power thanks to commercialisation that it has actually weakened smaller clubs to the point where they find it impossible to keep their best players if bigger clubs come in with a big bid.

Commercialisation has smothered sport to the point where it is controlled by outside interests and businessmen only interested in profit. But profit can only come from entertainment, and fans are entertained more so than ever watching as much of their chosen code as they can stomach on a bi-weekly basis. You just can’t avoid sport nowadays. It’s as common as your daily soap. There’s always something on, because sponsors and players and commodities have to be seen. The intent might not be wholly pure, but more money in the sport from commercialisation has meant these sports are now of a better quality. Without a doubt.

BAFTAs – Winners, Losers & Pictures

Last night the British Academy Film & Television Awards took place, with award favourites 12 Years A Slave and Gravity amongst some of the biggest winners on the evening.

The big award on the night, ‘Best Picture’, went to favourite 12 Years A Slave, beating away competition from heavyweights American Hustle starring Christian Bale, Captain Phillips starring Tom Hanks, Gravity starring George Clooney and Philomena starring Steve Coogan.

The award for ‘Best British Film’ went to Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity, which despite popular belief was actually shot entirely in London and not Outer Space. It beat movies such as Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom and Rush.

Before that, the award for ‘Best Director’ went to Gravity’s Alfonso Cuarón, ensuring the British have yet more to claim that isn’t really theirs. He beat the likes of Martin Scorcese, Paul Greengrass, Steve McQueen and David O Russell.

As for ‘Best Actor’, it is with no small effort that one types the name of 12 Years A Slave’Chiwetel Ejiofor. His performance was deemed satisfactory enough to beat Christian Bale and Leonard DiCaprio. Though it must be noted timing of Dallas Buyers Club‘s release in the UK meant Matthew McConnaughey was not eligible.

‘Best Actress’ went to the incredible Lady Galadriel herself, Cate Blanchett, not for her role reprisal in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug but rather Blue Jasmine, a movie we hadn’t heard of until we checked what movie Blanchett was nominated for.

‘The Jennifer Lawrence Award for Best Supporting Actresses’ went of course to Jennifer Lawrence, for her immense and by now expected turn in American Hustle. This a movie that’s plot was drivel and only existed to showcase how awesome Lawrence and Christian Bale are.

‘Best Supporting Actor’ was unfortunately not won by Michael Fassbender, so what’s the point? Well it was won by the Somalian pirate Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips, who we’re hearing was actually a limo driver and not a pirate, so apologies to him and his family.

All the winners and losers are expected to conjugate together later tonight in the annual Illuminati ritual of burning their expensive tuxedos and gowns under the influence of Illuminati-supplied magic mushrooms. This blog has been brought to you by the Illuminati. “Illuminati – Don’t Mention It!”

Interview with Irish Mixed Martial Artist Paul Redmond

June 1st, 2013 – One Paul “Redser” Redmond beats Marc Allen in the second round, by way of a toe-hold. This was not just Redmond’s fifth consecutive victory for the Cage Warriors promotion, but his fifth consecutive finish inside the distance. “Redser” was aboard an express train towards a shot at the Cage Warriors lightweight strap, formerly owned by Conor McGregor, now held by Ivan Buchinger.

Fast forward to New Year’s Eve 2013, and Redmond’s train was momentarily derailed, being submitted inside two rounds against arguably the toughest opponent of his career, Mateusz Teodorczuk (11-2). It would be Redmond’s first defeat since March of 2012, and one in which he is fully aware of where he went wrong.

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“I was just trying to push the finish too quick rather than just let it flow like I normally do,” explained the 27 year old. “I pride myself in not biting down on the gum shield and coming out swinging but my god did I come out and try to take his head off in the second round and it’s something I never do, I never get careless. When I found myself underneath him, I just paused for a split second, and that level you just cannot pause.”

For many fighters, the last fight, especially one that was a defeat, would greatly influence how they approached training going into their next fight. “Should I change this? Maybe if I trained more on this aspect and put that on the back burner for a while..?”. This is most certainly not the case for Paul Redmond and the ethos at Team Ryano.

“[Training’s] going great,” he proclaimed. “The last fight was one of them stupid losses I just wanted to get out of my head. Literally the next day on New Year’s Day I had a big feed that day and straight back into the gym on the Thursday. I just wanted to get back training again. I had no injuries coming out of that fight, it was more my pride than anything.

“I wouldn’t change a thing. I don’t think there’s a need to change a thing.”

This mantra is one shared between both Team Ryano and SBG Ireland, one where the training is focused on the fighter, and not their opponent. With both teams spearheading the MMA revolution in Ireland, Redmond remarked on how far it’s all come inside just two years.

“With Conor [McGregor] where he is, and other guys doing well for themselves; Chris Fields won a world title, Cathal Pendred won a world title. The Irish lads aren’t just there to make up the numbers,” said an emphatic Redmond. “There are good fighters here. They’re all knocking on the UFC – Cathal [Pendred], Chris [Fields], Ais Daly. With Conor in, it’s already bringing a big spotlight on us.”

The spotlight has been quite focused on Team Ryano as of late it must be said, and for all positive reasons. First off, they recently opened up a new facility in Finglas, which is being run by Neil Seery and John Donnelly. Redmond is clearly excited by the idea of both Andy Ryan and John Kavanagh being more or less forced into expanding due to demand.cwfc

“We were just talking about this tonight actually,” Redmond went on. “We usually have the boxing class on a Tuesday. You could not move on the mat. Just new faces, new bodies. Everyone down. Really good. For John Kavanagh to HAVE TO open up a super-gym (SBG Concorde), that’s great news for guys. He needs a gym to accommodate people coming in so obviously the numbers are there and Andy’s opening up a second gym in Finglas.”

Redmond went on to remark on the positive vibes inside the Team Ryano walls, describing the atmosphere and pointing out some of the recent successes not just in MMA.

“The atmosphere down here is great. Even the lads not training for fights. Everyone gets a bit of stick. It’s great, just a good atmosphere and everybody’s doing really well for themselves. Neil won the world title, Karl Roache won the gold medal in the Absolute Brown Belt (Brazilian jiu-jitsu) in Portugal and got a gold medal in the Euros as well. There’s people winning all over the place.”

Adding to that, Team Ryano recently added another Redmond to their ranks, John Redmond, who opted to leave Paul Cowzer’s team at Rush Fight Academy to focus more on advancing his own fight career.

“John’s always trained. Paul Cowzer’s always been affiliated with Andy,” Redmond explained. “John has always been more than welcome to come up if he has a fight coming up, it benefits everybody from sparring with each other.

“I don’t know the reasoning behind it, I was talking to him there earlier. There’s no animosity there. Andy’s a black belt though, and you just can’t get that level of training elsewhere. It’s just one of them things.”

It’s fair to say that Paul Redmond would rather speak about his training partners and their achievements rather than his own, but Redmond’s is a name that has been mentioned in passing as one that might be involved should the UFC return in September. “Redser” doesn’t see it that way though.

“I don’t think that far ahead. I wouldn’t put myself in that category, not yet. Of course if you put me in there I’d fight any of them, no problem, but I just don’t think I’m on the UFC’s radar the way that Neil [Seery] is or Cathal is. Cathal’s after beating Che Mills. Neil’s after dropping down to flyweight and run through four of his last five opponents. He lost to your man Sitenkov, but he just comes for the kneebar, and if he doesn’t get it he packs up after the first round but fair play, he got it. Then Neil stopped Marin with a kick to the liver, nobody had stopped him and nobody has since you know? Even if the UFC came there’s names ahead of me so far.

“I’d like to win the Cage Warriors lightweight title first. I’d like to get around two more wins and get a crack at that.”

The journey continues in less than two weeks at Cage Warriors 65 in Dublin, when Redmond takes on Damien Brown.

Paul Redmond vs. Marc Allen, The Helix, Dublin, June 1st 2013.

Team Ryano’s newest facility is located on the Jamestown Road Business Park in Finglas. For all times and classes check out their Facebook page at Team RYANO Finglas.

Photo Credit – Dolly Crew / Cage Warriors

American Hustle and Gravity vie for Oscars

Con drama American Hustle and space movie Gravity lead this year’s Oscar nominations with 10 nods each.

American Hustle was shortlisted in all four acting categories for its stars Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence.

It is also up for best picture alongside Gravity, which earned a best director nod for Alfonso Cuaron and best actress for Sandra Bullock.

12 Years a Slave’s nine nominations included best director and picture.

“I’m just very excited,” British director Steve McQueen told the BBC. “My goodness, nine nominations – a lot of them British. We worked very hard and we’re privileged to be in this position.”

The film’s stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong’o were also nominated in the best actor, supporting actor and supporting actress categories.

British film Philomena is up for four awards, including best picture.

Captain Phillips, 12 Years a Slave, Nebraska, The Wolf of Wall Street, Dallas Buyers Club and Her are also among the nine films nominated for the coveted top award.

In the best director category, David O Russell faces competition from McQueen, Cuaron, Nebraska’s Alexander Payne and Martin Scorsese for The Wolf of Wall Street.

His film American Hustle is only the 15th movie in Oscars’ history to land nominations in the four main acting categories – although no film has ever won all the awards.

Russell achieved the same feat with Silver Linings Playbook last year, when all four of his key actors were nominated – with Lawrence winning best actress.

The director told the BBC he was “humbled” by the nominations.

“You always worry, as sort of the captain, that one of your great performers is not going to get recognised… but you still pray for them all,” he said.

“They all put so much into it and they did it together, so it’s nice none of them got left out.”

It is Adams’s fifth Oscar nomination – and her first in the leading actress category – having previously been nominated for her supporting roles in The Master (2012), The Fighter (2010), Doubt (2008) and Junebug (2005) – however she has never collected a statuette to date.

She will compete with Bullock, Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine, Dame Judi Dench for Philomena and Meryl Streep – who scored her 18th Oscar nomination – for August: Osage County.

Dame Judi said: “This is just the loveliest news. I’m so happy for everybody involved, and so proud to have been part of the wonderful experience that Philomena has been.”

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The best actor category sees British stars Bale and Ejiofor up against Bruce Dern for Nebraska, Leonardo DiCaprio for The Wolf of Wall Street and Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club.

McConaughey, who won a Golden Globe on Sunday for his performance in the Aids drama, said he was “honoured and grateful”.

Britain’s Sally Hawkins is up for best supporting actress for her role in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, alongside Lawrence, Nyong’o, Julia Roberts for August: Osage County and June Squibb for Nebraska.

In the best supporting actor category, Fassbender and Cooper will vie with Jonah Hill for The Wolf of Wall Street, Barkhad Abdi for Captain Phillips and Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club.

Leto, who also won a Golden Globe for his role as a transsexual woman in the film, said he was “absolutely blown away by this incredible nomination”.

Gravity’s other seven nominations included a host of British talent recognised in the film and sound editing, production design, visual effects and music categories.

Philomena, based on the true story of an Irish woman who was forced to give up her son, was also nominated for best original score and adapted screenplay for its writers Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope.

Coogan told the BBC he was “absolutely dumbfounded” at the recognition.

“It’s way beyond anything we hoped for,” he said. “You’ll always be an Oscar nominee whether you win or not, it’s an incredible achievement.

“I failed my English O level twice and I’ve got an Oscar nomination for best screenplay – if I can do it anyone can.”

The five films competing for the best animated feature prize include The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Frozen, Japanese film The Wind Rises and Belgian animation Ernest & Celestine – the story of an unlikely friendship between a bear and a mouse.

Irish band U2 were nominated for best original song for Ordinary Love, which featured in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.

It is the second nod for the group, who were previously nominated in 2003 for their song The Hands That Built America, from Gangs of New York.

However, the film’s star – Idris Elba – was among some notable omissions for his role as Nelson Mandela.

Other actors who didn’t make the cut included Tom Hanks for Captain Phillips, Emma Thompson for Saving Mr Banks and Robert Redford for All Is Lost.

There was also no recognition for biographical drama The Butler, while Paul Greengrass and the Coen brothers were overlooked in the best director category – with the Coen’s film Inside Llewyn Davis earning just two nominations, despite high expectations.

The winners will be announced at the Oscars ceremony on Sunday 2 March at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres.

 

***All text and pics completely copied and pasted from here and the official Academy Twitter page.

Juan Mata Progress Report

After Juan Mata’s much publicised transfer from Chelsea to Manchester United in January for a club record £37.1 million, a high percentage of the spotlight has been put on the little Spaniard and how he will fit into David Moyes’ struggling United side.

The debut – Mata is hailed by the home crowd

Making his debut against Cardiff in a comfortable 2-0 victory, starting behind returning front man Robin van Persie in attack, it looked as if the two-time Chelsea ‘Player of the Season’ had taken little time to blend in, having a big involvement in both Ashley Young and Robin van Persie’s goals. The performance overall was poor though, and Mata was overall quite effective. The next step was seeing how well he’d gel with Wayne Rooney coming back into the side.

Back to reality…

Against Stoke City the following week at the Britannia Stadium, Mata started from the left, with Rooney playing in his usual position behind RVP. After Stoke took the lead through a fortuitous Michael Carrick own goal, Mata’s wizardry shone through as he slid a beautiful through ball into the path of van Persie, who duly obliged to score his second Mata-assisted goal in two games. You would have probably expected United to push on from here and win the game but alas, everybody’s least favourite Scotsman since Barry Ferguson popped up with an absolute cracking strike from 30 yards to give Stoke the 2-1 win. One win, one defeat, two Mata assists.

Can United cross? They always cross..

The next game was expected to be a routine home victory against bottom of the table Fulham, thought nothing about Manchester United this season has been routine. Once again fielding the trio of Mata, Rooney and van Persie, with Ashley Young playing wide left, David Moyes’ side, despite struggling all season were surely going to easily dispatch of relegation-threatened Fulham, right? Wrong. It was one of the most abject and confusing performances under Moyes’ reign. Utilising “conference tactics” according to one Fulham defender, United set a record for crosses into the box with 81 attempts. Disheartening. In the first half Fulham even took the lead through a breakaway move when Rooney and Fletcher lost Steve Sidwell who charged through the midfield to sent the ball past David De Gea. It wasn’t until the 78th minute that United equalised through Robin van Persie, before Michael Carrick’s deflected effort put the defending champions ahead 80 seconds later. Fulham weren’t going to go away though. Though they defended for their lives, they were always a danger on the counterattack, breaking United hearts in stoppage when Darren Bent nodded in from close range to make it 2-2. As for Mata’s contribution, it was hard to judge. The gameplan seemed to be to get the ball, and pass out wide to either Young, Rafael or Evra. Mata found pockets of space, but the imaginations wasn’t there. As many observers joked, “Giving David Moyes Juan Mata is like giving your grandad a smartphone”.

Was the Arsenal v United game called off too?

It was a match that scant United fans would have been optimistic about. Playing against perennial table toppers Arsenal in the own back garden is a daunting task for any team in the Barclay’s Premier League. The Gunners were coming off a 5-1 humbling against a rampant Liverpool side at Anfield. United were coming off an embarrassing draw against the worst team in the league. Both needed a win. Surely this would be one to remember? It was not to be. While United had the better of the chances, two missed sitters from the generally reliable RVP, Arsenal were more blunt in attack than they’d been all season. United defended stoutly, afraid to bring the ball out from defence too often. It was also one of Mata’s poorer performances, struggling to get anything going with an out of sorts Wayne Rooney. He tried but it just seemed like once again he wasn’t sure what his job was. The game ended nil all, in a match that both teams were so clearly happy to end. Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger even went as far as to admit that Arsenal were “nervous”. Against THIS United side? Strange one.

Overall rating so far: 6.5/10