Shergar Cup: Who Actually Cares?!

Last weekend saw the nth running, dear reader, of that tremendous team event that has every man, woman and their pets clambering for a TV screen to cheer their side on. No, not the Community Shield or any other football match. I am, of course, referring to the Shergar Cup.

Lest you don't know, the Shergar Cup is a team horse racing event run at Ascot. It's popularity is now so massive that the BBC decided not to bother covering it this year due to ever dwindling viewing figures in recent seasons.

The fact is the whole thing is pants, and it doesn't get people racing, nor does it raise the temperatures of fans into any sort of nationalistic (or, more correctly, regionalistic if that's a word) fervour. No, it's misguided and crap.

Funnily enough, in my ongoing skirmishes with Racing for Change - who occasionally reply to my emails with banal platitudes like the ones below - I mentioned that the Shergar Cup proved beyond doubt that racing people are not interested in team events. They ignored me, which is fair enough. I suspect they may find it harder to ignore the BBC's absence.

The track attendance was up 3.5% at 28,741, which will doubtless satisfy the beaks that this concept works. But look more deeply and you'll see this: thousands of tickets have been given away free for the Shergar Cup since its inception in a bid to bolster the gate.

But that's not the problem. In fact, I actually like the idea of free tickets - it works very well for, I think Uttoxeter, who have had free racing for a couple of seasons.

No, the problem is this: if you want to get people to go racing repeatedly then you need to show them the actual product they'll be served. It's akin to taking up a restaurant on an offer of three courses a la carte and then returning, expecting the same sort of thing, and being served a fast food burger.

Again, there's nothing wrong with the occasional burger. That's not the point either. It's that the expectations of the public are not being sensibly managed. The facts are that we live in an age where there is just TOO MUCH choice. And racecourses and horse racing fixtures is another example of this.

We need to cut down the number of fixtures - and almost certainly the number of courses, horses and trainers - and make racing more of a treat. A classic example is today. Monday racing is appalling, pointless - excuse me, shit - put on for the benefit of bookmakers and betting addicts. It serves no purpose aside from that.

It's a long time since I placed a bet on a Monday outside of a system in my portfolio. It's just rubbish.

More meetings on Sunday with a greater family element - face painting, candy floss and all that caper. That's the answer to bringing the more people through the gates on an ongoing, sustainable basis.

Look at Irish racing. They don't race every day and, even when they do, it's usually one meeting except for weekends. Although revenues are down there (due predominantly to being one of the hardest hit economies in Europe by the current downturn), the product remains as popular as ever.

In other words, despite betting turnover suffering, people are still going racing. The product survives. There's no bloody team events over there!

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OK, soap box away for another day or two, and Ireland's racing is a good place to start the rest of the round up. Zoffany was the star turn yesterday and confirmed what many clock watchers had made of him prior to yesterday's Phoenix Stakes, when he won that race by a short margin.

Although the margin was small, the manner of victory was hyper-impressive as first his own pacemaker impeded him, and then he had to dart through a gap between the toiling second and third horses.

He flopped at Royal Ascot but, that Coventry Stakes reversal aside, he is five from five in Ireland. He's a worthy ante-post favourite for the 2000 Guineas in my book. That said, I'm not sure I'd be piling in to the best priced 10/1, and I can certainly swerve Stan James' 'generous' 6/1 quote.

Elsewhere, the racing was fairly moderate and that is the case until next week when we welcome York's August meeting with open arms.

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Personally, that rather suits, as I am looking forward to the Premier League football season, and all that jazz.

One thing that is really bugging me right now, and I need to get it off my chest, is the pathetic pouting of pro footballers. English pro footballers. The recent actions of Paul Robinson, Ashley Cole and to a lesser degree Michael Carrick and Wes Brown are deplorable.

Lest you didn't know, these are all related to England selection or otherwise. Now, I'm not sure about you, but I would consider the utmost honour of all honours to be even the tenth choice goalkeeper for England. And to receive a call up to the England squad (or any national squad) is just nirvana, for any player in any country in any sport.

Except football in England. I am so embarrassed to be from the same nation as those pathetic overpaid, pampered animals. Their disdain for the national shirt - and their apathy towards their country - is abominable.

Paul Robinson was dropped some time ago, largely because he was playing terribly. He didn't get to the World Cup, primarily for the same reason. So it's a bit much for him to come out now, when selected for the squad, to say he's retiring. Really, it's a case of having the last word and it's pathetic.

Like anyone actually cares if Paul Robinson retires from international football. Jumped up little tw*t.

Next up, Cashley Cole. Is there a more despicable individual in the country? First, he bitches about 'only' being offered £50,000 A WEEK at Arsenal in his autobiography (where do I start?! 25 years old and an autobiography - do you need to know anything else about this guy's God delusions?). Then he cheats on his wife. Several times. Then he ignores the England manager's outstretched hand on the way up the Wembley steps. Oh, and I didn't even mention the allegations about him and his mates 'pleasing each other'. Whatever. I despise this person. He is no kind of example to any young fan, and as long as he and his ilk are in the England team they will go the way of their woeful World Cup performance.

Carrick and Brown, well they should know better. Carrick shouldn't have asked Capello about being dropped at the same moment he was receiving his Community Shield medal. It could wait until the lounge afterwards. Brown's retirement seems reasonable enough, but again it could have been managed much more discretely.

The issue here - which extends to John Terry, Steven Gerrard and now of all people, Peter Crouch allegedly - is that they're not very nice human beings. These guys, the first two at least, have both been involved in public affray incidents in recent years; and have all been  involved in cheating on their partners.

I know it's not an exclusively English thing. But it IS a majoritively English thing. I would 'retire' all of them from the international stage. I want to see people in an England shirt who a) want to wear it (and I mean really WANT!!!), and b) deserve to wear it.

Fully appreciative of the backlash these comments may receive, I'll point out these are just my opinions. I happen to think Ashley Cole might be the best left back in the world, and Steven Gerrard is a fantastic central player. My issues are not about footballing ability with these two.

Anyway, you might have a thought or two on this. Feel free to leave a comment... 🙂

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A bit to and fro today, but what about Harbinger's injury? Conspiracy theorists will be loving this one. Unbeaten in four runs this year, including that rout in the King George, he apparently fractured his cannon bone.

Now I'm not saying he didn't incur that injury. I'm merely remarking on how often it seems that these high class animals break down after a major breakthrough victory. This ensures H's stud value, assuming he recovers from the injury (I'm pretty confident he will, but I'm often wrong!).

To be honest, I'd probably have been tempted to retire him after the King George myself. Having been rated the top horse in the world and the best since Ribot apparently, what else is there to prove aside from his precocity in the boudoir (or the barn at least)?

Good luck to connections and the horse, whatever the outcome. That King George performance was formidable.

His main rival in the ante-post market prior to the injury - and now Arc favourite - is Fame And Glory. In winning the Royal Whip Stakes, he proved little more than he still has a leg in each corner and here he managed to beat four other horses who probably had more than just that in common with a coffee table (a leg in each corner, that is).

Bekhabad is now a standout bet for me in the Arc. The 7's with Laddies and Stan James looks more than fair to me, and I've already had a nice poke before Harbinger's crocking.

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And finally... the last word today is on the Premier League. You've heard me spout off on certain issues, and you probably now think I know nothing about football. Well, prove it!

I've created a league in the Barclays Premier League fantasy football competition, and you can join it too.

It's totally free to enter, and you have the chance to brag about beating me. Actually, that's very little to brag about. You have the chance to brag about winning the league though!

All you do is pick a squad of fourteen, and nominate your eleven starters. There's a budget constraint and a few other limitations. Each player scores points for you depending on where he plays on the pitch and how he performs. You probably know the general drill.

So, get over to http://fantasy.premierleague.com/ and register your team. Once you've signed up and chosen your team, you can join the Geegeez Super League by clicking the 'Leagues' link on the left side, then clicking the 'Create / Join' tab that comes up, and finally entering this code: 47057-220607

Like I say, it's free and it'll be a lot of fun. And you'll probably finish in front of me! 😉

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17 replies
  1. brian says:

    Matt, totally agree re the Shergar Cup, meaningless twaddle and not a punting option for me.

    Must take umbridge re Paul Robinson he had a great season with Blackburn (saying somethiing from a Bolton supporter), Green is useless (try and watch him against Bolton over the last couple of seasons the number of calamaitous mistakes he’s made against us has kept us up!). He deserved better than to be placed behind Green and Calamity, for me there’s only one England choice now, Joe Hart.
    Totally agree re the reminder of the “pampered” sqaud, no pride, it stems back to Don Revie (if you rember that far back – first thing he did – increase pay without a ball being kicked.

  2. David says:

    You said: Paul Robinson was dropped some time ago, largely because he was playing terribly. He didn’t get to the World Cup, primarily for the same reason.

    Sorry to disagree but he wasn’t playing terribly, merely not as well as other English keepers. His form last season was just as good as David James’s and better than Green’s. He didn’t get to the WC because Capello didn’t stick to his word of picking only fit and in form players.

  3. Marliboy says:

    The word odious comes to mind with most of those players. Would say not all footballers are overpaid just that the most of the grotesquely overpaid ones don’t deliver, then again I can’t say there is any man who can deliver for the wages the likes of Ronaldo recieves WEEK IN WEEK OUT except Rupert Murdoch ($21m per annum + $50,000pm apartment fiscal year 2006,nice)

  4. Martin says:

    Matt
    Spot on with your comments about Cashley Cole and the others. This pathetic bunch of overpaid prima donnas have no pride, no morals and no respect for the fans that pay their outrageous salaries. Unfortunately I don’t think the problem is limited to the current England team – you see it on the pitch every week in every league in the world. Cheating, diving, trying to get other players sent off – footballers who should be role models are setting a shocking example to kids who blindly copy their every action. Compare this with sports like golf or snooker where cheats are not tolerated and, with the odd exception like Tiger Woods and the late, great Alex Higgins, the players private lives remain exactly that – private. These guys earn big money too so it’s not just a case of too much money in football. Unfortunately the only solution is for us, the fans, to stop paying good money to watch these clowns and that, as they say, just ain’t gonna happen!

  5. chuck says:

    Totally agree about the football rant. I am genually out of work and looking every day. I am an ex semi pro footballer 1960,s and have been brought up on footy. I hate the present game. You can’t totally blame the players for taking the money but you can blame agents and investors. Ashley Cole 50k per week. Me after 45 years working !125 per week and have to prove i am looking for work. I say put the lower league players in, i am sure the championship players and others would do ok. I would much rather see my team lose even though they played there hearts out than see all the pre madonas that we have now. Unfortunately its gone too far to rectify. keep up the good work and may the profits be with you regards, Chuck

  6. Brian says:

    Hi Matt
    Agree entirely with your thoughts on English internationals although you were a bit harsh on Robinson. I’d include Lampard on the list as well. If he has an IQ of 140+ why the hell can’t he adapt to the tactics of his manager?
    I think the problem is that they are mollycoddled by their clubs from the day they sign pro forms and aren’t expected or allowed to think for themselves. “Lacking game intelligence” was what Xabi Alonso said and he’s spot on. To make matters worse, the way they whinge when they don’t get the adulation they think they are entitled to is pathetic.

  7. Daz says:

    LoL, I just clicked your link to join your Fantasy Football League but got directed to this page – could you send the correct link please? Thanks.

    • Matt Bisogno says:

      Hi Daz

      Not sure what the problem is there. Try this link: http://fantasy.premierleague.com

      If that doesn’t work, maybe google Premier League fantasy football. There’s a fair few signed up now, so I know the link works! 🙂

      Matt

  8. Ram says:

    Totally agree with you Matt. I gave up watching football and paying exorbitant prices long time ago. This has been going on for the past 10 years. I am surprised you haven’t realised this before.

  9. Scott Armstrong says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with your comments about the number of race meetings held every year. Cut these down to a more manageable level and punters will give more support to the remaining fixtures.

  10. craig says:

    Hi Matt,

    There seems to be an increasingly widespread disillusionment with football and particularly the Premier league. Arrogance and greed abound. A few years ago it was tolerable because the country was booming. But now while many are struggling to make ends meet, these egotistical underachievers continue to think they are immune from the recession and that supporters will continue indefinitely to pay ludicrous amounts to watch their on and off-field antics with adulation and respect.

    Those days are long gone. My team, West Brom are making their umpteenth attempt to stay in the greed league, but I can’t (and won’t) be paying £40 a time to watch them lose frequently. Yet neither would I want them to become a plaything for a foreign billionaire or to pursue success at all cost until he gets bored and pulls out leaving a trillion pound debt and insolvency.

    Nonetheless, even our modestly talented Championship pretenders are on an average of 20 grand a week. Hence the TV money is spent on their lavish lifestyles rather than on genuinely improving the club for the SUPPORTERS. And it makes me sick to think how much more exciting and thrilling football was back in the 1970’s when Albion were crap, but the players looked, lived and were like normal blokes we could identify with. Plenty of graft, a fair bit of kicking and tricking, not a huge amount of skill, but the ‘buzz’ was enormous on the terraces and the players would engage with the fans during the game and draw us into their battle. Now the game is quicker, slicker, neater, safer. And utterly sterile. The players are puffed up mercenaries with no connection with supporters, most of the names are unpronouncable, and even the United Nations hasn’t heard of some of the countries these people come from! The higher they get up the ladder the worse it is and it is depressing to see the likes of Cole, Rooney, Crouch, Lampard, Terry etc, etc, behaving in ways that 20 years ago would have got them the sack. These days it gets them another car, underfloor heating for a dog kennel and just about every obscenely debauched symbol of contempt for their country and the people who cannot afford to but ultimately do pay their wages.

    It can’t go on and eventually it won’t.The money will run out, the mercenaries will run off to Italy, Spain or wherever else is the new utopia and we’ll be left with a lot of new supermarkets occupying the spaces where bankrupt football clubs used to exist.

  11. paul says:

    Totally agree with your comments about England’s so called footballers.
    I have always said Gerrard was over-rated. Just watch how many times he gives the ball away.
    As I said before the world cup, until they learn to pass to each other England will never win anything.
    And as for John Terry , I thought Capello was a man with standards. I never liked Terry but he sunk to a new low in my opinion when he kicked the ball back to Arsenal after they had kicked it out so that Joe Cole could get treatment.. Instead of kicking it back to the keeper Terry kicked it right into the corner. So from Arsenal having a promising attack , they then had a throw – in by their corner flag.
    It was a repeat of this incident against Man Utd in the champions league final that resulted in Drogba being sent off.
    Terry did it in that game , so when the roles were reversed Tevez copied Terry, and Drogba in his anger got sent off.
    Fortunately my chants of miss, miss, miss when Terry took his penalty worked.
    And I am a CITY fan.

  12. Dave says:

    You won’t find many disagreeing with the football rant.
    I doubt an England team has ever been held in such low esteem and that has everything to do with the personalities of the so called leading lights.

    Keep it real and watch your football in League’s One And Two.

  13. James says:

    the modern footballer only cares about one thing himself and the money they can earn. Capello should have dealt with Terry probably at the world cup when he started thinking he was the voice of the nation he should have sent him home. Why are we having a friendly though 3 days before the season starts.

  14. Jim says:

    Like the new look website – nice clean uncluttered.

    Like the rants about the Shergar cup and the England team.

    keep up the good work

    Jim

  15. John "Ears" says:

    Excellent football rant Matt! The problem with the England team/setup sits at the door of the FA. They are no better than a bunch of Vatican choirboys. Brian Clough would have sorted out Terry et al in 5 minutes flat. Craig’s comments spot-on, too!

  16. paul ruffy says:

    Matt –
    Fully agree on England players. I feel like having a rant myself actually!

    I knew of this problem before the world cup but people get out the St George glasses and then get carried away over a bunch of twats that wanted to go home anyway.

    I expect a few more will “retire” soon as well. Disgraceful. The state the national team is in now I wish they’d make the England team an under 23 team or something like that, or even exclude ALL Premier League players, this would be the only way to get 11 players with desire on the pitch.

    I personally dont blame Capello in the slightest, and I think he is still a bit confused and cant understand why English players have no pride.
    Hopeless situation.

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