The state of the world: “unethical, foolish, possibly illegal”

“It is beyond moronic.” Yes, this might well have been a quote by Gary Neville, Alan Shearer or some other righteously outraged standard bearer of the purity of – in particular – the original English version of European soccerball, in response to the announcement of that ill-fated, short-lived ‘thought’ experiment in the commercial optimisation of said soccerball, the European Super League.

More of that – in Sam’s sober analysis: “arrogant imperialist cultural misappropriation” – later.

In this case, the quote refers to a story that broke on the morning of St George’s day, last Friday 23rd April, just in time for the recording of our latest SmallDataForum episode.

It should really have been a narrative about a hero slaying a huge fire-breathing beast (ignoring the Hydra problem that my dear friend and SDF guest illustrator Christoph alludes to in our title image, the English version of his German football cartoon), but as it turned out – perhaps more in keeping with the storytelling potential of the context and cast – this one was about a chatty rat, featuring prominently the near-forgotten Ghost of Barnard Castle, Dominic Cummings.

Neville (not Gary, but Hobson) kicks off SDF46 by relaying the highlights of the chatty rat saga, which he informed us had even made headlines in the Knutsford Chronicle. That turned out to be the Knutsford Guardian, but all the same.

In the course of the day, Cummings penned his own version of events, shared with the world in one of his infamous rambleblogs. Though this one was tweet-sized by his standards, at a mere 1,100 words, it turned out to be a bit of a “nuclear dom”, including some robust accusations against the Prime Minister. Chatty Dom promises to reveal all in a parliamentary hearing on 26th May.

Until then, or further revelatory leakages, we’ll call this one a cliff-hanger.  

Text messages

The whole unsavoury affair of Dom, his former boss and screen captured WhatsApp messages, in flagrante delicto, has Sam recall Black Adder, the Bishop of Bath and Wells and those ‘preliminary sketches’. One of those captured screen shots shared with the BBC’s lead Government leak recipient, Laura Kuenssberg, of an informal exchange between the Prime Minister Boris Johnson and James Dyson, the owner of a Singaporean manufacturing company, contained the line “I will fix it tomo”.

Sam muses that the classically educated PM must refer here to the Greek word tomos, meaning slice or cut. A reasonable conclusion, given the history of COVID related government contracts.

Talking of a decent tomos, I mention former PM Dave Cameron’s frantic lobbying attempts, which  seem rather more understandable if one considers that at the time, Dave was set to make 1% off the flotation of Greensill Capital, which based on a pre-lobbying evaluation in February would have amounted to a healthy £200m.

That’s surely worth a focused stakeholder engagement push by the former media PR executive.

Another Dominic-named thorn in the side of the current Prime Minister, former Attorney General Grieve, calls Johnson a vacuum of integrity. Which surely would have led Sam to expound on the etymology of vacuum: from the modern Latin vacuus, meaning empty. Somehow my mind drifts to the 1970s, to the funny-angry outbursts of the Sex Pistols, from Anarchy in the UK to Pretty Vacant

Anarchy in the U.K.

The three of us agree there’s a lot of stench in the air, and on the subject of the nasty smell of manure, I throw in Newmarket and the UK property empire of horse racing magnate and ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed.

Ah, Newmarket. Sam waxes lyrical about the black celery from a region left behind by poor transport links and lack of infrastructure. Not at all a celery fan, I point to Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s horse racing links, with Newmarket being the heart of his constituency. And Baroness Dido Harding of track and trace fame, member of the House of Lords and board member of the Jockey Club.

What would that Greek hero, Heracles, have made of it all? In his day, he had to reroute rivers to clear the Augean Stables of thirty years of manure. Today, would he pick a Dyson or a Vax? There’s a timely marketing campaign right there.

We move on to the shortest international soccerball competition in history, the European Supergreed League. Neville, as the least football-minded and thus emotionally involved of the three of us, focuses on the PR disaster surrounding the launch announcement, laid out comprehensively in a Drum article.

Mark Borkowski, he tells us, was not impressed, calling it “one of the worst-planned large scale communications launches in history.” InHouse Communications, once labelled the “Fortnum and Mason of communications” by none other than Boris Johnson, can’t be happy with their prominent role.

As for Johnson’s prominent role as the defender of the tradition and legacy of grassroots football – there seem to be some inconsistencies in the position of No. 10, and for once it’s not The Guardian but the Daily Mail telling the story.  

The dirty dozen

Sam has “at least 90 things” to say (or rather rant) about the doa ESL. It boils down to “cloth eared idiocy” by JP Morgan Chase and the Dirty Dozen, thinking they can impose an American professional sports franchise structure, completely failing to grasp the deep local and meritocratic working class roots of European soccerball. In fairness, the ESL’s take on legacy vastly out-comedies even BBC political satire W1A.

In the meantime, Florentino Perez, Real Madrid supremo and ESL driving force, has declared that due to binding contracts, ‘the clubs cannot leave’. Which, apart from so many other things, now also seems to make him the owner of the Hotel California. He seems to be a tough guy, so perhaps he would enjoy a visit to the grassroots – perhaps to the Damned United of Leeds, where players last week made their position crystal clear: “earn it”.

We are the Damned United

We round up on a positive note, with Neville pointing to’s “51 ways to restore our earth”, in celebration of the 51st Earth Day on 22nd April – but not before I land some barbs regarding the parallel developments of Earth Day (founded in 1970) and the overall rather less preservation-of-the-ecosystem minded Friedman Doctrine of shareholder value (published that same year).

But that’s another story, for another day. I might even read up a little more on the ordoliberal principle of the Freiburg School, Germany’s very own version of neoliberalism with guardrails. By comparison (as a least bad system, say), it seems to have served the German economy and German society rather well.

Yes the Bundesliga could be more competitive than – most likely – returning Bayern Munich as champions for a tenth time in a row. But “50 plus 1” works, and the Freiburg School of European Soccerball is much admired. I’ll take that.

For now, at least in European soccerball, the Friedman Doctrine is three nil down. Or is it really?

Listen to Episode 46:

Watch the recording of Episode 46 on YouTube:

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