Posts Tagged ‘football’

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Special mention

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Many CEOs and top-level managers manage to capture an enormous share of the surplus as payment in exchange for working. That we know.

We also know that, while faculty salaries have stagnated, the size and salaries of collegiate athletic coaching staffs have soared in recent years.

Then there are those, like former-Notre Dame football coach Charlie Weis, who get their cut of the surplus for literally not working—for doing nothing.

As has been the case for many years, former Notre Dame football coach Charlie Weis again received more money from the university in a recent year than any Notre Dame athletics employee.

Weis — who was fired by Notre Dame in November 2009 — received what has become his customary $2,054,744 during the 2014 calendar year, according to the university’s new federal tax return.

That means Weis received more from Notre Dame in 2014 than all but two university employees listed on the return, which the school provided Monday in response to a request from USA TODAY Sports.

Vice President and chief investment officer Scott Malpass was credited with nearly $5.4 million in total compensation in 2014, including just over $1 million that had been reported as deferred compensation in prior years; Malpass’ total also included nearly $2.9 million in bonus pay. Michael Donovan, the school’s managing director for private capital investments, was credited with more than $2.3 million, including just under $400,000 that had been reported as deferred pay in prior years and more than $1.1 million in bonus compensation. . .

According to the school’s tax records, Weis received more than $6.6 million pay and severance in 2009. He subsequently has been paid nearly $10.3 million by Notre Dame from 2010 through 2014. The tax records say that Weis was due to be paid through December 2015.

During that time, Weis also worked as an assistant for the Kansas City Chiefs and the  University of Florida. In December 2011, he became the head coach at Kansas, which was paying him $2.5 a season until firing him in late September 2014 with more than $5.6 million owed him under that contract.

 

Disclaimer: I am an employee of the University of Notre Dame but I have no say in determining the pay of anyone, working or not.

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The argument I made 10 days ago about surprises—represented by Leicester City, Donald Trump, and Bernie Sanders—was meant as a reminder that the pundits are often wrong and unexpected events can, in fact, happen.*

But it is also the case that two of those examples are members of the oligocracy. Trump we all know about. Less known, as Toby Miller reminds us, is that the “Little Club That Could” is owned by King Power, whose boss is Thai oligarch Vichai Raksriaksorn.

King Power works with the controversial provincial strongman, machine politician, and fellow club owner Newin Chidchob, and thrives thanks to close ties to successive administrations and coup leaders. This is in keeping with Vichai’s status as someone who grew up with a cohort that gives and sustains favorable business conditions to those with the right political connections. It’s a well-established form of clientelism, and he plays it excellently.

Prior to winning the Premier League, Vichai’s singular sporting achievement was establishing the Thailand Polo Association. It connects him to global royalty, local military and police, and high society. The light of progressive glory and his relatives feature on the management committee, and have a British team linked to Leicester City.

In 2006, the body responsible for Thailand’s airports alleged that King Power had btained the retail concession and duty-free license for Suvarnabhumi Airport without an open bidding process. That governing board was soon replaced, and the scandal slipped into history, for all the world like Jamie Vardy’s anti-Asian casino rants or his red card against West Ham.  King Power is widely believed to be selling goods from the world’s priciest luxury brands outside airport duty-free shops to rich men and their wives and girlfriends, undercutting the brands in Bangkok’s boutiques and creating considerable bad blood for the likes of Gucci and Louis Vuitton.

As the  Bangkok Post wryly puts it, ‘King Power’s chief business acumen is in securing such monopolistic duty-free concessions in the first place and then to keep leveraging its myriad revenue streams. This is a murky area where business and politics intersect.’

No wonder the Financial Times says ‘Mr Vichai does not lack financial muscle and plays the same league as any football-club owning Russian oligarch or Gulf investment fund.’

So please, enough celebrating the happily lachrymose masculinity of the little club that could. Instead, let’s unleash some tears for those caught up in the exploitative nature of much Thai business life, or victims of the vicious “sport,” polo.

None of this diminishes the players’ achievement, the manager’s charm, or the fans’ pleasure. But the political-economic wonder that is the clue to the team’s popularity and romance should be investigated. The inequalities supped on by the likes of Leicester’s proprietors are no fairy tale come true, for all the winning of a Premiership.

I suppose that leaves the achievements of the Leicester players themselves and Bernie Sanders as the only real non-oligarchic surprises in the current season.

 

*And Nate Silver seems to agree: “it’s probably helpful to have a case like Trump in our collective memories. It’s a reminder that we live in an uncertain world and that both rigor and humility are needed when trying to make sense of it.” And, I would add, Leicester City and Bernie Sanders.

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Leicester City was not going to win the Premiership—not by a long shot. Nor was the Republican nomination supposed to be handed to Donald Trump. And Bernie Sanders, well, there was no chance he was going to give Hillary Clinton a serious run for her money (and machine) in the Democratic primaries.

And yet here we are.

Leicester City Football Club, as anyone who has even a fleeting interest in sports (or reads one or another major newspaper or news outlet) knows, were just crowned champions of the Premiership, the highest tier of British football, after starting the season at 5000-1 odds. There really is no parallel in the world of sports—any sport, in any country. (By way of comparison, Donerail, with odds of 91-1 in 1913, is the longest odds winner in Kentucky Derby history.) And the bookies are now being forced to pay up.

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Similarly, Donald Trump was not supposed to win the Republican nomination. Instead, it was going to go to Jeb Bush and, if he failed, to Marco Rubio. (And certainly Ted Cruz, the candidate most reviled by other members of the GOP, was not supposed to be there at the end.)

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Finally, Bernie Sanders’s campaign for the Democratic nomination was written off almost as soon as it was launched. And yet here is—winning the Indiana contest by 5 points (when it was predicted he would lose by the same number of points) and accumulating enough pledged delegates to be him within a couple of hundred of the presumptive nominee.

What’s going on?

In all three cases, the presumption was that the “system” would prevent such an unlikely occurrence, and that the pundits and prognosticators “knew” from early on the likely outcome.

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So, for example, the winner of the Premiership was supposed to come from one of the perennial top four (Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester City)—not a club that were only promoted from the second division of British football in 2014 and last April were battling relegation (they finished the season 14th).

Pretty much the same is true in the political arena: neither Trump nor Sanders was taken particularly seriously at the start, and along the way the prevailing common sense was that their campaigns would simply implode or wither away. The idea was that the Republican and Democratic parties and nominating contests were structured so that their preferred nominees would inexorably come out on top.

There are, I think, two lessons to take away from these bolts from the blue. First, the “system,” however defined, is much less complete and determined than people usually think. There are many fissures and spaces in such systems that make what are seemingly unlikely outcomes real possibilities. Second, our presumably certain “knowledges” are exactly that, knowledges, which are constructed—in the face of radical uncertainty—out of theories, presumptions, blind spots, and much else. The fact is, we simply don’t know, and no amount of probabilistic certainty can overcome that epistemological gap.

So—surprise, surprise—Leicester City and Trump won, while Sanders has put up a much more formidable challenge than anyone expected from a socialist presidential candidate in the United States.

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Special mention

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Class war in Britain

Posted: 29 April 2016 in Uncategorized
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A couple of days ago, I linked the 1989 Hillsborough disaster with the earlier attack on the striking Orgreave miners, since both groups were treated as the “enemy within.”

Suzanne Moore just did, too, arguing that the Hillsborough verdict shatters the fantasy that class war doesn’t exist in Britain.

It must be somewhat galling for those in power now to have to accept this ruling, for they do not hide their class contempt either. They have elevated it to actual policy: all schools must be modelled on the schools they went to, but with fewer resources. All hospitals must be run to make a profit. Taxes are for the little people. Those who don’t “get on” have only themselves to blame. An increasing range of theories come into play about why poor people are poor, which is never to do with lack of money but lack of civility. Or perhaps there is something wrong with their actual brains! Imagery of working-class people invariably invokes moral deprivation by showing a tendency to excess.

Social mobility, the supposed solution to all this, only allows the odd person to slip through the net. The middle class must simply hold on. Once there, one is required to be grateful (I am not) or merely chippy (I am). As I strain my ears to hear someone who talks like me on Radio 4 that isn’t in a drama about child abuse, I never know who I am to be grateful to.

Sure, class contempt works both ways, though it is impolite to show it except by gentle humour. Rage is so 1980s. We must not discriminate against the posh apparently, though class doesn’t really exist any more. As more and more people tell us it no longer matters, we see more and more of our creative stars were privately educated, that our leaders come from the same tiny enclave. Retro-feudalism.

This fantasy should be well and truly shattered by the Hillsborough verdict. This was a war crime committed in a war that was not then, nor is now, a figment of our imagination. Class war.

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The victims of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster have finally had their day in court. Not yet, though, the miners who were brutally assaulted five years earlier outside the Orgreave coking plant.

Yesterday, at long last, a jury found that 96 Liverpool soccer fans at the match at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England had been “unlawfully killed” and the victims of what proved to be fatal police mistakes.

Last year, unfortunately, the Independent Police Complaints Commission ruled that the police would not be investigated for charges of assault and misconduct against the 8,000-10,000 miners who went on strike leading up to the June 1984 “Battle of Orgreave.”

Dave Smith, a former miner and former president of Dinnington NUM was at Orgreave on 18 June 1984.

He said it was a hot day and they had been playing football, but the police arrived and all “hell let loose.”

“Horses came out, short shields came out; we tried to defend ourselves as best we could.

“Most of us were running like hell. We finished up down embankments, on to railway lines with dogs chasing us.

“People were seriously injured and I mean seriously injured, and left by the police.

“That’s not helping, that’s attacking, and we were attacked.”

Football obviously (and, not surprisingly, for the British working-class) connects the two tragedies. So, too, does the extensive evidence of police violence and subsequent coverup (which, as we know from recent events in the United States, is not confined to England). But, even more important, both groups of victims—the fans who were steered into overcrowded pens at Hillsborough Stadium and the miners who went to picket lorry drivers supplying coke to the steel industry and were subsequently attacked by police with short shields and truncheons (the first time they were ever used in Britain)—were treated as the “enemy within.”

Both events, remember, took place during the heyday of Thatcherism, which combined a free-market economic strategy with authoritarian populism. Or, as Stuart Hall succinctly put it (in Drifting into a Law and Order Society): “Make no mistake about it: under this regime, the market is to be Free; the people are to be Disciplined.”

Hillsborough (where the families and friends of the victims have won a victory) and Orgreave (where they have not, at least yet), each in their different way, represent attempts to impose that discipline.