With a pair of German teams playing in England to decide Football’s Champions League in 8 days, Emmet Ryan looks at the regional demographics of the secondary sports in each country and examines the difficulty each have in cracking opposing markets.
Football is the undisputed king in England and Germany. Both possess leagues in the top five in average attendances in global team sports, with their second tiers by far and away the best attended in Football. For any sport looking to crack these markets, Football simply can’t be the target. Its power is too great. Cultural factors have seen the second-tier sports, particular in the traditional autumn-spring run of Football’s season, in each country develop wildly differently. In England Rugby Union and Rugby League* are the forces while Handball and Basketball fill the gap in Germany.
*The Super League in Rugby League has seen the season switch to a spring-autumn run but historically it built its market through the traditional autumn-spring format.
The way in which each sport has developed a market is remarkably similar, albeit more visually obvious in England than Germany. Let’s start with the former and look for similarities. (more…)
The long road is nearly over, we rejoin Kevin Burke for the penultimate leg of his journey in Chicago for a trip to Wrigley Field.
In 1994, we received the letter most Irish families receive at some time – long-lost American relations were coming over looking for the family left behind in the Aul Sod. After a couple of days in Dublin, which they spent speaking an almost impenetrable language involving phrases like “French fries” and “garbage disposal unit”, they continued on their tour of Ireland before heading home. 18 years later, having had no contact myself with them since, I had been told to wait outside the police station in Chicago’s Union Station, where I was to be the excuse for a fairly large-scale family re-union.
Meeting at the police station turns out not to be straightforward – Union Station is a big place, and there’s 600 murders a year in Chicago, so it has two police stations, and I’m at the wrong one. By now, however, I have the round-the-world traveller look down pat, and when John, my mum’s cousin, works out what’s likely happened and tries the other police station, I’m spotted fairly quickly and approached with a cautious “You’re clearly who I’m looking for but I’m going to look a right tit if you’re not” manner. I am who he thinks I am, however, and we’re soon headed into downtown Chicago. (more…)
The crowds were hardly fantastic, the locals didn’t really know it was going on, yet for three days London was unquestionably the capital of European Basketball. Emmet Ryan on the Euroleague Final Four and Nike International Junior Tournament (NIJT).
The Olympic redevelopment mustn’t have hit this part of Greenwich. Walking two miles from Blackheath to the London Soccer Dome, it was near impossible to find a place to grab breakfast. A string of cafés were closed along with plenty of other local businesses. Tesco Express sufficed in a pinch. The morning before Barcelona played Real Madrid in the Final Four, their junior team had a must-win game against OKK Spar Sarajevo in the NIJT. Run on a round-robin basis with two groups of four, the tournament would culminate in the O2 on Sunday. Size was on the Bosnians side and their cause was aided further by injury to Mario Hezonja, a prospect for the 2014 NBA Draft who has already performed well in Spain’s second tier of adult play. The smallest man on the court however was having none of it. Pau Cami, a 161cm back-up point guard kept making things happen. His shooting mechanics were hindered by his lack of height, having a slow and more forced release compared to his taller counterparts. Cami lacked neither speed nor vision, not to mention some team-mates aware of his shortcomings. Twice in the final quarter he missed lay-ups, both shots however were put in for put-back dunks. An alley-oop from the three-point line gave the Catalans some fire and they squeezed home. (more…)
In response to Malcolm Gladwell’s recent argument in favour of using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) in cycling, Emmet Ryan looks at the areas Gladwell glossed over or ignored and explains why the human body isn’t like a Formula 1 car.
Really, this again. The pro-PEDs movement has had its champions in the mainstream media in the recent past, most notably Brent Musberger, but a voice as respected as Malcolm Gladwell backing them seems a stretch. Watch the video below of Gladwell comparing Tour de France cyclists to Formula 1 cars.
Comparisons between eras are futile and often detract from the larger point. On the 30th anniversary of Aberdeen’s European Cup Winner’s Cup Final triumph, Emmet Ryan reflects on the first place where Alex Ferguson performed miracles.
‘Stand Free wherever you may be,
We are the famous Aberdeen,
We don’t give a fuck
whoever you may be,
We are the famous Aberdeen’
It’s gotten annoying. Feeling the need to say “yes this actually happened” every time I post a link to Aberdeen’s 2-1 win over Real Madrid in the 1983 European Cup Winners Cup Final. Over a decade before Alan Hansen said “you’ll never win anything with kids”, Alex Ferguson took a team with the average age of 23 to European glory. The Gothenburg Greats certainly began as a Cinderella story but by the time they took the field on that soaking wet night*, they had already dismissed Bayern Munich on route and collected a SPL title and the Scottish Cup under Ferguson before beginning this European odyssey.
*The weather was so bad that the pitch was covered with a tarpaulin before the game and, despite looking horrible on video, was passed fit to play. (more…)
Tomorrow FC Barcelona aims to reach its fourth European semi-final of the season but there’s a good chance most of you haven’t even heard of the sport they are playing. Emmet Ryan takes you inside the world of Rink Hockey, where players on wheels wield sticks.
While at a Basketball game at Palau Blaugrana last month, ads kept coming up for other events in the arena. Barcelona’s place as a Handball power in Europe was well known but what on earth was ‘La màgia d’Hoquei’. Rink Hockey, the formal name of the roller-skate game, began life in England but is well and truly a Mediterranean game. Spain have won 18 world titles between them, with clubs from the former claiming every European League title since 1992 save for Follonica, of Italy, winning in 2006.
On Saturday Barcelona look to take another step towards a 20th crown in the continent’s top competition. With 24 Spanish titles, the OK Liga, to their name as well the Blaugrana are the premier name in the sport. The road to the Final Four however couldn’t be tougher. Liceo la Coruna, winners of the last two European League titles and league leaders in OK Liga, stand in their way. The Galician club stopped Barcelona’s quest for their 20th crown in last year’s final and I watched this game to gain a better understanding of the sport. (more…)
In the first of our columns looking back on the career of Alex Ferguson, Henry Bridge gives his take on the extent of his legacy at Old Trafford.
Nothing lasts forever. But we thought Alex Ferguson might. He never wanted to finish early. We thought they’d have to carry him out of Old Trafford in a box, no doubt berating the pall-bearers from inside and protesting his time was certainly not up. But we were wrong. Finally, 1600-odd games and 13 titles later, he’s finally called it a day.
Deep down, we knew this day would come. But it’s like when an elderly relative dies, after a year or two of fighting cancer: though we knew it was inevitable sooner or later, nothing prepares you for the shock and the reality of life without them. That sense of bewilderment, loss and mild anxiety, those discussions, in numbed tones, recalling happier moments past, that is where Manchester United fans have been these last couple of days.
My last article on this site was about Margaret Thatcher, in the course of which I argued that, regardless of her politics, Margaret Thatcher had to be regarded as great, because of the way she changed completely the world we live in. In a similar way is Ferguson a great manager. Managers aplenty there are who have transformed their clubs – Shankly, Clough, Wenger spring to mind – but few if any have transformed football beyond their clubs the way Ferguson has. (more…)
It began with a disagreement over who did what to support a school. It’s now turned into a case of a parliamentary assistant yanking a bunch of papers from a shop. Emmet Ryan on how 36.6 per cent of the Lucan Gazette’s print run went missing and why this matters to all of us.
First the facts, then the photo, then the part where I ask “What were they thinking?”
The Lucan Gazette carried a front page article over a row between Derek Keating TD and school Principal Tomás Ó Dulaing. Keating claimed he had “initiated and delivered” an extension to Griffeen Valley Educate Together School. Ó Dulaing claimed the TD had no involvement. So far, nothing really for anyone outside of that area to get worked up about.
Keating’s parliamentary assistant Tommy Morris was then caught on camera removing a stack of papers with this story from a Lucan shop, leading to this headline in the latest edition of the Gazette. More than a stack has gone missing. Of the 8,200 run, 3,000 copies of the Gazette are unaccounted for. Keating’s office told the Gazette that the stack in question had been dumped in a nearby bin. The Gazette has, at the time of this being posted, yet to receive any complaints from South Dublin County Council about dumping newspapers in one of their bins. Nor had they received an apology from Keating or Morris, yes I asked, although Keating did tell the paper that an internal investigation was under way. The Gazette also issued a statement on the matter. Here’s what they said: (more…)
With the Euroleague Final Four taking place in London this weekend, Emmet Ryan spoke to Simon Jatsch of in-the-game.org. Jatsch’s site provides comprehensive statistical analysis of every team in player in Europe’s top club Basketball competition. Ahead of this season’s show-piece event, Jatsch takes us behind the numbers for all the Final Four participants and breaks down the key battles to look for in the semi-finals on Friday. Click play below to listen.
Galway topped Cork to win their second All-Ireland Under 21 title in three years in a most unusual game in the Gaelic Grounds. Emmet Ryan breaks down the tactical shifts that saw a high-scoring affair finish with 14 scoreless minutes.
Galway press the left Both sides started with a heavy emphasis on kick-passing and kept up this approach for the full hour. How and where they targeted however varied substantially. Through the first 30 minutes, Galway’s attacking emphasis came on the left flank. The Tribesmen sought to develop play to midfield through passing before cutting to the left side. A mix of diagonal runs and passes pushed their emphasis to this side and they didn’t always cut in. Ian Burke in particular stood out as a player happy to finish from the flank, being left open to shoot from ostensibly difficult positions. With a strong wind and space on his side, the disadvantage of Burke’s angle was substantially reduced.
The other point of attack for Galway came from midfield. Fiontáin Ó Curraoin sought to create straight from kickouts. Once the midfielder won primary possession he sought an outlet. The Tribesmen didn’t get many scores from this approach, with Cathal Mulryan’s open shot from in front of the uprights the lone point they managed from it in the first half. What Ó Curraoin’s dominance did achieve was more about spacing. By keeping the central channel active, Galway forced Cork’s defence to spread out and not commit heavily to the left flank which proved so productive for the Tribesmen. (more…)
Tactics Not Passion, the book looks at the strategies that defined Gaelic Football over the last year. It's available in paperback from Original Writing and as an e-book from amazon.com, iBooks and most other online stores.