Yes minister, there seems to be a football match on - Business - News - The Independent

Yes minister, there seems to be a football match on

City Diary

The progress of England into the semi-finals of Euro 96 today has caught a lot of people on the hop. Jeremy Hanley, Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has been forced to postpone his drinks party this evening.

The FO says: "We are sure that you will understand this decision, which by necessity had to be taken at short notice, and hope that it has not caused you any inconvenience." How very diplomatic. Perhaps it was wishful thinking on behalf of the FO that there would be no confrontation with Germany.

Or perhaps they were being just plain unpatriotic in discounting the possibility of England's success? Certainly the organisers of a 1,000- strong fund managers' conference in the Albert Hall today must feel a mite silly. The day culminates with the Fund Manager of the Year awards, and the delegates sit down for dinner at 8 o'clock - half an hour after kick-off.

The publishers of Investment Week, which have organised the awards, have accepted their fate and installed a series of giant screens around the hall, each measuring 21 feet by 21 feet, on which the match will be screened. It brings a whole new meaning to "TV dinners".

There's a wicked joke running around Woolwich Building Society at the moment: whenever the Woolwich's head of corporate affairs, David Blake, sends out an e-mail to the 400 branches and head office staff, precisely the opposite of the message is about to happen.

Apparently, Mr Blake established this unenviable reputation when he messaged employees that Woolwich would definitely not be converting to plc status - two weeks before it announced the float. Now if we can just get him to forecast a Germany win ...

While the nation sits stupefied in front of the telly, swigging from cans and dreading another penalty shoot-out or more plucky Brits at Wimbledon, eight teams from the City are off to get some fresh air. The Wooden Spoon Society's Four Peaks Challenge is upon us.

The teams of a driver and three runners have to scale four peaks in 48 hours - Ben Nevis in Scotland, Scafell Pike in England, Snowdon in Wales and Carantouhill in Ireland - totalling 14,000 feet.

Reuters has two teams, one of which got off to a flying start on a recent practice run. Driver Helen Lofthouse managed to get done for speeding and get a parking ticket. Stick to the telly, Helen.

Has Oftel been caught offside? The Government is soon to decide whether to accept the telecoms regulator's linked proposals - an inflation-based price control for BT coupled with new regulatory powers for Oftel to act against anti-competitive behaviour.

BT accepts the price idea but wants competitive issues to stay with the OFT.

Lord Marsh, in a quick one-two in the Lords, has followed up a question on the status of Oftel's plans with a supplementary on whether the Government could come up with some compromise.

Lords Peston, Ezra, Tebbit and Hooson, in defensive back-line, have supported Lord Marsh and wrongfooted Oftel by arguing that its proposed anti-competitive powers allow no right of appeal.

The Government has now gone back to the drawing board. One insider muses: "The problem with Oftel is that it is not always certain if it is player or referee."

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