Football Diary:Labour of love spurned

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Do sport and politics mix? Not easily, to judge from the experience of one labour councillor. Gerry Riley, chairman of Bolton's Leisure Services Committee, was desperate to watch his beloved Wanderers take on Norwich City in the Coca-Cola Cup quar ter-finals on Wednesday, but he and fellow fans on the committee had a problem in the form of a committee meeting starting at 5.30pm. Riley cracked the whip, insisting that there be no "filibustering" or "delaying tactics" (perish the thought that politi ciansshould do such things) so that the meeting would finish in time for the kick-off at Burnden Park. A spirit of co-operation prevailed and he was able to blow the final whistle in time. What he hadn't bargained for, though, was the "sold out" sign at the stadium. "It was a terrible shame to miss the match but I'll definitely make sure I'm there at the semi-final," Riley said. Carried unanimously?

*** The Home Secretary, Michael Howard, has inadvertently given a lift to sporting spirit at Channings Wood Prison while attempting to make life tougher for inmates. Howard's moves to restrict the number of prisoners allowed on day release at any one time could have scuppered their football team's chance of winning the Fourth Division of the Mod-Dec South Devon League. The new policy meant the team, like most prison sides, would not be able to play away games, so clubs in the league were balloted on whether the prison should be allowed to play all its games at home. Ian Young, the prison's PE teacher, said: "They voted in favour of us being able to carry on. For us, it's not the winning that matters. Our objective is to have links with the community - that's the most important thing."

*** Foreign imports can be a controversial issue almost anywhere in the European game, but usually the subject of contention is a player. This weekend, however, there is a twist - the problem concerns referees. Israelis and Czechs arrived in Cyprus yesterday to officiate in weekend games after local referees went on strike in protest at hooligan attacks on them. The Cyprus FA could not persuade the referees to call off the action, and went ahead with importing replacements.

Some referees have been punched and kicked after games and have had their cars smashed. "We simply want strict action taken against fans, club officials, and players who attack referees," the referees' spokesman, Christos Skapoulis, said. The fine for a fan punching a match official tends to be about £65.

*** Scottish matches make a welcome addition to satellite television coverage of football. The intro spares no cliche in ensuring that viewers know they are being transported north of the border, right down to the bagpipes, but not the goal sequences. It's a case of spot the Scot as the likes of Hateley, Huistra and Laudrup rattle the back of the net. Still, the goalkeepers are Scottish.

*** The air of resignation in the North-east is not confined to the Newcastle area. When news that the new year holiday match at Swindon was off reached some travelling Sunderland supporters, their coach was in Yorkshire. Unwilling to waste the day, the fans voted on where to go instead: Huddersfield, to see the new stadium (a sore point with the Roker faithful), or Sheffield Wednesday. "In the end Hillsborough got the nod," said Billy Simmons, a long-serving member of the supporters' club. "Af ter all,we don't know when we'll next be watching Premiership football."

A few turns of the potter's wheel generated a Wild Turkey-winning Chinaware XI for Dr Andrew Paulson, of Cambridge.


NEXT WEEK: Given the wild transfer action at sale time, a Real Bargain XI. Entries to: Team Spirit, Sports Desk, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL.