Tom Peck: Time for corporate hilarity to play a central role in sport

VIP dining on the golf green is surely the next sensible step
  • @tompeck

So thrillingly twee were the pictures of Phil Mickelson, forced to wade through the champagne-swilling, canapé-chomping mêlée before chipping his wayward ball off the floor of the hospitality pavilion at last weekend’s FedEx Cup, that this column hopes they herald the sporting revolution they deserve.

If you’ve not seen it, get to YouTube, for it was a moment of pure magic. So much so that he did it again the next day. The great man, suddenly and accidentally united for a fleeting moment with all the half-cut lawyers, accountants and middle managers who make 21st-century sport the great spectacle it is. The first chap he encounters on entry hilariously offers him a beer. That’s one for the grandkids.

Until now, the fun, pissed-up, “How many points do you get for a goal, Hugo?” side of corporate sporting entertainment has been unfairly confined to its pavilions and boxes, and not taking the central role its generosity demands. Mickelson has shown it’s time for change.

There is no compelling reason why the green itself couldn’t be a hospitality area. Properly weighting a putt to allow for its safe passage in and out of a large puddle of Veuve Clicquot is the sort of challenge modern golfers need. And imagine the fun of seeing the top professionals gamely letting the company chairman roll in a three-incher before posing for pictures.

The opportunities extend everywhere. In football, so rarely is the space in the goalmouth itself put to functional use. That’s prime real estate. This column throws its weight behind a new campaign for in-net VIP dining. Special rock star-style lifts inside the goal would bring up waiters with the fish course. As the action unfolds inside the penalty box, the whole giddy experience would be made all the more exciting by the frisson that comes only from knowing that the trophy wife could be entirely wiped out at any moment by a 40-yard Ronaldo piledriver.

It might be argued that these once-in-a-lifetime experiential packages might obscure the view from the cheap seats, but that idea clings to a long-dead reality that there are any cheap seats at all. If you’re still sitting way back in the stands, and not in the shadow of Wojciech Szczesny’s sweaty towel, it’s simply your fault for not having made partner. Now go home and work harder.


Let Nico Dastardly loose  to play Robot Wars for real

If only Formula One bosses had known, when they made this season’s final grand prix a double-points race in order to inject some much needed excitement, that they would have on their hands the most exciting season in decades.

Come the weekend, the grown-ups no longer need indulge the kids by watching Wacky Races. Just stick the real thing on.

Of course, this column wouldn’t dare to have a view on whether Nico “Dastardly” Rosberg’s puncturing of his team-mate Lewis “Penelope Pitstop” Hamilton’s tyre last weekend, or blocking off his flying lap in Monaco was done deliberately or not. What it strongly feels, however, is that it shouldn’t matter.

Formula One doesn’t need double points. What it clearly needs is legalised sabotage. The evidence overwhelmingly shows that the closer motor sport comes to Super Mario Kart the more everyone likes it, so just let the bad times roll.

When Hamilton’s Mercedes emerges from the garage at Monza next weekend, this column firmly hopes to see a giant hydraulic flipper newly attached to its front wing, modelled on the vicious, somersaulting dustpan that dominated the early years of Robot Wars, and capable of dispatching any dawdling Saubers clean over the safety barriers and into the excited crowd at the push of a button.

Rosberg, meanwhile, will have his rear axle loaded up with banana skins that can be gently lowered on to the track as his nemesis approaches.

All right, so there may be a temporary rise in fatalities while the new tactics work themselves out, but it will at least mean the end of this enforced, torturous “it-was-an-accident” diplomacy. And at race end, all the drivers can reunite in A&E and have a good old laugh about it all, like the rugby players of old.

Are you listening, Bernie? There are new audiences to capture. And, with Robot Wars sadly gone, Craig Charles is almost certainly still available.


High price of impersonating a Chelsea footballer

Another week, another footballer in court. This time it was Ravel Morrison, next week it will be someone else. This column wonders why law schools don’t offer specialist degrees in football advocacy, with modules specialising in motoring offences, divorce, injunction applications and domestic violence.

That said, even armed with such expertise, last week’s case would have required a specialist. Two hundred years ago, it was, as is often repeated, a hanging offence to impersonate a Chelsea pensioner.

Impersonating a Chelsea footballer, and a minor one at that, is a rather more complicated affair. Poor Medi Abalimba, himself once a trainee at Derby, now has to wait until next month to learn the fate that awaits him for impersonating Chelsea’s Gaël Kakuta, a once promising midfielder now on loan at Rayo Vallecano, by running up a £5,000 bill in a Manchester nightclub in June, and also trying to spend a further £20,000 on clothes at the Trafford Centre.

Abalimba must surely expect the worst. He has previous. When an unpaid £26,000 “high quality champagne” bar bill in a West End nightclub landed him before the beak last June, Judge David Higgins could scarcely have been more withering, insisting the unpaid-for items be referred to as “high-value rather than high-quality”. In these transfer window times, football needs such clarity of thinking.