"This is not a joke product," Paul Coles, Coventry's retail operations controller, said. "We have been very careful to make sure that the product passes all statutory standards," he added. "We are confident of considerable demand."
The Sky Blues prophylactics go on sale this afternoon, at pounds 2 for a packet of two, at Highfield Road, where Gordon Strachan's side entertain West Ham (Is it really going to be so dull as to merit so extreme a diversion?) and at two local Safeway stores. "Clubs historically have traversed this area and the sticking point has been whether the idea will be taken seriously," Damon Harrison, of the manufacturing company, Vendetta, said. He hopes that local pubs and clubs will also come to appreciate the need for his products and start stocking them soon. "The club were happy as long as they [the condoms] stood up alongside any other brand," Harrison added.
Buyers not only get two chances to score for their money, so to speak, but a branded box and a fixture list for the season. Never before has "Bradford away could be good" taken on such a romantic meaning.
DID YOU know that every time you buy a replica shirt from a Premier League side you're filling the coffers of Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea? Actually, every shirt you buy helps fill the coffers of all 20 League sides, not just your own. The League receives money from every shirt sold because it owns the intellectual property rights of every squad list, every player name and every player number. For every pounds 45 or whatever you pay, the League gets "a small royalty fee", according to spokeswoman.
Is that pounds 1, pounds 5, or pounds 10 then? How much could the price of shirts come down? "That's commercially sensitive information," the spokeswoman said, adding "It's not a lot and it goes back to the clubs."
The League is well-versed in the "commercially sensitive information" line. As The Sweeper revealed a few weeks ago, the Premier League is cashing in on an Internet football betting site while trying to distance itself from any involvement. Although the League's logo is still on show on the Golden Goals gambling web site and the League is being paid a fee for "licensing" the site, a League spokesman said that the site's owners would be reminded again to remove the logo. The League does not endorse the site, the spokesman said, merely makes money from allowing its fixture list (which is valuable intellectual property, of course) to be used. One presumes that the League will also make money from the fixture lists in the Coventry condoms. Another way to screw money from the fans, then.
THE ICELANDIC consortium that are putting together a bid to buy Second Division Stoke have unwittingly given the club's local rivals, Port Vale, the chance to ridicule them. "The money behind the [Icelandic] company stems originally from the Iceland Fertiliser Factory Ltd," wrote The Stoke Sentinel on the prospective owners. Which should only give new resonance to that old anthem: "You're crap and know you are..."
DERBY COUNTY'S Norwegian midfielder Lars Bohinen is taking to the information superhighway to find a new club after falling out with his manager, Jim Smith. "As from today manager Jim Smith has suspended me for one week and said that I will never play for Derby again," Bohinen declared on his personal website yesterday. "I am free to find a new club and I am open to suggestions. He [Smith] has done this because of an article I wrote about Derby's 5-0 defeat against Sunderland last weekend." Bohinen had apparently criticised his team on his website and the Bald Eagle took umbrage. "I have a week free and must use it to find a new club. Anybody interested?" wrote Bohinen. Potential employers who read Norwegian should head for the site (www.sportsprofiler.com/bohinen/) for more information.
BARNSLEY'S MANAGER, Dave Bassett, was bitten by a dog while out jogging last week. "Poor thing," said his players when he told them. "Is it dead?"
LEEDS FANS can look forward to another spot of diplomatic bridge building when Partizan Belgrade visit Elland Road this week in the Uefa Cup. Last week at the first leg, Partizan fans clutched their groins and yelled, for some reason: "Tony Blair". The Leeds fans countered warmly: "You're army's s**t and so's your team."
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Your chance to reclaim the game
THE TICKET system for Euro 2000 has already hit problems. Case Study One: One fan sent off a request to Euro 2000 for two tickets to each of six different matches. Money was deducted from a credit card for these matches, and a letter was sent saying tickets would be sent back in due course with the buyer's name on. This week the Euro 2000 organisers said no one will get into a match unless their tickets have their name on. Does this mean: (a) the buyer has two seats all to himself? (b) he can give a friend his other ticket? (c) he can sell the spare on the black market to a person claiming to be his friend? or (d) as for France 98, the organisers have no intention of checking tickets but just want to frighten a few individuals off rather than tackle the biggest touts who bulk buy off sponsors, national FAs and others with large allocations?
Case Study Two: Another fan sent off a request for about pounds 500 worth of tickets. He received no confirmation of the tickets he has been allocated but around pounds 200 is deducted from his credit card account. "It must be lost in the post," the Euro 2000 press office says. Fan Power knows of at least four others whose receipts were lost in the post. When the Euro 2000 ticket chaos happens - hundreds of thousands may be unsure where they stand -you heard it here first.
Football Supporters' Association: PO Box 11, Liverpool, L26 1XP. Telephone: 0151 737 2385. Web: www.fsa.org.uk
Coalition of Football Supporters: Telephone: 0113 237 4545. Web: www.cofs.co.uk
JOEY BEAUCHAMP: Oxford United's 28-year-old forward scored the only goal against Everton at Goodison in the Worthington Cup on Wednesday to secure a 2-1 aggregate win for his team.
"I have a love for the club and the area," he said afterwards, explaining why he's always been a United man at heart, despite brief dalliances elsewhere. A loan period at Swansea in 1992, a pounds 1m transfer to West Ham in 1994 (where he lasted two months and didn't play) and a season at Swindon in 1995 only confirmed for him that the grass isn't always greener away from his birthplace.
"My family lives in Oxford, all my friends. I've lived there all my life. Maybe I would move on if the club and circumstances was right, you never know. But I love it at Oxford. My ambition for Oxford before I pack in playing is to see the new stadium built. That hopefully will happen very soon."
Beauchamp started his career as a trainee at the Manor Ground in 1988 and the vast majority of his 330-plus appearances and 60-plus goals have been in their colours. A talismanic figure, his services have been sought through the years by several top-flight clubs but he has never settled elsewhere. One die-hard United fan, TV presenter Timmy Mallet, told The Sweeper last season than Joey only stays at the Manor Ground because of the sloping pitch. "He can't play anywhere else," Mallet said, adding that when the club tried to sell the player to settle debts, he failed a medical. Dedication indeed.
Do you have an unsung hero to recommend? A "one club for life" man perhaps? An octogenarian groundsman? A hospital radio team? A super tea lady? Let us know.
Found on t'Web: The Leagues of Europe.
THE FINAL whistle carries the league tables, results, fixtures and leading scorers from the top divisions in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and Scotland but not, when we visited yesterday, England, even though the Premiership is on the menu on the opening page. There is a chat forum for every Premiership club, however, which was working, plus a chat forum for each of the other countries. You'll find plenty of bile flowing between Read Madrid and Barcelona fans in the Spanish section and a fair amount of ill will between Spanish and Italian sides. There site also has extensive sections on the major European club and international competitions, with results and a weekly round-up of the action but that's the kind of service that is already well catered for at Uefa's own site (www.uefa.com). One of the Final Whistle's strengths is a reasonable archive of information on just about every major tournament in the world, from the African Nations Cup to the Women's World Cup to the Youth World Championships, dating back to 1997. The site's overall design is no frills and simple to use.
Read Of The Week
THE FINAL SCORE by Brian Moore; Hodder and Stoughton, hardback, pounds 17.99
HAVING HUNG up his microphone after commentating on the 1998 World Cup finals, Brian Moore looks back over his distinguished career. The result is pretty much as you'd expect - loads of anecdotes, some of which are funny, and stories of some of the greats he came into contact with and key matches he covered.
It is interesting to note that the subtitle of the book is "Autobiography of the Voice of Football" - another salvo in a long-running war? - but the blurb on the inside dust jacket describes him, perhaps more accurately, as "ITV's Voice of Football." Larded with tales of back-room disputes, on-air catastrophes and the challenges of curbing the sometimes chaotic World Cup panels, it makes an intriguing, if somewhat lightweight, mix.
Courtesy of Sportspages Bookshops, 94-96 Charing Cross Road, London, 0171-240-9604; & St Ann's Square, Manchester, 0161-832-8530. Website: www.sportspages.co.uk
The Price Is Right
WHEN YOU are getting at least 311/2-1 (draws treble at minimum individual odds of 11-5) about a 26-1 chance (the natural odds for a draws treble in three games between evenly matched teams) every week, you won't win often but you can't lose in the long run - as long as you keep your nerve, even when your strike rate is none out of 16. The Price Is Right is heading for overdraft facility territory, but one treble will take us into profit. This week, Coventry may find it hard to do more than hold the classier visitors West Ham to a draw, likewise Leicester, who entertain Aston Villa, and Wimbledon, who may also be held to a draw by Tottenham.
WIN pounds 100 A WEEK TREBLE CHANCE
pounds 3 treble with Coral, William Hill, Ladbrokes or Stanley: Coventry to draw with West Ham (11-5); Leicester to draw with Aston Villa (11-5) and Wimbledon to draw with Tottenham (9-4).
OPENING BANK: pounds 100.
CURRENT KITTY: pounds 40.
BALANCE: -pounds 60.
TODAY'S BET: pounds 3 STAKED.
Sign Of The Times
From The Sweeper's autograph collection from the late 1970s and early '80s. Who are they?
THIS PAIR played together in the North-west at a time when their Red rivals were winning everything. One went on to management, the other to play at Swansea, Coventry, Lincoln and Newport.
Answers next week. Last week: Brighton's Steve Foster and Mark Lawrenson.
... how the BBC could lure Des back `home.'
Tell him Motty's pining.
Promise him that all the stops will be pulled out to recruit Dav-eed to the Beeb.
Start a rumour that Jimmy Hill is on his way to ITV as a "witty asides" scriptwriter.
Show him a picture of the greying Gary "you will be Des" Lineker. This should make him realise what pressure is now on Gary's shoulders.
Promise to show some live football.
For next week, the Sweeper invites you to imagine how Tony "Toon" Blair can convince the people he's a real fan and not a just vote-hunting glory seeker. Addresses as above.