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The country life

There has been a significant shift in the ownership of Scottish estates in recent years with a move from people buying them to enjoy their retirement, to wealthy individuals, often from overseas, who are attracted to the sports on offer. In the last year buyers spent around £54 million on shooting and fishing properties, with a large interest from Scandinavia. Experts even believe that Scots estates are becoming more attractive as prices for property in London rocket.

Although only five or six estates with sought-after grouse shooting or salmon fishing are sold each year, there has been no sign that the recent financial crisis has slowed the market. One estate renowned for its grouse shooting sold for almost £20 million this year, with two properties selling for between £8 and £10 million. The total worth of the estate market this year was up £10 million this year.

“The market for sporting estates is now dominated by high net worth individuals seeking good quality sport in beautiful …

Cash before Nature

Socialist Courier has reported how the huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’ lobby has had a devastating effect on Scotland’s natural wild-life by slaughtering any threat to their grouse. It now transpires that they are also guilty of over-stocking deer herds to the point that they and the environment suffer.

Scotland’s sporting estates must be forced to cull thousands of deer, the country’s most powerful environmental groups have told MSPs. Deer numbers had spiralled and they were damaging the country’s moorland, peatland and “fragile populations” of other native species like capercaillie. The group, the membership of which includes the National Trust for Scotland, RSPB Scotland and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, said a voluntary code of conduct has failed to tackle the scourge. But the group suggested that landowners were unwilling to take action because the value of Highland sporting estates is partly based on “the number of sporting stags available to shoot”.

The group argued e…

Blood Sports

Former Scotland internationalist Rory Lamont has lifted the lid on rugby players “cheating” concussion protocols and insisted many well-known figures are knowingly taking the field with head injuries. When Lamont started pro rugby concussion brought a mandatory three-week lay-off, but that was argued, largely by coaches, to be over-prescriptive in cases of minor concussion. Coaches flouted it in any case by pretending concussion had not occurred.

The 30-year-old retired last month after a succession of injuries, undergoing 16 operations and suffering “at least six or seven clean knock-outs” in games, and many more what he terms “minor concussions”. He explained “... there is a high risk of me developing neurological issues associated with the early stages of ‘Parkinson’s Disease’. But what’s done is done...Once you start losing your mind there’s no coming back from it. You can be an alcoholic and have cirrhosis of the liver, and get a new liver and come off the booze, but there’s no …

socialist sport?

The Gaelic Athletic Association in Ireland was founded in 1884 with now over 1 million members in 2,600 clubs .

Its players are amateurs, the grass roots are as important as the top echelons, and the majority of big games remain on free-to-air TV. And unlike football, clubs cannot be bought and sold and there are no private club owners. On the administrative side, club members elect an executive committee to carry out the running of the club on an annual basis. At the higher echelons of the GAA, such members must vacate their post after four years.

But Dr David Hassan of the University of Ulster denies that running the game with volunteers at grass-roots level means off-field activities are also "amateur". "At a community level, local competent professional people who are sympathetic to the GAA often do administrative jobs, such as a local accountant becoming club treasurer."

"The clubs and games are based in the community and operate on behalf of those peop…

A football working class hero

Organised sport was originally for the elite with its roots in the English public schools. But taking advantage of the free-time offered by the eight-hour day, workers began to democratize games like soccer and rugby. We enjoyed sport as passive spectators and as active participants. Who can blame someone for enjoying leisure on a day off?

Before long, major social democratic parties across Europe were using sporting clubs and festivals to construct working-class identity and promote solidarity. By 1928, German sports societies had more than two million members, most of whom were affiliated with the Social Democratic Party. These clubs offered escape and a sense of belonging to the masses. Thousands hiked and learned to swim, freeing themselves, however fleetingly, from the grinding indignity of wage slavery. In Austria, during the Red Vienna period (1918-1934), a new stadium was built to host a “Workers’ Olympiad,” which welcomed participants from across the world—a testament to the…

Boycott Trumps

Bill Elliott, editor-at-large of Golf Monthly (readership around 500,000) and chairman of the Association of Golf Writers, is calling for a boycott of Donald Trump’s Scottish course.

Elliot explains" it was impossible not to be shocked by the tactics used to try to intimidate a few local residents who refused to sell their homes. This intimidation apparently goes on.”

Aberdeenshire farmer Michael Forbes, a neighbour and campaigner against the golf course, recently received the Top Scot prize at the Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland ceremony.

Socialist Courier hopes that the vulture Trump gets a birdie, to use the golfing term, for his business venture - a dead duck.

We are all Spartacus - political football

Celtic come face to face with Spartak in the Champions League.  Moscow is the home of Spartak as well as Dynamo, CSKA, Torpedo-Luzhniki, Lokomotiv and Torpedo-ZIL but historically, the main Moscow grudge derby-match is between Spartak and Dynamo

Sport has always had a political dimension, especially football.

In the early days of Soviet football many government agencies such as the police, army and railroads created their own clubs. So many statesmen saw in the wins of their teams the superiority over the opponents patronizing other teams. Almost all the teams had such kind of patrons such as  CSKA – The Red Army team. Dynamo Moscow were a creation of the Interior Ministry, then essentially a euphemism for the secret police. The de facto founder of Dynamo was Felix Dzerzhinsky, the first head of the OGPU (forerunner to the KGB). Spartak were created as an independent football team, with no affiliations to one or other part of the state machine and considered to be the "people'…

The Capitalist Game

The biggest football story recently has been the financial collapse of  Rangers and now a similar impending fate for Hearts. This is not just a sporting story but involves many of the failings that have been played out in the wider economy. Corporate failure, greed, arrogance, criminality and cheating are included in the list of accusations.

Jock Stein said that “football without fans is nothing”. Capitalist ideology tells us that the consumer is king and that the decisions of millions of consumers decide what production takes place. If companies fail it is because they don’t sell goods or services that people want or at a price they are prepared to pay. There is just enough truth in this to give it the credibility to make it widely accepted. What it leaves out, among other things, is that production also has to make a profit and that indeed this is the main reason any production takes place at all. Given the ownership of the means of production in the hands of only one group of peopl…

Football Capitalism

Rangers only narrowly escaped extinction and now bankruptcy is the prospect facing current Scottish Cup holders Heart of Midlothian. The Jambos have been issued with a winding up order from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs over an unpaid £450,000 tax bill. Hearts supporters have been urged to find £2m to help the Edinburgh club survive until the summer. The club has already faced disciplinary action from the Scottish Premier League over its failure to pay some players and coaching staff which is a breach of the leagues rules. That breach led to the SPL side being hit with a player signing embargo.

Now the fans are  being asked to pay to keep their club afloat, having already paid for their season tickets, their strips and scarves. Hearts fans are being bled dry.

 Former Hearts captain Paul Hartley has accused Vladimir Romanov of “holding a gun to fans’ heads” after the stricken club yesterday begged for a financial lifeline from their followers. Hartley insists owner Romanov has unfa…

trumped by the capitalist

Donald Trump opened his new £100m golf course. Trump had flown into Aberdeen on a private jet emblazoned in gold with the Trump brand.

The course is built across a stretch of stunning land overlooking the North Sea, some of which had been designated a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) because of the way the dunes moved northwards over time. Trump claims to have stabilised the land to create the "greatest golf course in the world". The Golf Environment Organisation, which vets courses and is backed by the European Tour, complained of the course's "considerable negative impact on what was one of the UK's most valuable mobile sand dune systems".

Trump denying there were any protesters, declaring after the first nine holes: "The environmentalists love what I have done." A second question about the environmental impact saw the billionaire shepherded by an aide away from the media and towards the VIP refreshment tent.

Later Trump said "Not…

The killing fields - something to grouse about

There is an old Gaelic saying  that "everyone has a right to a deer from the hill, a tree from the forest, and a salmon from the river" yet that salmon that yesterday was miles from the land is instantly claimed by the landlord the moment it reaches the shore.

 The image of the Scottish Highlands as vast and empty and full of sheep is misleading. The Highlands were once heavily populated. It is estimated that 85-90% of the population were forcibly cleared from the land. There exists a delusion widely held in Scotland that the Highlands are a paradise in a state of natural grace, which might more properly be held in public ownership. The Scots must be told again and again until they start to believe it, that their hills are in reality intensively and expensively managed by private landowners

The Glorious Twelfth of August is the start of the red grouse shooting season. Scotland’s sporting estates have seen their profits soar after massively hiking the fees they charge for shoo…

United Fans

For some on the Left, sport is little more than a way to enforce hegemony and control on the duped masses, another opium for the people to divert their attentions from their social problems and delay the revolution.

Following football is expensive, the games less competitive (between 1985-95, 13 different clubs finished in the top three of the , exactly the same number as in the previous decade and the decade before that. In 1995-2005 years, that figure was just six) and the matches less atmospheric than ever in all-seated stadiums with traditional albeit bigoted songs outlawed. So why do supporters still love it?

The identification with a team, its colours, and history involves football’s most direct appeal to the gut. The tribalism displayed by a community of fans has an almost immeasurable force. It creates instant rivalries where none may have previously existed. For a few hours supporters inhabit a place where only one identity is acceptable: to be a Rangers or Celtic or Aberdeen f…

Buying and selling people

Celtic have the highest player transfer outlay in the last five years, with a spend of just over £35 million, closely followed by Rangers who have spent around £33 million in the same period. Coming in at a poor third is Hearts who spent almost £3 million.

The teams that are making money from selling their players?

Celtic again leading the way with £35,574,000. Rangers have made sales of just over £20 million. Here is where Hibernian really punch above their weight. The Easter Road side have sold just over £16 million of players in five years and Hearts also sold well, £14 million. So the profits for Hibs have been almost £15million and for Hearts £11 million.

Almost every club in the division has turned a modest profit with the wheeling and dealing of player sales. Hibernian's business model is so focused on bringing through youth players and moving them on for healthy fees. It appears that Scottish football is all about the search of young, marketable talent. Celtic’s transfer bal…

The Guardians of the Countryside ?

Eggs are crushed, chicks trampled, nests smashed, baits poisoned, birds trapped and shot – and all to line the pockets of the landowners. Birds of prey are being routinely killed to protect the sporting estates of landowners – and perpetrators have tried to cover up evidence of their crimes, according to the Herald.

An authoritative new report for Government advisers shows thousands of rare and beautiful hen harriers are being illegally persecuted across huge swathes of the country. But publication of the report has been blocked by the landowning lobby. Another expert study, due to be unveiled in the next few weeks, suggests as many as 50 golden eagles are being illegally poisoned, shot or trapped every year in Scotland. This is far higher than previously suspected.

"It is the grouse industry that is responsible. They simply won’t tolerate birds of prey on grouse moors.” said Mark Rafferty, a former police officer who now investigates wildlife crime for the Scottish Soc…

Anyone for Tennis ?- The physical price of fame

A study of 33 young elite players aged between 16 and 23 at a national tennis centre, who represent Britain's best hope for a future Wimbledon winner, found 28 of them had damaged spines. Nine players had stress fractures. Some of the damage was irreparable.

Far from improving fitness, the game could leave them seriously damaged. The demands of modern tennis are so extreme and the competition so intense that young players in training face a high risk of fractures, slipped discs and damaged joints, researchers for the Lawn Tennis Association say. The increased speed and types of strokes used in tennis all boost wear and tear on the lower back.

"...These players have backs like 50-year-olds, not 16-year-olds." - David Connel, of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital