Magazine article The Spectator

Euro 2000 Is Wim's Idea of a Beautiful Game but the Brits Play by Different Rules

Magazine article The Spectator

Euro 2000 Is Wim's Idea of a Beautiful Game but the Brits Play by Different Rules

Article excerpt

Britain faces exclusion today as the bars and restaurants of Brussels clean up after the week of disorder which has left an indelible mark on Euro 2000. `They are spoiling our beautiful game,' says white-haired, loquacious Dutch grandfather Wim Duisenberg. `We are not used to these currency hooligans.' He had helped to launch Euro 1999 with champagne and balloons and, in spite of an embarrassing sequence of own goals, continues to regard it as a technical success. He sees his tournament as essentially friendly, a Europe-wide series of international currency fixtures, so called because the score-lines are fixed in advance, thus avoiding uncertainty. The British, he says, seem to play by different rules. There is a long tradition of market hooliganism among the City of London's dreaded Chaps in Red Braces. At the advent of Euro 2000, people who are holding down respectable weekday jobs - merchant bankers, airline chairmen, economists, cabinet ministers - take sides and start fights. Rival fan clubs like the Red Robins and the Grey Gordons have to be kept apart. For this week's game in Fiera they booked separate aircraft and, when the flights were consolidated, a barbed-wire partition was quickly installed between club class and steerage. Warned that he might be barred from overseas tournaments, a fan of the the Grey Gordon said that in that case he would send Melanie Johnson. That would show them. He had spent enough time being lectured by foreigners with much to learn from him and little to teach him. He has laid down his famous five tests for joining the Euro league, and maintains that, as the referee, his decisions is final, but he may find that the league's refs have ideas and red cards of their own. Indeed, to be excluded would be the best result for Britain.

Red Robins, Grey Gordons

THE Fiera game was a triumph for the Grey Gordons, not only over their nominal opponents, but over the Red Robins. With a fine show of sustained awkwardness, culminating in a last-minute switching of blame to the Austrians, the Treasury has seen off Europe's threatened withholding tax, which would have driven the international markets in money and capital out of London and into friendlier climes. It is a score over the Foreign Office, which approached this tax in its usual spirit of give and - er, what was the other thing, Algy? The tax that now threatens London's competitiveness is stamp duty, which is levied at the highest rate in the developed world, but the markets may have to live with it or work round it. There are limits to any chancellor's political capital and to a New Labour chancellor's willingness to spend it on the City.

Last orders, stout fellows

THE British beerage found its laureate in Calverley:

0 beer! 0 Hodgson, Guinness, Allsopp, Bass!

Names that should be on every infant's tongue....

So they were, until a Conservative government rounded on its most faithful supporters and made them choose between brewing beer and owning pubs. They chose the pubs. Allsopp is buried somewhere under Allied Domecq, last orders have long since been called for. …

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