Tuesday, 11 October 2016

An Accidental Offside or Dummy Pass?

As the BBC reports:

“Thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money has been spent flying civil servants from Jersey to international rugby matches at Twickenham. The States spent £4,359 between November 2012 and February 2016.”

Senator Lyndon Farnham, sensing this was not a good time to put his head above the parapet, selected his second in command, Deputy Murray Norton. Poor Murray! I feel sorry for him because whenever he is making a statement, invariable it is when Lyndon Farnham wants to let someone else take the flack. Like a good World War I General, Major-General Lyndon lets Captain Murray charge out of the trenches, and defend the indefensible.

The excuse is pure “Yes Minister”. This was (we are told) a commercial proposition, with business meetings taking place at Twickenham. The fact that there were free tickets available obviously had nothing to do with it at all! It was a happy accident!

It reminds me very much of the excuses made in the series by a governor of the BBC regarding their use of special boxes for viewing sporting events.

Sir Humphrey: Then there's this extraordinary matter of boxes at Ascot, Wimbledon, Lords, Covent Garden.

BBC Chief Executive: Ah, yes, those are a technical requirement for the production and engineering staff.

Sir Humphrey: Reports from the Inland Revenue suggest that the production and engineering staff are all holding champagne glasses. And are all accompanied by their wives or......ladies of... equal distinction.And all bear a remarkable similarity to governors, directors and executives of the Corporation, and their friends.

In fact, High Net Worth individuals are far more likely to be found frequenting Ascot, Wimbledon, Lords, Covent Garden, so one wonders why on earth they should head off to Twickenham.

As a report notes: “The use of VIP packages is apparent in all Royal Ascot Hospitality and entertaining at Royal Ascot has always been very popular with corporate clients and high net worth individuals.”

And the Luxury Institute notes that among prestigious sporting fixtures for High Net Worth individuals, the Masters is the most exclusive sporting event in the world. They also rate two British events in the top three. And three of the top five events are golf events, although wealthy women rate tennis events
comparatively higher.

“Events rated (alphabetically): America's Cup (sailing), Australian Open (tennis), Belmont Stakes, Breeder's Cup, British Open Championship, Davis Cup, Formula One Auto Racing Series, French Open, Kentucky Derby, The Masters Golf Tournament, Monaco Grand Prix, PGA Championship, The Preakness, Ryder Cup, Tour De France, U.S. Open (golf), U.S. Open (tennis), Wimbledon, World Cup Finale (soccer), and the World Series of Poker”

Rugby doesn’t feature that highly!

Of course the really wonderful thing about this excuse about why they attend Rugby matches is that it is completely unverifiable: "Their remit is very clear... they go and find potential high net-worth individuals," says Deputy Norton, secure in the knowledge that no names of high net worth individuals can be revealed without permission, which invariably would not be forthcoming, and so there can be no proof that any statements made about getting them to Jersey can be falsified.

Sir Humphrey: Disprove it.
Jim Hacker: - I can't, obviously.
Sir Humphrey: - Exactly!
Jim Hacker:- Making it up?
Sir Humphrey: - Of course.
Jim Hacker:- Why?
Sir Humphrey: As an example of how to handle a select committee.

Unlike “Yes Minister”, the reason why they attend rugby matches might be true, but we don’t have any proof one way or the other, and PR puff from an Assistant Minister is unlikely to change people’s views, especially as two of the Civil Servants involved are not known for a frugality, where taxpayers money is concerned.

The suspicion remains, however unfairly, that this is a "perk of the job" which has now come to light, and been found out. The million dollar question is whether they will still continue to frequent Twickenham as they have done in the past. It would be interesting to revisit this territory in a year's time.

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