Alcohol, sport and discrimination

“A GAME OF NO HALVES”: one headline writer’s reaction this Wednesday to the news that the French city of Lens has announced a 24 hour public drinking ban when England play Wales in next month’s European Championships. This follows ugly scenes inside Hampden at the end of last weekend’s Scottish Cup Final, with a pitch invasion by thousands of victorious Hibs fans and accusations that opposition players from Rangers were assaulted following the final whistle. A question from the audience at last week’s Blizzard event at the Signet Library wanted the views of the panel as to why alcohol was not permitted at football matches. These events only served as a reminder of potent negative associations around alcohol and football that inevitably result in laws such as this unprecedented prohibition order in Lens. One member of the panel, writer and Guardian contributor Jonathan Wilson, turned the issue around and pondered why it is that some football fans regard alcohol as such an integral ingredient of the experience of attending a football match.

FRANCE WAS ALSO THE CENTRE OF ATTENTION this week following a dawn raid by French authorities on Google’s Paris HQ. 100 police officers, five magistrates, 25 computer experts and about 100 tax officials entered the US internet giant's premises at 5 am. The state financial prosecutor (PNF) said the searches relate to allegations of “aggravated financial fraud and organised laundering of aggravated financial fraud, following a complaint from the French tax authorities”. Investigations centre on whether Google Ireland Limited controls a permanent establishment in France and if, by not declaring activities conducted on French territory, it is guilty of non-payment of corporation tax and VAT. Google is accused of owing the French government £1.2 billion in unpaid taxes. Reports in the press allege the Californian tech giant is believed to have minimised reported profits and therefore tax liability in the UK, France, Italy and other major European markets by collecting advertising revenue through its Irish subsidiary.

FOOTBALL WAS NOT THE ONLY SPORT enduring negative publicity this week: the single-sex golf club policy continues to be publicly condemned, with Glasgow City Council – now official partner of Royal Troon for the Open in July – urging the Ayrshire golf club to “enter the modern world” and allow women to become members. If not, an R&A source told the press, the club will be stripped of its place on the Open rota, as Muirfield was last week. The East Lothian club is understood to be convening an extraordinary general meeting to consider the fallout from their narrow vote against admitting women on the same terms as men. The loss of major tournaments would lead to a decline in prestige – perhaps at that prospect all the members will finally take notice. Statistics suggest golf is in decline and golf clubs failing to attract younger members.  Certainly the Muirfield debacle has not helped the sport's reputation.

THE PARTICULAR CHALLENGES FACING WOMEN IN THE LEGAL PROFESSION were breathtakingly apparent in a peerlessly sour piece by Jan Moir in the Daily Mail, in which she savaged Amal Clooney for adopting “a knock-kneed girlish pose… a little girl in a party frock taking her grandpa out for the day”. Fellow lawyers took to Twitter indicating they were less than impressed with the article’s sexist undertones. Some poked fun at Moir’s sketchy grasp of the English legal system: “Clooney works for the right-on, left-wing Doughty Chambers in London, a set of self-regarding high achievers who like to call themselves human rights lawyers, but surely all law is human rights?” Human rights lawyer Shoaib Khan tweeted in response “So that’s Doughty St told then… by those well known human rights experts at the Daily Mail.” It all recalls the occasion a journalist asked Mrs Clooney, making her way into court, which designer she was wearing that day. “Ede and Ravenscroft” the barrister replied.

CORPORATE AND PENSIONS LAW GEEKS have had a bit of a festival this week, with the appearance before MPs of lawyers from Linklaters, Nabarro and Eversheds, accountants from PwC, KPMG, Deloitte and Grant Thornton, BHS pension fund trustees, Ian Grabiner, CEO of Arcadia, and his cousin, Lord Grabiner, Chairman of the Board of Traveta Investments (the offshore vehicle, owned by Sir Philip Green’s wife Tina, that owns Arcadia). The joint inquiry of the Work and Pensions and the Business Select Committees, in endeavouring to uncover the events that led to the collapse of BHS, found little illumination from these witnesses. It would be hard for some viewing the hearings to escape the impression that one or two of those present viewed the whole thing as below their pay grade. This is not a look that plays well in the world beyond the corporate boardroom. The lawyers in particular do not play well. The accountants, on the other hand, came across as wanting to help. On the other hand, the recordings are a gift for tutors in corporate law and lawyer-client professional privilege. Law students should be given the option of viewing the entire proceedings as an alternative to a term's worth of seminars.

LIFE AT THE SIGNET LIBRARY IS NEVER DULL. Anyone enjoying the fine dining at Colonnades on Wednesday might have noticed the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby lunching with the Moderator of the Church of Scotland and two colleagues. Consistently ranked in the top three on TripAdvisor it is not surprising that Colonnades is now one of the places to come in Edinburgh. The Archbishop was kind enough to tell WS Society CEO Robert Pirrie WS how much he had enjoyed his visit and heard a little more about the building and the WS Society. The week also saw the start of the General Assembly with a service at St Giles’ Cathedral, where the WS Society was well represented by the Deputy Keeper of the Signet Caroline Docherty WS and other Writers to the Signet.

TUESDAY NEXT WEEK sees the swearing in of Andrew Stewart QC WS as a senior judge, the first current WS to be appointed to the senior bench for 300 years. Any WS who wish to attend should contact Vincent Guérin.

— “Writer”

Writer's Week is not intended to represent the views of the WS Society or its members.