independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Kevin Myers: 'New stadium is an irreversible and huge tragedy for Irish sport'

ITYS -- I told you so -- is the acronym for the four most unforgivable words in the English language.

No court will convict a self-confessed murderer who coldly and deliberately slew the man who said "ITYS" after an entirely predictable and predicated failure has occurred. Wisdom purely after the event is insufferable; publicly stated wisdom both before and after a failure is a capital offence.

So it is with tongue-numbing forbearance that I note the request of the Oireachtas All Party Committee on Sports (oh yes, and Arts and Tourism also) that the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) and the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) should agree to play their big matches at Croke Park, because the new 50,000-seater Aviva stadium at Lansdowne Road is too small.

Too small? Too small?? But, but, but. . . I am not saying ITYS, truly I'm not. But I will gently point out that I have been publicly saying precisely just that for fully 10 years, long before the contracts were signed which committed us to the monumental folly of the Aviva stadium.

It shouldn't be called Aviva. It should be called QWERTY, as a reminder of just how powerful an early plan, no matter how ridiculous, if allowed to run unchecked even briefly, can take over an entire project. The plan then decides the outcome of the project, not the original specifications of the project or, most importantly of all, the needs of the people for whom the project is being designed to please -- in this case, the paying spectator.

No: QWERTY always over-rules all human need.

QWERTY is one of the most culturally-potent technological templates in the world: it has imprinted itself on at least a billion minds, and is more dominant today than ever before. Its beginnings were small, in Milwaukee, where the inventor of the typewriter, Christopher Scholes, was trying to create a keyboard so that the arm of a letter's type-head did not clash during the journey time from paper back home again, with the rising arm of the next letter to be typed. This meant that letters which were commonly used together were kept apart on the keyboard. Long after the technological limitations for its existence had expired, QWERTY remained a fixture, both on keyboards and in the minds of millions of typists. No one had the willpower or the political power to change how hundreds of millions of people typed. Even the most rudimentary deficiency in the QWERTY format has become permanent. For example, in English, the pairing "th" is used more often than 16 of the 26 letters in the alphabet, and could easily have merited a place on the keyboard long ago.

The proximity of "s" and "d" means that mistypes often produce viable words in English. Plural nouns and singular verbs in a legal document can easily be transformed: "deeds places and same dates", in a twinkling of a careless finger become "seeds placed and dame sated" -- and as for what was actually meant in that contract, by God, I'll see you in court.

So, like mullets or flares or pubic hair, there's almost nothing to be said in favour of QWERTY: it's simply what we've got. The primary lesson in all human planning must run as follows: do not, for short-term historical reasons, lock yourselves irrevocably into a structure which will not suit your future needs. That is precisely what the IRFU, the FAI and the Bertie Ahern government did with the disastrous decision to build a new stadium at Lansdowne Road that from the outset could never possibly meet demand.

This week's delegation from the Oireachtas whimpered that the Aviva stadium was, surprise, surprise, not big enough to cope with "big matches".

LISTEN, you chumps, all the IRFU home internationals are big matches -- which is why the capacity of all the major rugby grounds abroad, for decades, has been at least 70,000. Moreover, we know that you can easily fill Croke Park's 83,000-capacity for all Five Nation rugby matches, plus the big southern hemisphere games, as South Africa and Australia will prove. Philip Browne of the IRFU, and a primary architect of the Aviva QWERTY at Lansdowne Road, offered the dismal explanation that plans for the stadium had been drawn up five years ago, when -- presumably -- no more than two men, three scruffy urchins and a mutt ever turned up to watch Irish rugby matches. Funny that. For I seem to remember all those touts outside a packed Lansdowne Road, not much smaller than the new Aviva, able to sell black-market tickets at three or four times face value, and then going home in their Mercedes.

This QWERTY disaster will certainly make another generation of ticket touts happy. For this is the first ever stadium which has been deliberately built to supply less capacity than the predicted needs of the marketplace.

Try explaining that to the Harvard School of Business Studies. But it is in Dublin 4, which is the psychological QWERTY factor behind the Aviva debacle. A triumph of antediluvian snobbery over common sense, and a colossal -- and even irreversible -- tragedy for Irish sport.

And now look: in my clumsy attempts to finish by saying ITYS, I've inadvertently got to the heart of the matter -- WASOFW, yet again.

kmyers@independent.ie

Irish Independent

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