I CAUGHT up with my old friend Richard (Dick) Matthews before Easter when he was in Leeds on business.
Dick is an expert in foreign exchange and a veteran City trader with a wealth of stories from the days when City boys worked hard and played hard, drove Ferraris, drank Dom Perignon and enjoyed plenty of high jinks.
To be honest, some of his stories make The Wolf of Wall Street sound tame.
These days Dick takes life at a steadier pace, still working hard but his leisure activities now include morning dips in the sea near his home on the Kent coast.
He told me he missed the camaraderie of an office environment during the pandemic and, as well as keeping him fit and energised, sea swimming enabled him to socialise with a fascinating group of people while being both outdoors and socially distanced.
Among his fellow swimming regulars are staff from the intensive care unit at the local hospital using the swimming to decompress after their long, gruelling shifts on the wards and house music DJ Danny Rampling, widely credited with being one of the founders of the UK’s rave scene.
Dick’s wife Debbie, who is the daughter of the late TV and entertainment legend Sir Bruce Forsyth, has been a relentless campaigner to make pet abduction a criminal offence.
She began her campaign after her own dogs, two Yorkshire Terriers called Gizmo and Widget, were dognapped in 2006.
She was reunited with her dogs after a TV appeal alongside her father but she vowed to help other pet owners get justice by pressing for a change in the law.
That’s because animal theft is not a specific crime.
At the moment the offence is currently considered as a loss of property to owners under the Theft Act 1968.
Offences under this act carry a maximum term of seven years but because the severity of the sentence partly depends on how much money the ‘item’ taken is worth, courts are not imposing sentences for pet abduction that carry long sentences and so fail to deter criminals.
But finally last year, after a 15-year fight by Debbie and fellow campaigners, a report by the Government’s Pet Theft Taskforce said that pets should be valued as more than property.
I’m not sure whether Debbie is planning to do anything to celebrate this milestone after her long campaign, but if she does have a party Dick knows a very good rave DJ.
IN the modern world of football, where too much money, too few ethics and very little loyalty can give one a jaundiced view of the sport, one story caught my eye this week.
Written by the highly talented and very experienced Leeds United football writer Phil Hay, formerly of the Yorkshire Evening Post and now at the brilliant sports journalism website The Athletic, it was one of the many pieces concerning the departure of Marcelo Bielsa as Leeds United’s manager.
But, as you would expect from both Phil and The Athletic, it came at things from a different angle.
The article concerned a tribute paid by Leeds United fans to their departed manager.
But given the low profile Bielsa was back home in Argentina and is not a man to engage on social media, how could well meaning Whites’ fans make sure their hero got their message?
Well they decided to take out a full page advertisement in the biggest daily newspaper in Rosario, Bielsa’s home town in northern Argentina.
Working with an English-born fan of Argentinian football, the Leeds fans took out the advert in the Saturday edition of La Capital, the day after a big Argentinian football league clash between Bielsa’s former club Newell’s Old Boys and Patronato.
It might have cost only £350 but the advert made headlines around the world.
The Leeds fans were clear about three things.
They didn’t mention Leeds United, they didn’t use Marcelo Bielsa’s surname and they definitely didn’t want their own names included either.
This was a message not from individuals but from an entire fan base.
The headline, in English, read: ‘Thank You Marcelo’.
Under it, in Spanish, were the words:
‘We stood in the August 2018 sun mesmerised by football we didn’t know was possible.
‘And we felt something again.
‘You reminded us that football can be beautiful and that a team can be greater than the sum of its parts. Side before self.
‘And you gave us so much more than football. You took us through a pandemic and brought us together while we were all apart.
‘You showed us that integrity and decency matter, in good times and bad.
‘You embraced our fears and turned our despair into hope and our footballers into heroes. You improved us all.
‘You restored our pride, gave us joy and created precious memories that will last a lifetime.
‘And it was beautiful, Marcelo. And it will always be beautiful. Thank you.’
One comment at the bottom of the article on The Athletic caught my eye:
“I'm no Leeds fan but this is; a) A fabulous journo piece, b) A wonderful football story, and c) A testament to the affection of fans in what is often a cruel, unforgiving and heartless sport.”
TALKING of football, I saw that the great Colombian player Freddy Rincon died recently after he was involved in a car accident in his home country.
Watching World Cups in an era when English football had few foreign players, I used to love the glamour, flair and excitement that many players brought to the tournament and the Colombia team that Rincon was a part of certainly had that.
He might not have been as skillful as his flamboyant teammates like mop-haired Carlos Valderrama and the elastic-legged Faustino Asprilla, but in my opinion he had the best name.
Can you suggest any other sports people that compete with Freddy Rincon for a name that just rolls off the tongue?
MY tribute to former Yorkshire Post colleague Tom Richmond, the newspaper’s opinion editor and racing writer, who died suddenly last month aged just 52, brought warm and generous words from Tom Riordan, the chief executive of Leeds City Council.
In my piece I suggested that the council boss probably considered emptying Tom Richmond’s wheelie bins himself, given that Leeds City Council’s domestic waste collections often came in for criticism in his Saturday column in the Yorkshire Post.
Tom Riordan wrote: “Always enjoy your blogs David. You’re right that I did have a red flag on Tom’s bin as well as any roadworks on his journey into work on the A65!
“We were obviously on the receiving end at times of Tom’s sharp insight which wasn’t always the best thing to get me relaxed for a Saturday morning.
“But we grew to respect each other over the years and often spoke or met for a coffee, even if I couldn’t change his views on some things, though who could?!
“It’s clear what a central role he played at the YP from the many tributes that have poured in, especially from the horse racing community.
“Such a sad loss for Yorkshire.”
Really nice words about Tom, Tom.
A PHOTOGRAPH arrives from David Bailey.
I was hoping for a tasteful shot of a reclining Twiggy, Kate Moss or Naomi Campbell.
However the David Bailey who sends me photos is not the four-times married legendary international fashion and portrait photographer but an architect from Leeds.
So the photo was of a wooden fence post in North Wales.
But that’s not to be sniffed at.
To be fair, I’ve seen Naomi Campbell’s attempts at acting and I think the fence post has better career prospects.
David Bailey is a partner at DLG Architects (knowing architects, the initials are likely to be in lower case) in Leeds, an award-winning practice with a portfolio of work which includes Platform, SOYO and the Victoria Quarter in Leeds and Rudding Park Hotel in Harrogate as well as many projects across the country.
David dropped me a line just before Easter while he was away with his family in Anglesey when his son was competing in an event at the Welsh sailing academy.
He said: “I’m sure you won’t know me, but I read your TheBusinessDesk.com emails back in the day and now wait for your Friday emails. I did introduce myself to you a few years ago after a Harrogate Business Lunch.
“On a walk near South Stack Lighthouse on the tip of Anglesey I find this…”
“Looks like the Welsh have copied you. Keep up the great articles, love your writing style…. Oh and content!”
For those readers who take less of an interest in my business I should point out that the name of my company is COPA Summit.
Not named after a sign on a hill in North Wales, but, probably much more bizarrely, named after the Rat Pack’s celebrated gatherings in the Copa Room of the Sands Casino in Las Vegas which became known as the Summit.
Thank you David.
And don’t worry I do remember you.
I never forget a compliment and I’m thinking of inviting all of those who have paid me one to a gathering at a upscale restaurant.
I’ve booked a nice table for three…