Not really on the ball

August 4, 2000

Football mania swept the government's press briefing last week on the scheme to boost the pay of top researchers. Bob May, the chief scientific adviser, kicked off with a remark about recruiting the David Beckhams of science, while trade and industry secretary Stephen Byers picked up the ball with: "We have to ensure we're in the premier league."

Sadly Lord Sainsbury, no football supporter, missed his pass, sticking to comments about American wage levels. It was left to a hack to rescue the situation, with a well-struck question about how the new scheme will benefit those less gifted - the Francis Benalis of science.

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