Row Z edition 73; dateline 1 February 2013
CIMSPA’s cockleshell heroes.
Former premium partner and current friend of The Leisure Review, Duncan Wood-Allum’s Sport and Leisure Consultancy have nailed their colours to the CIMSPA mast in their latest newsletter, even using a phrase we suspect most consultants couldn’t even spell let alone correctly use in a sentence, by offering “pro bono support” to the ailing rump of ILAM, NASD and ISRM. Wood-Allum, in common with a number of other well-known names in the sector, echoes the findings of the 2011 TLR symposium in calling for industry support for the professional body on the grounds that we’d miss it should it disappear up its own charter. With other news including an invitation to tender for some or all of the bits of CIMSPA activities which aren’t included in the proposed deal with SkillsActive – it’s not a merger remember – a cynic might suggest Wood-Allum and his confreres will soon be left shoring up little more than a shell. But not Row Z; we’ll have no cynics here.
Let me volunteer, Yah Choob.
It will depress many but surprise none to find that would-be volunteers for Glasgow 2014 are saying the registration system is “even more ridiculous than London 2012”, which is a shame. We wondered if the language barrier had contributed but, when asked to comment, all Fife-and-Dundee-educated Sideliner would say was, “Haud yer wheesht, ya wee scunner”, before “burling” the office copy of the office Tutti Frutti DVD at the lairy graphic designer’s “heid”. For those considering making their way to the Scottish Games, we are recommending John Byrne’s 1987 tale of a rock and roll band’s jubilee tour as a primer; and a warning. That it features Robbie Coltrane, Emma Thompson, Richard Wilson and every character actor then capable of a Glaswegian brogue cavorting in an acerbic and bleak romantic comedy is simply a bonus.
Noblesse oblige at Victoria House
Now, we all know that the editor of The Leisure Review (it’s Jonathan Ives) has determined that all those associated with his rag should enter 2013 with an outlook as sincere and trusting as Julie Andrews on her first day out of the convent (vid: The Sound of Music, obvs) but sometimes little gems fall into our laps which simply must be promulgated. Notwithstanding Mr Ives’ new-found sensibilities to the clamour of complaint from such as SkillsActive, CLOA (remember them?) and, of course, CIMPSA, just this once we are going to insist on breaking his vow of obedience. If you are offended by the “unhelpful” or the “cynical” please turn away now. We heard, from one our many, sadly unattributable, sources, that when Jennie Price walks the halls at Sport England Towers the minions who beaver there are under strict instructions not to speak to her unless she first speaks to them; like Buckingham Palace but without the bling and the paintings. Being paid-up members of the NUJ with proper journalistic ethics and a healthy concern for post-Leveson litigation, we checked the story with someone who actually works at Vic House, albeit on an occasional basis. The response was that although our man had not received such an instruction, he would never dare put it to the test.
Tin hats! Rant incoming!
The editor’s decision to remove every vestige of criticism from the pages of The Leisure Review and instead become a kind of Leisure Media Lite (but with better pictures) has baffled and bemused staff at our companion title. Much as we love the work of Liz Terry (she has an OBE) and her Hitchin-based team’s delightfully naïve acceptance of media releases as news, at Row Z we have always felt that since TLR has the brand values of “independence, integrity and intelligence” it should deploy a certain scepticism when reporting on the industry we call sport, leisure and culture. Rather than deserving opprobrium for pointing out the odd foot of clay, we think that acting as a critical friend would be a kindness to a sector drowning in public relations puffery and to make this point we’d like to tell you a story. When the Olympic legacy was debated – again – by Victoria Derbyshire, a number of county sports partnerships decided to tell the world how clever they had been in getting people into sport. One such – we won’t tell you who – claimed that they had got 5,000 people signed up to sport. On Twitter, which is where they had made the claim, we asked, “Really?” You see, to us, 5,000 seems both too many and too few. If every CSP (their acronym) had achieved what our home counties chums were claiming – and let’s be fair, they’re a pretty mixed bag – then the sports system would have added 249,500 people to the list marked “sports people”. The promise was four times that. But our major beef is with the figures themselves. Five thousand people beginning a relationship with physical activity which is going to stand the test of time because of that CSP’s “legacy programmes”? Seems unlikely. Our question got a response but not on Twitter. Instead the dapper man who runs the agency in question took the time to pen a lengthy email in which he accused The Leisure Review of being consistently critical of the Olympics – which rather proves that he hadn’t read the magazine in the last six years – and then lined up his figures which, just to indicate why we don’t like CSP statistics, claimed that 2,200 of the heads he was counting were participants in the School Games. Now, some of you will remember that this programme started life as the Millennium Youth Games in 1998 using a model developed in London, Manchester and Merseyside over the preceding decade and, despite being rebranded, claimed and re-claimed by the Youth Sport Trust and others, is still the same product. We’ll pass over Sportivate and the other sticking plaster, number-raising initiatives as our man in the CSP claims all his figures are “properly validated and audited” but who carries out these tasks? People who are equally desperate to prove the system is working. It’s unlikely that the emperor felt positively predisposed to the little boy who asked where his clothes were but surely the lad was right to point out the lack? For Sideliner, sitting in a corner office with a view of the chicken coop and the canal beyond, there is little to be gained from tweaking the nose of the UK sports system’s little emperors but, if not The Leisure Review, who will challenge this sector’s reliance on tick-box exercises and PR assertions that would shame the Church of the Latter Day Saints?
Pilots, posh birds and the pursuit of the bleeding obvious
Not having been told it was happening, Sideliner was sadly unable to attend the recent Us Girls conference (their italics) held at Warwick University but Row Z was pleased to receive from Sport England – yes, sorry, them again – a detailed report of the event, or at least of that part of the event attended by Jennie Price (see apology above). It seems Mrs Teasdale was on early season form and “outlined the next steps in plans to get more women taking part in sport regularly”. The press release then goes on, and indeed on, about a pilot project dear to the heart of Maria Miller, who, in case you had forgotten, is the culture minister. The pilot, rather redundantly, “will put into practice many of the lessons coming out of current projects” and see whether anyone can get anyone female doing any more running and jumping than they do now. We blame ourselves for not understanding what the dickens this pilot is all about but would just refer you, gentle reader, to the last line of the release: “The most successful projects have been those that offer affordable sport at convenient times in venues that are easy to get to and where sessions are designed to foster a sociable atmosphere.” Whatever we are paying Jennie it’s clearly not enough. She’s been in post slightly under five years and in that short time she has formed the complex thesis, now being tested in an expensive pilot [Surely ‘extensive’? Ed], that women prefer sport when its delivered in affordable, convenient, accessible and sociable packages. Thanks, Jen. What would we do without you?
Young, marginalised and black?
And talking about the distaff side, Sidey is nothing if not even-handed when it comes to handing out brickbats, choosing the scattergun over the laser-guided missile every time. Unfortunately, like a dog returning to his sick, or a bitch to hers, of course, this column’s gimlet eye has once again been drawn to the corner in which sits the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation’s latest women-recruiting wheeze. Called She Moves, or perhaps “She Moves, We Move..”, its main thrust seems to be the recruitment of a random woman who, encouraged no doubt by “pals” from the WSFF, will try to get herself fitter by trying various forms of physical activity. Laudable, indeed. The language is accessible, albeit in a minor public school way, and Avril, the chosen one, seems likeable enough. But she is so archetypically upper middle class that she can really only be speaking to people like her. Married with two children, she has time on her hands and can afford to buy a bike on a whim and then not use it much. She also tweeted the other day that she would rather go for a run than do her self-assessment tax return and if that’s not a status-marker we’d be keen to hear what is. How hard could it have been to find a young, black, single mother with poor health caused by living in poverty and no way to pay the rent or buy decent food to take those stroke improvement lessons at one of her two local pools?
It seems that there are some people who must complain and one of them has been bothering the good people at Match of the Day about who gets to sit opposite Alan Hanson every week. Moaning about the quality of MOTD punditry seems as sensible as finding fault with a pint of John Smith’s Smooth – you bought the stuff, you drink it – but one correspondent, both theirs and ours, is claming victory in a one-man war on Colin Murray who, according to the John Street-based aesthete in question, “a more irritating individual there cannot be”. At Row Z Towers opinion is divided: 50% of the staff team think the complainant a misguided chump, while half of us aver he’s a Grappa-fuelled menace who should be reminded that complaining about the Blessed Colin is not why he was ennobled by our own dear queen. We’ll close with a quote from the editor of The Leisure Review (and that’s twice in one issue), Mr Jonathan Ives. To him the presenter’s removal “is a victory for reactionary chuminess”, adding, “It seems Murray's crime has been to offer 'man in the street' – or perhaps more pointedly, 'man who pays for his ticket' – views of the game that are at odds with the football-centric, don't-frighten-the-horses view of the game offered by the so-called pundits, the shiny-shirted former pros who will brook no alternative to their view that all pros playing the game are doing so in the correct spirit, would never cheat and certainly not be motivated by anything as base as money.” For the full version of Ivesy’s rant go to our pay-per-spew page and enter your bank account details. For an exposition of why Colin Murray is a good thing go and listen to Fighting Talk.
Allons-y pour le Tour de ’igh Pique
According to the denizens of the TLR North offices, you can forget the Tour de Yorkshire come July 2014 as the place to be for the passage of the greatest show on two wheels is in the High Peak of Derbyshire. On the second day of its English sojourn the peloton will have to leave sunny, happy, generous Yorkshire and spend a few minutes flying down Holme Moss, turn sharp left and climb to the summit of the Woodhead Pass and on to Sheffield. In doing this it will pass within a cock’s stride of our northern outpost and the expectation is that even La Belle Dame Sans Patience who runs the office like a well-oiled machine will down tools, jump on the nearest velocipede and head out to see some of cycling’s best whoosh by. Plans have already been made for a TLR Sportive and anyone wishing to park their 4x4 in the lane and bunk down on the office floor should submit their application to firstname.lastname@example.org
The view from the back of the stand