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Posts from the ‘Olympics’ Category

Time for Change?

This Week, I was fortunate to be granted an invitation, to one of the workshops, on the new “Local Delivery Pilots” by Sport England. I was delighted to be accompanied by Client, Metro Swimming Club and local sports trust, Life Leisure, both from Stockport. Here I reflect on some lessons learned and deliberations having thought about the content and discussions.

For those unaware, as I guess many sports practitioners may be: Three or four location-based physical activity projects will be funded by Sport England in March 2017 as part of its local delivery pilot scheme. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s arms-length body has set aside £130m (US$162.2m, €153.5m) of Exchequer and National Lottery funding to encourage physical activity in specific areas over the next four years. A handful of pilot projects will be selected next spring before Sport England begins work on 10 further projects that will “require further development” during 2017.”

The outcomes that are sought from this changing regime are consistent with former hierarchies, namely: physical and mental well being, individual development, social and community development and economic considerations. There is no hiding from the fact that the prime objective remains trying to counteract the remaining substantial inactivity in populations in the United Kingdom (UK). Such inactivity also to recognise and affect the ‘under represented’ groups .

25.6% of us do less than 30 minutes of exercise a week. The under represented include evidence of: socio-economic shortcomings (i.e. higher = higher uptake), disability or impairment, with some additional variations by ethnicity and gender. Thankfully the new strategy starts with an evaluation of recognition that we are all ‘individuals’ with life cycle factors that impinge upon our uptake of exercise. The desire is to move more away from the treatment of markets as homogeneous groups or market segments without an acceptance of variations. ‘One size doesn’t fit all’. Taking this interpretation, naturally a geographical or spatial evaluation follows this same hypothesis. Hence, ‘local’ should in theory lead to better understanding and better results in sports strategy.

Unfortunately, many involved with sports will not have had the benefit of this workshop. Though, all clubs should be involved and try to understand when funding recipients are announced, how they might play a part in developmental plans. In addition, my opinion is that Sport England, should not ‘throw out the baby with the bath water’. The spokespeople announced that county sports partnerships (CSPs) would not expect to be applicants. In my opinion, they should be allowed to, as in some areas, not all, the CSP might be the best suited to create new models. In other areas, ‘localised’ could be a Borough-wide initiative. That same ‘baby’ might be wise to stay in place with adoption or growth of existing tactics that work. Witness for example, the Sportivate and I Wish I’d Tried in my Home Town of Stockport that has led to my successful projects of tacking inactivity and increasing sports participation in rugby and volleyball.

Sport England has announced that it seeks a ‘whole system approach’ with applications for funding to clearly illustrate: the individual, social environment, organisations, physical environment and policy. All to be expanded upon in the publication: “Sport England – Towards An Active Nation”. It remains to be seen if the funding decisions allow real innovation, as I feel is needed, and if decision makers have the cahoonas to award finance to new and inspirational ideas and new recipients in cases, rather than be influenced by ‘political’ motives and present ‘loudest voices’.

This could be a great opportunity for change – and I for one don’t want to be sat here in the next ten years’ describing once again how we are no further forward.

Brexit – watch out #sports

Lest we forget, Brexit, an insight on sporting implications kindly authorised to be reproduced by  GlobalSportsJobs’ legal partner, Couchmans LLP – as the author of the below article.

“Following more than three months of guesswork and intrigue, the UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, has provided much-needed insight into the timetable for the triggering of Article 50 and the UK’s exit from the EU.

The Prime Minister confirmed that the notice will be issued by the end of March 2017, beginning a two-year period of negotiations with the aim of completing the process by 31st March 2019.

These negotiations are the subject of immense debate. Apart from those who don’t accept that Brexit should take place at all (a sizeable majority in some regions), there is a spectrum of support for different Brexit ‘options’, ranging from ‘hard’ to ‘soft’.

But with the road ahead depending on the views of all 27 other EU member states, it is difficult to tell at this stage what type of Brexit will prevail. The sheer number of overlapping commercial, regulatory and legal issues that require consideration and renegotiation is staggering, carrying huge implications for the international sports industry.

Amputation, not resignation?

In legal terms, the process of Brexit is more akin to the amputation of a limb than the resignation of a club member.

Some British civil servants have described the amputation process as ‘spectacularly complex’, such is the depth of the connective tissue, arteries, nerves, muscles and veins between the UK and the EU. Cutting through each thread will be a painstaking and lengthy process, with some estimates suggesting it could take 10 years for the full set of arrangements to be negotiated to conclusion.

The proposed repeal bill removing the European Communities Act of 1972 may assist the process, taking all current EU legislation into British law and thereafter permitting the UK Parliament to amend or cancel any unwanted legislation over time. However, this necessary step does not disguise the difficult path ahead.

The implications both for the severed limb and the remaining body are complex and serious. The Article 50 procedure was clearly not devised with the objective of making it easy for EU members to exit. Once the two-year resignation process has started, it can only be extended by the unanimous agreement of all of the members. If negotiations haven’t concluded within 24 months, the amputation will take place in any event. This should perhaps focus negotiators’ attention on the key objectives; they will not want a situation in which, at midnight on 31st March 2019, all treaty obligations between the EU and the UK fall away with nothing to replace them.

However, such a timetable equally allows a minority of members to exercise more leverage over the outcome than they might usually have. Either way there is something of a gamble involved in commencing the Article 50 procedure.

One possible means of effectively extending the timeframe might be for a withdrawal agreement to be reached via a qualified majority (65% rather than 100%) of the European Council, a step which itself includes an extension of time beyond the two years within which to conclude certain aspects of negotiations. However, the legal and political legitimacy of such an approach might be questionable, if its true objective is to circumvent the two-year notice period.

The common theme running through all this complexity is uncertainty, which is having a significant and largely hidden impact on sport and other industries.

M&A activity in the UK has fallen substantially since the referendum decision in June 2016. Investors, sports bodies and others are undoubtedly sitting on their hands, waiting for some clarity over the parameters of negotiations. Will the UK be forced into an isolated, protectionist approach, or will the remaining EU members be prepared to consider a form of ‘Brexit Lite’, given the UK’s position as the sixth largest economy in the world? Will the pound be further devalued? Will tariffs apply to UK products and services – including, for example, sports rights?

Impact on sports deals

Sports contracts pertaining to, amongst other things, media rights, sponsorship and hosting arrangements are often multi-year in duration and international in scope. Sports bodies, media owners, sponsors, athletes and others who seek to enter into pan-European, multi-year contracts and arrangements, extending beyond March 2019, have legitimate concerns around how to protect their position in this new environment.

Of course, one measure that should certainly be considered is taking legal advice, which will likely focus on two key areas:

1.      What might be the impact of a sudden change in the law and/or circumstances affecting deals

2.      What steps might be taken (including contractual provisions) to guard against the implications of these?

The latter might be added, for example, to a ‘force majeure’ type clause, and/or a ‘material adverse change’ provision could be drawn up to tackle specific concerns that might apply to the contract in question. This might include termination rights in certain circumstances, or possibly the right to convert the UK portion of an international transaction into a separate contract, provided it made sense for the parties once the effect of the UK’s withdrawal agreement is known.

There may also be opportunities to consider the jurisdictional positioning of rights ownership either within or outside the future boundaries of the Single Market.

Meanwhile, the changes in free movement will undoubtedly have an effect on sport – and football in particular. Any potential changes to visa regulations may encourage longer term contract extensions and signing of EU players before the 2019 deadline. The 2018 football summer transfer window will potentially be the last to take place while the UK is in the Single Market and we may see a rush of activity as clubs seek to secure continental talent.

One issue many sports bodies are already grappling with is the effect of the potential changes in trademark protection processes and laws on their existing and planned international trademark programmes. The degree to which the European trademark regime will continue to apply to UK brands remains very much up in the air and will require careful auditing and management of portfolios.

A further legal outcome of Brexit will be the ending of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (“ECJ”) in the UK.  Whilst the system of making preliminary references to the ECJ will come to an end, it is likely that the UK courts will continue to have regard to EU jurisprudence for guidance.  Bearing in mind the long lead time for references to be resolved, what will happen to ECJ references which are still pending at the time of Brexit? In the absence of a specific agreement as part of the Article 50 withdrawal negotiations, the simple answer is that nobody knows. Possibilities include pending references being declared devoid of purpose and therefore inadmissible, thus requiring them to be withdrawn, or the ECJ simply declaring that it no longer has jurisdiction to determine such cases.

Surgical precision

Returning to our amputation analogy, surgeons on all sides will need to work with great skill and patience to minimise damage to both patient and limb during this unprecedented operation.

Whether the process is a panacea or proves to be fatal remains to be seen. Meanwhile, sports business operators should not remain on the sidelines, but lobby for their positions to be properly represented, while factoring in the potential Brexit outcomes – ‘hard’ or ‘soft’, painless or painful, short or long – into their legal, regulatory and commercial strategies.”

Original article at: http://www.globalsportsjobs.com/article/sport-and-brexit/.

Olympic Dream

It is not often that I am overcome with emotion, but the experience I witnessed this Week through sport, led me to such pride. You all know of my continuous work and relationship with Stockport Metro. This, the most successful swimming club in UK history in terms of medals.

Pre-Christmas, 2015, we succeeded in a crowdfunding campaign for this same Club, to fund talented athletes to embark on a much needed training camp in South Africa, in preparation for Rio 2016 Olympic places. My Company, ACROBAT | FCSM, made a pledge in this Campaign and was promised a ‘reward’. The reward my Son, Kaya (aged 9), received was an hour’s personal training in the fabulous Grand Central Pool, home of Metro and operated by Life Leisure (with whom I was Non-Executive Director for nearly 12 years). Not only this but, a bespoke Stockport Metro’s “Wolfpack” T-Shirt (as worn by the squad), “SM” Swim Cap and entry to a dedicated Olympic Raffle.

On arrival the reward exceeded all expectations. Naturally, it was honouring the nature of our pledge – but the people that led this experience were impeccable. The athlete leading tuition and accompaniment in the pool was Harry Needs. He knows first-hand what it is like to train at the pinnacle of Olympic sport and has recently taken over as the Strength & Condition Coach of Stockport Metro High Performance Centre, inspiring the next generation. Harry is married to Olympian, Rebecca Adlington. Furthermore, the Coach who encouraged the activities throughout was the experienced Bulgarian, specialist, Alex Markov.

The tone and congeniality was flawless – such elite sports people offering time and genuine compassion to assist my Son, a good sportsman, but not a regular swimmer nor member of any swimming club (he did however learn to swim via Stockport Metro’s swimming lessons as do many a child from Stockport, Manchester and Tameside).

So the story of this ‘customer satisfaction’ has been written, completed by: an improving performance through expert guidance in a mere hour; the whole experience being videoed underwater using the incredible ‘fish eye’ technology (with a video to retain for lasting memories), Harry’s iphone took photos galore, and Rebecca is forwarding a signed photograph just for Kaya.

Could it be any better – I doubt it! My personal favourite stroke was when Harry and Kaya took turns doing the ‘dolphin’. One would be the arms up front, the other holding his feet, and being the flipper and kicking – a role that they reversed in the sequence.

Sport and life together as one. I hope that this short note helps a reader or two to think that they might like to have an introduction to the work of Stockport Metro – as a partner or sponsor – opportunities abound. Or if you know someone that could equally appreciate such a gift, in whole or part, just get in touch and we’ll see if we can help?

p.s Harry gave Kaya his, expensive looking, googles on departure…..and has since written to me saying: “Kaya was a pleasure to work with and I personally was inspired by the amount of progress he had in the hour. Such a charming lad with flawless listening skills.”

Make A Splash this Christmas

Just take a minute to consider how you can actually help a local club to try and achieve its dreams of making the Olympics in Rio next Year. Stockport Metro Swimming Club has just launched a fundraising appeal to help bring in the necessary money to take its talented and aspiring athletes to a dedicated training camp in the New Year.  The campaign is live NOW and will run until 3rd January 2016 only, by which stage the minimum target of £2,400 has to be pledged.

Coach, Richard Blackshaw said:

“This Appeal is to help our swimmers attend a 4 week training camp based in Pretoria, South Africa. This camp is a specific Altitude camp and will allow the swimmers to make a physiological adaptation that can make a huge difference at International levels where 100th of a second divides 1st from 4th. Training at altitude is impossible within our own Country hence the reason to travel to countries abroad.”

Stockport Metro has enjoyed a long history of podium success across all age groups at County, Regional, National and International levels, breaking countless British and Commonwealth records. Since moving to Grand Central Pools fourteen athletes have qualified for the Olympic Games, and the Club has produced four Olympic medallists, making it the most successful in British history.

As with all sports, reward is measured on performance and following the London 2012 Olympics the governing body suffered funding cuts, the cuts have been significant and since 2012 Stockport Metro funding has been cut until in 2015 we are no longer receiving any funding at all – which in the past has enabled our athletes to have the best environment and attend altitude camps.

All the successful athletes in its history attended altitude training camps during their 4 year Olympic cycles. Steve Parry and Graeme Smith both won bronze medals in Athens and Atlanta respectively. Adrian Turner was a semi-finalist in Atlanta. James Goddard, a Commonwealth Triple gold medallist, narrowly missed out on a medal in Athens.

Five Metro swimmers competed in Beijing: Keri-Anne Payne who took the silver in the inaugural 10K Marathon Open Water event, Cassie Patten took the bronze in the same event, Michael Rock, James Goddard and David Carry. A further five Metro swimmers competed in the London 2012 games, Keri-Anne Payne, Michael Rock, David Carry, James Goddard and Sophie Allen.

Stockport Metro’s key objective is to develop the next generation of World Class Athletes and give them the opportunity to be successful on the senior international stage. With the current group of swimmers coming through the pathway times are extremely exciting. If anyone watched the recent European Championships in Baku, seeing Holly Hibbott, aged only 15, becoming Champion in the 800 freestyle beating the best of Europe or Katie Matts winning a Bronze at the World Junior Championships in Singapore will have seen the potential and what an outstanding achievement it was, but the ambition, philosophy or track record is not to produce successful junior athletes but to produce successful senior athletes. Metro seek to achieve this with your help. Holly and Katie are but two of the talents among the British National Champions of 2015. Director of Performance, Sean Kelly, former Head Coach of the Stockport ITC, has been on the GB coaching team for the past two Olympic Games. He is one of the most successful coaches in British history in terms of podium success, and has twice been honoured with the GB Coach of the Year award.

The Fundraising Appeal is being conducted on the website link: https://uk.sponsorise.me/en/project-stockport-metro

Donations are being accepted from as little as £1 so everyone can help the cause.  For donations, each person will receive a range of exciting rewards including: messages from our swimmers on social media, personalised letters from a swimmer, signed swimming caps, signed t-shirt, entry to a select raffle, personalised tuition with a member of the Stockport Metro Performance Squad, advert in the events programmes for a full twelve months or all of the above.

Please contribute whatever you can – or maybe make a donation instead of buying and sending out Christmas Cards this Year or you can even buy one of the superb offerings as a present. 

Let’s put Stockport on the map again in Rio.

Note to Editor:

  1. Photo of Fundraising Appeal website at Sponsorise.Me (web site address: https://uk.sponsorise.me/ enclosed)
  2. More information: Julie Bennett, Swimming Development Manager 07919 004070
  3. Anyone interested in sponsoring Stockport Metro can contact adrian@fcsportsmarketing.com