Row Z edition 35; dateline 1 September 2009

Looking after your image
Sport England’s new website is doubtless a model of good practice in web-based communication and indeed provides an abundant source of tidbits for the Row Z team to chew over. It even has an ‘image library’ to assist publicity officers in clubs, associations and small independent magazines, perhaps. Just the job if you need a copyright-free picture of swimming at short notice and a really good resource all round. But sadly it falls short in one or two areas, or so the new apprentice reports. It seems that while there are twelve images of people swimming and eleven of football there is nary a one of gymnastics, lacrosse or volleyball, to name but three. Does the fault lie with our national agency for sports development or is the trick being missed by the governing bodies of the missing sports? We don’t know but we’ll flog you a picture of canoeing at a very good rate if you like.

Sort out your syntax or Harry Gration gets it
There is much to be admired in the sport of rugby league, not least the talent, dedication and energy of their professional development team, the innovation and high level of skill they bring to their short kicking game and the scientific approach to defence that makes the proliferation of RL coaches in real rugby more than just a fashion statement. But their ongoing and institutionalised abuse of the English language has to be challenged. When marketing hit the M62 corridor and Americanised soubriquets became de rigeur much was lost. Out went names redolent of mushy peas and poverty, such as Bradford Northern, Featherstone Rovers and Wakefield Trinity, and in came a variety of “more marketable” characterisations. The names of fearsome (sic) animals (Bulls, Wolves and Tigers) and fighting men (Warriors, Vikings and Crusaders) were appended to town names and Wigan Warriors carried on where Wigan RL had left off, winning everything in sight. Commentators happily became used to interchanging ‘Wigan’ and ‘the Warriors’ and all was well until someone felt the need to widen the sport’s geographical sway and add teams into their top flight – which itself had now transmuted into the “Super” League – from as far away as South Wales and the south of France. And it is these new franchises that have caused the problem. Based in Newport and Perpignan respectively, they are not town teams; they represent regions, constituencies or, in marketing terms, territories. And what a marketing man dreams up a marketing man will name and Celtic Crusaders and Catalan Dragons were born. And what have Harry Gration, Robbie Paul et al done with these new names? They have applied the formula and we are treated to discussions on places called “Catalan” and “Celtic” as in the preposterous: “This week St Helens visit Catalan.” Well, they don’t. They might visit Catalonia – or even Catalunya, which is what Catalans call Catalonia – but you can’t visit, beat or get into a five-minute fight with an adjective. You can put a ‘the’ on the front and an ‘s’ on the back and do battle with “the Catalans”. You can follow the club’s own lead and call them “Les Dragons Catalans”  or you can just call them “the Dragons” but you really, really must stop this idiotic and insulting conflation of parts of speech, Harry. It’s just not cricket.

Flagrantly flattered
They do say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and everyone at the The Leisure Review felt duly complimented when BISL (Business in Sport and Leisure Ltd apparently) entitled their annual conference “Sport & Leisure - the decade ahead”. The old man who does the garden thought he had heard that last bit before and woman who comes in two mornings to do the books was sure it rang a bell but it took the work experience lass about five minutes to check the archive and discover that our cleverer brethren at TLR Towers had used it twice – once for their first round table back in March 2008 and again at the Summit in June this year. Luckily for BISL we’re not ISPAL and don’t think we own words like ‘sports development’ and ‘seminar’ and won’t therefore be suing them, but a nice invitation to take lunch at their Lord’s event might ease our pain.

Sports development explained slowly
Sideliner has long wondered how the ISRM justify touting themselves as serving the needs of the sports development professional. True enough, when the National Association for Sports Development (NASD) was young the then Melton Mowbray-based ‘plumbers’ did offer them a home and did much to aid the association’s development, although their motivation may have been less than altruistic. But when Val Stevenson and Bev Smith led NASD to independence (followed by annexation into and anonymity within ISPAL) surely all ISRM’s claims to supporting that section of the sector should have ceased? Enlightenment is at hand, however, in the web pages of the ISRM recruitment service. Under “Sports Development” on its front page at the beginning of August were three items.  One was a vacancy for a “Freddy Fit Trainer/Presenter” (no, we don’t know either), the second advertiser was looking for a “Trainee Health Club Personal Trainer” and the third was an advert for a franchise opportunity headlined “Run Your Own Gym”. Apart from explaining where the nation’s stock of capital letters has gone, it does rather explain what ISRM think about sports development and the people who do it.

Waiting for the main event
One criticism you could never level at NASD was that it took the easy option. The eight people who formed the first NASD board went out on a very long limb and their hutzpah inspired much of the association’s later activities. So it’s just a little sad to see founding father and former firebrand John Eady lending his name to Leisure Industry Week’s latest misnomer – the National Sports Conference. Risky as it is to cross the curmudgeon’s curmudgeon, Sideliner would be derelict not to point out that Duncan Goodhew is no draw, the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation is worthy at best, Margaret Talbot and Linda Plowright are lovely women but hardly big beasts, and any conference that boasts not one but two Sport England speakers had better issue blow-up pillows with the sure-to-be-thick PowerPoint hand-outs. There might be some fun in the last two sessions where soon-to-depart-these-shores Duncan Wood-Allum might come over all end of term and Mr Eady himself is to speak but who will have stayed to see it?

Bitterness from the front line
Under the headline “Words from the front line: the bloody truth of Helmand – by a combat soldier”, The Observer published extracts from the “brutally frank diaries of life on the front line”, in which “a serving soldier records the bitter toll of death, and his anger and frustration at the lack of military and political support”. The entry for July 30th reads: “Read some newspapers today. Totally sick of all the shite they are full of. A cricketer is a fucking hero [Flintoff]. He throws balls at a man with a big stick for fuck’s sake.”

Drawing a headline in the sand
As the world of sport, leisure and culture is increasingly targeted – sorry, supported – by our colleagues from the PR sector, here at Row Z we like to peruse other title’s diary columns, filled, as they are, with the gossip, innuendo and unsupported supposition which we love, stripped of any PR spin. So it was that the old chap who does the garden, when it is not persisting down, recently found a classic line in the Guardian’s Media Monkey. It seems the Met Office used the foot-in-mouth “barbecue summer” line “to help journalists with their headlines”.The piece continued: “If they need it, Monkey is available to help the Met Office with its forecasts.” A not very subtle reminder to PRs everywhere: we’ll decide what is a story and how to write it, thank you; you focus on the free stash, international tickets and invitations to Glyndebourne.

Making a brew for publicity
Speaking of which, full marks to whoever does the PR for Direct Line insurance who sent hacks a box of tea bags, a poster and some spurious research to support the launch of its latest offer, the exact detail of which escapes us. The TLR marketing manager, on a flying visit to the back of the stands, filched the poster for her office and giggled her way through the press release that revealed among other things that faced with a stressful situation – a 'teamergency' if you will – 42% of people coped better after a brew. Or was the sample size 42? Nice tea though.

Drawing a veil
This month we shall be ignoring: the bleating of rugby union CEOs who vow “to clean up the game” as if they were not complicit in its muddying; another Strictly Come Dancing series launch; any athletics championship that lasts nine days when most schools get their sports days over in an afternoon; Sport England’s facile pronouncement that allowing women to box will make 2012 “the first gender equality games”; Elysium 3’s posh-totty version of Elbow’s seminal One Day Like This; the formal demise of discredited, demeaning and dull Big Brother five years after it had already died on its arse; Attractions Expo, the Licensed Business Show and, yes, the Sport Show, all at the NEC.

Row Z
The view from the back of the stand


last edition


other news

contact Row Z

Stretching a point: a nasty pile-up on the road to publicity

an independent view for the leisure industry








about us

contact us