A big weekend of sport

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If you live in Britain or follow sport from Britain, there is a big weekend of sport ahead of us. On home turf we have the Wimbledon finals and the British Formula 1 Grand Prix, in France there are the finals of Euro 2016 as well as the Tour de France and in America there is UFC 200, if you are in to that kind of thing. I am sure there are some other big things that I am missing as well, but this weekend many eyes will be on sport.

As many of you know I am passionate about sport and enjoy any reason to celebrate it or watch it. To me there is nothing like watching people who are at the top of their sport compete on the biggest stage. Watching it inspires me, it captures my imagination and really gets me further in to the sport I am watching.

Tour de France

Trying to do other things this weekend is going to be tricky but I am going to try my best to, whilst of course having one eye on all the sporting goings on. One thing I am loving at the moment is the Tour de France. I never used to watch it but it is something my wife has got me in to and I am really glad she did. I think what the competitors put their body through to try and win or help someone else win is just incredible and really defies logic at times.

Andy Murray

I’ve always been a fan of tennis and Wimbledon has always been my favourite tournament. At the time of writing Andy Murray still has a chance of making the final and winning the whole thing, which makes me happy. My only claim to fame is once meeting Andy on a flight after his first Wimbledon appearance and have been a fan ever since. The last time he won Wimbledon my wife and I were at a music festival, so really hope I get to see him win another this year.

The Formula 1 British Grand Prix at Silverstone has always been something I have wanted to go to and hope to do so one year but I am really excited to watch it on TV this weekend. With my favourite Jenson Button having his best race of the season last time out and the title race between Hamilton and Rosberg intensifying, it should be a fantastic race.

If sport is your thing like me I hope you have a fantastic weekend of it.

Chasing dreams

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Over the last few months I have been using my skills to help local professional wrestling company PWA (Plymouth Wrestling Association). A very dynamic leader runs the group, with a group of very hard working performers and back room staff who are all eager to put on the best shows possible.

When you say wrestling, most people immediately think of WWE (or WWF as it was once known). Local independent wrestling is different from what you see on TV. The audience are closer to the action, the audience are more involved in the show and the performers aren’t performing for paychecks. The wrestlers are performing for the love of the sport, to get experience and to get noticed. Local Independent wrestling is where wrestlers make names for themselves and hone their craft, so if you want to see a wrestler before they get famous, local independent shows are the place to go.

Dedication

The crazy thing about the guys and girls who get in the ring, is how a lot of them are holding down day jobs whilst also working out incredibly hard to keep their physique and then risking their health and wellbeing every time they get in the ring. This is how dedicated these guys are; this is how much they love to entertain.

We had a big show in Plymouth last night and what shone through for me was the community feel. Many members of the crowd knew each other and many members of the crowd knew the wrestlers, there was a real family vibe. The crowd really got in to everything that was going on, feeling the pain of defeat when their favourites lost and the elation of victory when their favourites won. It was like we were all in the experience together.

Glitz and Glamour

Local Independent wrestling shows may not have the glitz and glamour of the wrestling you see on TV but you have to ask yourself – what do you watch wrestling for? If you stripped away the lighting, the cameras, the fireworks etc. wrestling is about a battle of wrestlers, a battle of characters, it’s storytelling, it’s physical theatre and PWA does this very well. If you watch wrestling for the actual matches then you need to get yourself along to a local show.

It was so great to be in the company yesterday of so many dream chasers. People that have a passion for professional wrestling who were willing to make sacrifices to make it as far as they can in the industry. People who want to make wrestling as big as it can be in Plymouth and make PWA the best it possibly can be.

Many people talk about doing something but these guys are the ones that are actually doing something. Some of them may make it, some of them might not but at least they will all know that they gave it a shot and will know how far they could have got instead of always wondering.

PWA have their next show on November 22nd and I urge you all to check it out. www.plymouthwrestling.co.uk

Why I will never understand football fans

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In the UK, the football (soccer) season started for most professional teams this weekend just gone. After a couple of months since the last ball was kicked in anger, fans from across the UK were chomping at the bit to watch their favourite teams play, select their Fantasy Football team and start commenting about games on social media.

I love the game of football and have been a fan for as long as I can remember. Like everyone else I had been looking forward to the start of the season so I could start cheering on my team and watch Match Of The Day again, a TV show which is an institution to so many fans.

Dark Ages

Football is sold as a game that can unite the world, but sadly I think in this country it is a game that people want to use to cause divides between them and other fans. In a world where inclusivity and acceptance of people from all walks of life is on the rise (thankfully), I think football is still stuck in the dark ages. It is not deemed as acceptable to hurl an insult or abuse at someone who is different from you in life, yet for football fans it is seen as the norm to insult and abuse opposition teams and the fans of opposition teams.

This is just one of many bugbears I have with the fans of this game. It’s like when your team wins, it is a great feeling and one to be enjoyed but sadly to many this isn’t enough, instead they feel the need to poke fun at the opposition and their fans. As football fans we all know how it feels to lose (it doesn’t feel great) so in the knowledge of this I don’t know why any fan of the game would want to go out of their way to make that experience even worse for another.

School ground mentality

Sometimes I feel like most football fans still have the school ground mentality of bullying and ganging up on someone because it is seen as the fun or cool thing to do. I don’t see why people get their kicks out of provoking people and rubbing it in their faces when the team they support beat another.

I enjoy watching any game of football, regardless of who is playing, just to enjoy the sport. It seems other fans however enjoy watching games that don’t feature the team they support, just to give them ammunition to mock the fans of that team, which to me just seems like such a waste of time.

I just want to enjoy the game and I don’t want my enjoyment of the game to come at the price of anyone else’s enjoyment. I know I am in the minority but I wish more were like me. Sadly I know that insulting, laughing at or abusing other teams and fans is a big part of fan culture, that people get great enjoyment from, I just want to opt out of it and enjoy the high & lows of the season as they unfold. Celebrating the victories, commiserating the defeats, watching great football no matter who is involved and congratulating others when they have success.

The FA Cup

With everything that has been going on with FIFA and with getting quoted in the Telegraph, I haven’t had chance to blog about last weekends FA Cup final.

Being a massive Arsenal fan, I sat and watched with great joy as we won the game 4 – 0 with one of the goals being a goal to remember. This is the second year in a row that Arsenal have won the cup, with this latest triumph breaking records for FA Cup wins. To go throughout two years of a competition without being beaten is a spectacular achievement.

After so many trophyless seasons at Arsenal it is great to be winning things regularly again, as it seems in football success is only judged by trophies won if you are a big club. I think this is sad as I think there are many ways to judge success but that is the pressure the big clubs are under where winning is everything.

Now Arsenal have the FA Cup it won’t mean as much to win it again next season and won’t been seen as a big success to win it. Arsenal will now be expected to challenge on so called bigger fronts like the Premier League and Champions League.

I think Arsenal are a team going in the right direction and are building a solid base to grow form and be successful for a long time. I am proud to be an Arsenal fan and I think our time is coming soon. We’ve had to wait a while for it but I think it will be worth it when it comes.

Keeping our manager Arsene Wenger for as long as we have I think will pay long-term dividends. We are different to nearly every other club which seems to have a hire and fire mentality and seem to have teams of egos and mercenaries.

Our playing style has developed this year which is great to see but the philosophy remains and I for one can’t wait to see what next season brings.

The Power of Football

I was out walking in a neighbouring city the other evening and saw something which made me stop and think.

Whilst I was walking, I walked past a Bar that was showing a football match and they had one TV that pointed out to the road so any passer by could stop and watch. In front of this TV was a homeless man. He had set his piece of cardboard down, sat down and seemed hooked on the match, to the point that the rest of the world around him didn’t seem to exist. This man was reacting to every close shot and every bad decision by the referee, he probably looked a lot like I do when I sit and watch at home.

Enjoying the Game

In the short time that I was there no one tried to move him on and no one bothered him, which was nice to see. Like any football fan he seemed to just want to enjoy the game of football and was allowed to do so. This event helped put football further in to prospective for me.

The game of football is an international phenomenon, played at the top level by people who will earn more in a month than I might earn in my lifetime. It is a game that now in this country if you want to follow it live on TV you have to pay obscene amounts of money to the likes of Sky, Virgin and BT Sport.

Key Strengths

Football is a game you get caught up in, a game that can give you something to look forward to and a game that can help you forget your troubles. These are the things that I think are its key strengths and I hate that in this country that it isn’t accessible to all.

I think more needs to be done at higher levels to make this sport more accessible. In a classroom of kids, for those that are in to football there shouldn’t be a class divide over football, where there are some kids who have parents that can afford the subscriptions to watch the games and some that can’t.

Lets Help Others

I would love to live in a world where those that can afford the subscriptions to watch live football invite people over to their home to watch games, people who they know can’t afford the subscription but enjoy the game. If I lived next to the street I think I would be tempted to put a TV up to the window for passers by to watch the game.

Lets use football, lets share football, lets do something ourselves, if more and more people are going to be priced out of the game lets bring them back in to the game. To the man I saw the other night, I hope you continue to enjoy football and that one day someone invites you in to watch a game with them.

Selling the game

It’s been a bad news week this week if you are a fan of what many people call the national game of England, that being football (or soccer for my American readers).

The TV rights to screen games from our biggest league ‘The Premiership’ have been sold to Sky and BT for a staggering £5.136bn, which is 71% above the amount they paid for TV rights last time they were sold. Here is a news story about this development:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-31379128

The clubs in the leagues are probably rubbing their hands together, as this sale of rights means more money will filter through to the clubs, which will make their balance sheets look healthier give them capital to build stadiums, ability to buy new players and more chances to secure loans or credit.

I think the clubs and the league will be the only winners though. To access football matches legally in the UK through Sky and BT, you either have to have a paid subscription or pay for their other products and services. Both Sky and BT are businesses and need to make money from these deals, so that leaves the fans in a bad place.

The Rich get richer

I’m sure the money the clubs make through these deals will keep some fans happy though, as some will use the increased revenues to buy big name players to excite and entertain their fans. These players will get paid a ridiculous amount of money and may or may not bring success to their club. Whilst the wages of the super rich footballers I’m sure will increase with this deal, I’m sure the average earnings of the fans that pay their money to support them won’t increase at anywhere near the same rate.

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The problem with the TV rights deal is that it starts a domino effect on the money earned and spent by those in the game, as it filters from Sky to the Premier League, then to the clubs and then to the players. People are already speculating that this TV deal may be the catalyst for the record transfer fee and wages for a player to be broken again. Even though the money coming in may be going up, the costs for the TV providers and the clubs I think will be going up significantly in the next 4 years because of it.

Business

Sky and BT will need to claw their outlay back and this is where I think the fans are going to be hit in the pocket. The easiest way for them to do this is by increasing the costs for their subscriptions and to increase the lengths of contracts you have to commit to in order to watch the games.

The next way they will claw their outlay back is through advertising. I think we can expect to see more on screen advertising during games and coverage, more paid for advertising on their online and social media streams, then finally probably more advert breaks or longer advert breaks in the build up, half time and post match.

Open Letter

Last year I blogged my ‘Open Letter’ to the football world which can be seen here:

https://adamsibley.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/open-letter-to-football-teams-players-staff-and-tv-companies-that-screen-football-in-the-uk/

Following on from this weeks news, I think this problem that I blogged about last year is only going to get worse. Sky and BT will be more desperate than ever for more advertisers and higher spending advertisers, so all I can see is betting adverts around football increasing.

Aggressive advertising

More betting adverts, more aggressive betting advertising and closer links between TV companies and betting companies will only see more people betting on football, which I think is a problem. Again (as I did in my blog last year) I stress that I am not anti-betting but I think for a good percentage of people that an aggressive advertising assault encouraging them to bet, could lead them in to financial problems and addictions.

We need to remember that it’s the betting companies that make the most from gambling, not the customers. Betting companies, like Sky and BT need to make a profit and for betting companies they will have to make more money to afford price hikes in advertising costs.

Pressure

With more at stake than ever for Sky and BT the pressure to make more money has been increased. The boards and shareholders will want to see returns on their investments and I am sure if these deals aren’t as successful for them as they had hoped, that it could have massive implications on their companies and their staff.

Inflated bubble

To fund what is becoming an ever over inflated bubble it will be the fans that lose out. I think for long-term success it is important to get as many people watching the game as possible, but all I can see long term is people turning away from the game. It won’t happen overnight but if we continue at this rate for the next 20 years, I dread to think what the sport will be like.

Learning from the Super Bowl

Even though I was born in England and live in England, it is a yearly tradition for me to stay up and watch the Super Bowl live. I love the sport and especially love the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl is a spectacle, which is a bit different to anything else in the sporting world; it is an event that can bring so many people in one country together, with many other people wanting to join in from across the globe.

I love when sport brings people together and captures the imagination. In big events like this, memories are made, that for those involved and those watching will last a lifetime. To be able to have those conversations with people that start with “remember when…” that to me is what sport is all about. There is nothing like getting caught up in the action with sport, when you can forget about your troubles for those moments and be totally immersed in the drama of the game.

One standout person for me from the Super Bowl was the coach of the Seattle Seahawks Pete Carroll. After the Seahawks threw away the chance to win the game in the closing seconds, Pete Carroll came out in an interview and shouldered the responsibility for what happened and the decisions that were made, which I thought showed great leadership. For NFL players and staff the Super Bowl is when you come under the biggest spotlight and have the most pressure to win, so to handle yourself with dignity and class in amongst of all that pressure really shows the measure of the man.

The other standout story from the game has to be that of Chris Matthews, also from the Seattle Seahawks. After being released from a team in the Canadian Football League and with his NFL dreams seemingly over, he took work at a shop and as a security guard. His life changed in February of last year when he got a phone call from the Seahawks asking him to try out. Based on this tryout he eventually ended up on the practice squad and then had to wait until December to be made a part of the main squad. With only a few games under his belt he turned in to a star of the Super Bowl as he set up the first touch down for the team and scored the second. If there was ever a story for never giving up on your dreams this was it.

With most attention paid to the score and to the winners after the game, I think it is important that we don’t lose the stories and the people behind the game, as most of the time it is these things that deserve the attention.

The blurred world of TV personalities and social media

Regular readers of the blog will know I am a big fan of football. Last night I was watching the FA Cup Match between AFC Wimbledon and Liverpool on the BBC. Like many fans, whilst watching games I will normally be on Twitter making comments on the game and seeing what other people are saying about the game.

The host for the programme was Gary Lineker and during the game whilst he wasn’t on camera he was tweeting from his personal Twitter account. One of his tweets contained a swear word which he later then blamed on auto-correct. No one will ever know besides Gary if he did tweet the swear word intentionally or not but I think it does raise an interesting situation.

Gary is paid a salary by the BBC, which is funded by License Fee paying members of the general public. He like anybody else has the right to have their own Twitter account and tweet their own views. On top of this I know Twitter is a great platform to promote TV shows as well, so I think it is good that TV personalities use their own following to drum up support and viewers for a show.

With all that said though, I do think when you are working you are representing the company you work for during that period of time. I am sure there are policies about swearing on air but do TV companies and the like have policies about engaging with social media whilst live on air?

I think what you say on twitter should be treated the same as if you were to say something out loud. I think in many ways we have wised up to that as a world with the police getting involved in trolling, bullying and threats made on social media. Celebrities need to be more careful than most on Twitter as they have so much to lose with an accidental or mistaken tweet.

If someone is tweeting from their own personal twitter account whilst working are they increasing their own brand and awareness whilst being paid to do a job? If so is this right? Should the employer have the right to stop people from tweeting whilst working or have control over what they are tweeting?

Many people in all kinds of lines of work will tweet whilst working. Some will have on their profile that their views are their own and not the company they work for and some won’t ever mention the company they work for to try and avoid any problems. If a person is synonymous with the job they do or the company they work in, I think it is nearly impossible for what they say on social media not to be associated with that job or company.

As I say in lots of my blogs about social media, it is an ever-evolving thing, which evolves at a rate of knots. This makes it hard for policies and procedures to keep up and remain relevant. In a lot of cases on social media it takes something to happen for people to have an opinion on whether it is right or wrong and for a procedure or policy to be put in to place. I think the situation last night was case in point.

Open Letter to football teams, players, staff and TV Companies that screen football in the UK

Dear Football Community,

I am writing to ask very kindly if you would all reconsider the level of betting and gambling adverts you display on your channels, social media feeds and websites.

I pay my subscriptions for your channels; I buy your merchandise and pay for tickets to watch games. I do this because I support football, however I am not doing this so I can be bombarded with betting advertisements. I know you are all businesses who need to make money and I don’t begrudge that, but can this not be done at the expense of the fan who is already paying so much to follow a sport they love.

You all do fantastic things in the community, so please don’t forget that community when looking at other areas of your business. Your community is made up of young impressionable people, people battling financial hardship and people who struggle with addiction. Now I wouldn’t say I fit in to any of those categories but it doesn’t mean I want to be bombarded with betting advertisements either. Most of you must have had young people in your family at some point and many of you will have had people you know battle addictions or fall on bad financial times. Next time you think about signing a lucrative deal with a betting firm can you keep these people in your mind and ask yourself if you would want them being bombarded with these adverts?

Could you all also take a minute to think about the long list of retired football professionals who have given us many hours of joy, but have found themselves battling addictions and financial hard times. Can we honour those heroes of the game with the way we display it today?

You have a captive market so please continue to captivate them with amazing games and interesting talking points. The power football has is an amazing thing and as guardians of it can you please use that power wisely. Lets make it a sport that anyone can watch and interact with, without having to worry about what they are watching.

I would like to challenge a club, a league or a TV company to become the first footballing entity that makes informed decisions on what if any betting adverts they allow to be displayed by their organisation and does it with their community in mind, not finances. Speak to your fans and viewers to see what they have to say. Look out in the crowd and see the child going to their first game with their parents, think to yourself – what messages do we want them to see? I would happily sit down with any football club, TV company or league to discuss the best way forward.

To end with I would like to say that I am not for censorship, I am not against peoples right to bet or the betting companies right to advertise, I am for the beautiful game and the supporters who deserve better from the game that they are so invested in.

Yours Faithfully Adam Sibley

Betting and the Beautiful Game

One thing I have noticed a lot this last year is the dangerous world of sport betting and the connection it has with the beautiful game (football or soccer if you are American) in the UK.

It used to be if you wanted to put a bet on a match that you would have to go to a betting shop. Now you have hundreds of free apps at your disposal for your phone, tablet or computer that will let you bet at a push of a button and from the comfort of your own home.

I think this is very dangerous, as now betting has become a convenience thing with no stigma attached to it. With the craze for game apps, has betting online through apps become a new game for some?

Alongside the rise of betting apps has been a rise in the connection between televised football and betting. First it started with betting companies paying for TV adverts around football matches, then it moved to betting companies sponsoring the programmes, now it’s moved to a point where on some games the betting adverts are on the screen when the players come out and you have live odds appearing.

This isn’t just happening for the evening games this is happening for the afternoon kick offs too. Many children and families are watching these games, yet the TV companies seem to care very little. Every year TV companies seem to be pushing the boundaries and finding new ways to advertise gambling as part of the programme, to either increase the money they get from betting companies or to keep their money and not lose them to a competitor.

Throughout any live game you are being enticed to bet. With live odds being shown before kick off and at half time. This is coupled with lots of betting promotions including free bets, cashback and the ability to cash out at any time. Not only do you have all this but you also have a million and one different things you can bet on throughout the game. This is before talking about the fact that you have the ability to bet on practically any game happening anywhere in the world.

The message put across is that betting and football go hand in hand. A message that says betting is part of the experience and will help you enjoy the game more. I remember seeing one betting advert of some lads walking to a football game and they were on their phones putting a bet on and coming home to check how they have done. I have also seen other adverts which are designed to make you laugh and to show that betting is great fun, are these messages we want our children to hear?

Not only are TV channels tightly linked to betting firms, lots of football clubs are too through sponsorship. First we have shirt sponsorship, then we have constant adverts on club websites and their social media feeds. Football clubs are supported by many families, with most clubs seemingly wanting to attract the family market and this is why it is dangerous. Now any 13 year old kid with access to the internet can see that the club they support, supports gambling and is encouraging their fans to do so. Betting on your team is now seen as a way to show your support and your allegiance.

If smoking and alcohol were promoted this excessively around football programming people would be up in arms but for something which can be equally addictive and bad for your health no one seems to care.

Football is a game which can capture the imagination and bring such a feel good factor. It is a game where clubs want to build allegiances with its fans in a band of brothers sort of way, but if the clubs really cared about their fans why would they want to risk their financial and mental wellbeing? To me that doesn’t seem like a nice thing to do.

I think the rise of betting sponsorship shows that the TV companies and football clubs will put their revenue streams ahead of their viewers and fans, whom without they couldn’t do what they do, as no fans means no business.