18
May
Olivia Williams

Democracy’s a game – but who’s playing around?

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What do Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn and Roger Williams (my Grandad) have in common? No, they’re not just older, white men. It’s the love of the game.

The European super flop:

In the last few weeks, the worlds of football and politics collided, with the European Super League rising and falling with the grace of the Ottoman Empire. Last month it was announced that a new league was to be forged, consisting of top clubs across the world, competing exclusively against each other in a closed format. By the Wednesday of the following week it was over, with protests across the country and all six UK clubs pulling out, taking the positions of Jose Mourinho and Manchester United’s Executive Vice Chairman with it. So, what’s problem?

The new league, backed by JP Morgan, sent shivers down the spines of fans and politicians alike, as many feared this was another step down a slippery slope to a US-style sports-league. US leagues often face criticism for their anti-competitive structures, whereby, wealthy elites who own the league, are at liberty to make TV and sponsorship deals, decide where and who plays and are able to impose rules on clubs’ business operations, which stops money flowing to the players… and the fans.

“It means everything to the fans”

The issue most took, was that such a system risks a near-future where an elite set of clubs distance themselves from their communities of life-faring fans and supporters. In the US, for example, teams have moved sites to seek greater profit, have curbed spending on youth development to make bids for new players, and are propelled (even more so) by big brand sponsorships.

In the UK, the slippery slope may have already begun. Advertising in football is at an all-time high, with brand names dominating football kits; for all the efforts of various fan groups, season ticket prices are increasing each year; smaller clubs went under during Covid-19 without the support of the bigger players; meanwhile increasingly clubs are being bought out by foreign investors, while fans lose control of a club and a team that they have identified with, shouted for and spent Saturday’s with ever since they were a child.

Political football

In a divided political landscape, football has united the playing field and seen politicians reaching across the aisles, albeit from different standpoints. Boris Johnson criticised the league on the grounds of free market values, believing it to offend “the basic principles of competition” and clubs distancing themselves from local communities. Keir Starmer was adamant the non-domestic league should not be able to ignore supporters, and Jeremy Corbyn was distraught with his own club, Arsenal and its move away from its humble beginnings when it was, like many others, funded by workers. (My grandad by the way, was also appalled that Norwich City hadn’t been invited). The common theme, however, in all these conversations: voice, participation, community.

A democratic playing field

If you ask any football fan, no matter their team, they will be adamant that they love the game. If you ask any politician, no matter their party affiliation, will they be adamant that they love democracy? Debating in order to achieve common ground with the community in mind, no matter your party politics, is for me, where the spirit of democracy lies. Indeed, the super-flop was truly a watershed moment, as for the first time in a very long time we saw genuine consensus.

Now the dust has settled, and with a good dose of hindsight, I propose that there are two lessons to be learned. If we can all agree that football without its community is nothing, can we also agree that society without its community is nothing? Football is of course not perfect. It is tribal by nature and this comes with its own issues that must be stamped out. But isn’t there something in the game’s power of bringing people together, a joy that can be shared whether it’s in the back garden or in Anfield, a game where one is based on their own merits, skill and passion?

Lesson one: we currently face some of the biggest challenges of humankind: climate change, structural racism and poverty. It’s about time we injected this sense of community back into big debates to find common ground. Whether that be through citizens assemblies or genuinely listening to voters’ concerns.

Lesson two: it’s not just football that can spur community. We’ve seen devastating cuts to our youth services (70% in the last decade). Maybe, that community feel got lost because we don’t have enough clubs and spaces, be they sports, arts or humanities, to unite under. As Martha Nussbaum said: “Play teaches people to be capable of living with others without control; it connects the experiences of vulnerability and surprise to curiosity and wonder, rather than to crippling anxiety.”

Since ‘Super League-gate’, nine of the clubs who joined the league, including England’s big six, have signed a letter of apology, recommitting themselves to UEFA and agreeing to give money to the grassroots game in recompense.

The whole debacle showed us that community spirit is still very much alive. But football, music or art – it doesn’t really matter. Play, in whatever form, teaches us how to live together, in a community and in a democracy.

A small ‘footnote’

The cynic in me cannot help but add a footnote to this article. You can find a really interesting piece about Red Wall politics and the political reaction here.

13
Apr
Olivia Williams

Believe in Better: Insight and inspiration from industry leaders

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Over the past year, events such as Brexit, the new US administration and of course Covid-19 have shaken up market order, and at times, currency markets responded with unparalleled volatility. However, with challenges also come new opportunities. New and promising markets are constantly emerging and specialists are becoming increasingly vital for facilitating international trade.

We spoke to Lee McDarby, CEO of UK International Payments at moneycorp – the international fintech and payments group – about currency volatility and the impact on UK businesses, how the financial services sector has adapted to the challenges of the past year, and what ‘better’ looks like for the industry.

Read more “Believe in Better: Insight and inspiration from industry leaders”

10
Jul
Olivia Williams

Our #CrackingClientCoverage for June!

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Every month we compile a few of our favourite #CrackingClientCoverage and social success stories – here are our picks for June.

City Year

Social mobility has been in the news this month with the report from the Social Mobility Commission. One of our clients, City Year UK, addresses the issue of social mobility head-on through their programme of placing volunteers in schools in deprived areas. On the back of this report, we secured two thought leadership pieces for Sophie Livingstone, the Chief Executive of City Year in The Independent and The Times Educational Supplement.

 

Read more “Our #CrackingClientCoverage for June!”

05
Jun
Olivia Williams

Our #CrackingClientCoverage for May!

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May was a month of more cracking client coverage. Here is a roundup of the best bits.

City Year UK

City Year UK research hit the headlines this month as they called for the campaigning parties in June’s election to support apprenticeships and other forms of employee training. This fantastic City A.M. piece came at the beginning of Learning at Work Week, placing City Year UK at the forefront of volunteering opportunities for young people in the UK. City A.M. continued to cover the story the next day as well!

Read more “Our #CrackingClientCoverage for May!”

22
May
Olivia Williams

Meet Stand Agency’s… Katie Elliott!

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Meet the newest member of the Stand Agency team!

How and why did you get involved in PR?

For me, it actually dates way back to my childhood days where I spent many hours sticking my very own newspapers and magazines together (so cool I know!). After embarking on a Multimedia Journalism degree, I knew I was destined to be a story teller. It wasn’t until I began working on the feature desks of regional newspapers and glossy lifestyle magazines and hearing from passionate PRs, that I realised my heart lies with the ‘dark side’. PR affords the opportunity to completely immerse yourself in an idea, a campaign or a client and see it come to life.

Read more “Meet Stand Agency’s… Katie Elliott!”

18
May
Olivia Williams

Meet Stand Agency’s… Grace French!

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Here’s a quick intro to our newest Senior Account Executive.

How and why did you get involved in PR?

I’ve always been fascinated by what makes people tick and how we engage with the world around us. I studied psychology at university, and when I finished my degree I was drawn to the variety and interactivity of PR. I wanted to work in a creative yet challenging environment that focuses on inspiring change, and PR was a great fit.

What drew you to Stand Agency?

I immediately felt so at home when I joined Stand. The passion that everyone has for the organisations we work with is so inspiring, and I love helping our clients towards positive change. It’s an incredibly supportive and encouraging environment; you’re given the opportunity to work on brilliant projects and you have so much fun whilst doing so.

Read more “Meet Stand Agency’s… Grace French!”

05
May
Olivia Williams

Our #CrackingClientCoverage for April

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After an excellent April of #CrackingClientCoverage here are our highlights for the month!

The Maiden Factor

BEST BROADCAST SPREAD OF APRIL 2017

This April saw the return to the UK of Maiden, the yacht skippered by Tracy Edwards MBE and her all-female crew in the 1989/90 Whitbread Round the World Race.

After a year-long restoration in Southampton, Maiden will sail again as an ambassador for The Maiden Factor, fundraising for girls’ access to education across the globe.

We launched The Maiden Factor with a bang – and secured national broadcast coverage on BBC Breakfast, BBC News at One, The One Show, Sky News and there is still more to come… watch this space.

Read more “Our #CrackingClientCoverage for April”