World Travel Market 2018: The Unsustainable Boom In Global Tourism:

If you’ve started to plan where to go on holiday in 2019, which possible destinations are on your list? Perhaps Barcelona,Venice, Paris, Mallorca or somewhere much further away such as Machu Picchu in Peru. You’ll assume, quite reasonably, that wherever you choose to go, you’ll be welcome as these places are all competing with each other to attract visitors – which is presumably why they paid to have a stand at the recent World Travel Market (WTM) held in London’s Excel Centre from 5th – 7th November. WTM statistics show that this annual event now “facilitates £2.8 billion in industry deals, caters for 5,000 exhibitors and travel trade professionals from 182 countries and is attended by more than 51,0000 participants”.

It’s clear, however, that the WTM organisers are acutely aware of the growing concern regarding the potentially adverse worldwide impact of mass tourism. Although they provided seminars on topics such as “How Podcasting Can Strengthen Your Brand”, “Instagram And Travel” and “Opportunities For the Travel Industry”, the three-day event focused mainly on the issue of “Responsible Tourism”. On the Tuesday, for instance, the delegates from Barcelona outlined how they are dealing with the challenges posed by the continual influx of visitors into the Catalonian capital and there was a discussion about the effect that the burgeoning numbers of Chinese tourists are having on the most popular global holiday venues.

As the CityLab contributor, Richard Florida, noted on 7th August, many of the world’s cities are witnessing a backlash against tourism: In Venice, Barcelona, San Sebastian and Mallorca, there have been anti-tourism protests accompanied by graffiti slogans proclaiming “Tourists Go Home”. Venice and the Croatian coastal resort of Dubrovnik want to introduce restrictions on cruise ships, Amsterdam is trying to stop tourist shops selling over-priced souvenirs and waffles, the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik is clamping down on the “inappropriate behaviour” of tourists arriving on discounted flights and Rome has prohibited people from eating at, cavorting in or having access to popular sites such as the Trevi fountain.

According to the Barcelona publication “The Local” on July 4th, the battle against “overtourism” in the city began in July 2017 when masked protestors attacked a tour bus,slashing the tyres and writing “El Turisme Mata Els Barris” (Tourism Kills Neighbourhoods”) on the windscreen. Fabiola Manchinelli, Professor of Urban Tourism at the University of Barcelona, quoted by “The Local, has described the situation as “El turismo de borrachera (The drunks’ party). If numbers continue to rise, Barcelona could die of success”.

 

Richard Florida attributes this development to the fact that tourism has become more affordable and accessible, with cut-price airfares and cheap accommodation made possible through online booking services such as Airbnb: “International tourism exploded to 1.billion trips in 2017 – and this is expected to rise to 1.8 billion in 2030. Much of this growth has been driven by Chinese tourists who made about 130 million trips abroad last year.” The Guardian columnist, Martin Kettle, believes that we are all part of the problem, that unless we rethink our holiday choices, the damage and destruction to global beauty spots can only get worse.

The Daily Telegraph journalist David Chazam emphasized on 7th July that France remains the world’s most popular tourist destination, but is now struggling to cope with record numbers of visitors. Christian Mantel. Head of Atout France, the national tourism development agency, told Chazam that they are close to crisis point: “Above a certain quantity of tourists, sites will be forced to turn people away”. Meanwhile, the Guardian’s Rome correspondent, Angela Giuffrida, reported on 2nd November that the Vatican is considering limiting visitor numbers due to fears that overcrowding could provoke a stampede and the claim by tour guides that 10 people a day faint while making their way to the Sistine Chapel.

A somewhat controversial phenomenon has been the growing popularity of “slum / poverty tourism”. This is marketed by the tour operators, explains the “Tourism Concern” commentator Mark Watson, “as an alternative to traditional tourism and a more realistic form of experiencing a country – getting in touch with real people and the local culture”. An estimated 40,000 tourists visit favelas in Rio de Janeiro each year and 300,000 the townships in Cape Town, South Africa. However, when residents were asked by Watson what benefits these tours make to their communities, the most common answer was “none”.

In the opinion of Paul Goodman, a writer for “Soapbox”, the main advantage of tourism is that it brings in finance which creates employment for local people and provides an incentive for investment in infrastructure such as roads and rail networks, as well as funding for medical and educational facilities. The principal negative factors include the potential environmental damage (for example, pollution and forest fires), the insecurity implicit in the seasonal nature of tourism work and the commercialisation of culture that can undermine the soul of a tourist destination: “ Local traditions that have a rich cultural heritage are reduced to wearing costumes and putting on acts for the tourists in return for money”.

Filed under: Travel | Posted on November 12th, 2018 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

Sport Business Summit 2018: Football Sponsorship In The Spotlight:

If you’re a football fan, you’ll for sure know which company is the main sponsor for your favourite team. You can’t avoid seeing the name: It appears not only on the players’ shirts but is advertised prominently around the club’s stadium. In the case of Liverpool FC, for example, it’s Standard Chartered Bank, who currently pay £30 million a year for a contract first signed in 2010, was renewed in May and will last until the end of the 2022 / 23 season. Like other Premier League clubs, Liverpool have additional sponsors , principally the Danish beer manufacturer, Carlsberg. The European Sponsorship Association estimates that over the past 26 years, around 6.5 million Carlsberg pints have been served at Liverpool’s Anfield stadium.

Does this mean that Liverpool fans also order the same beer when they go to pubs in the city? Probably yes: As was pointed out in the Nielsen Sports organisation’s “World Football Report 2018” issued to delegates at the recent Sport Business Summit held at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge stadium from 10th-11th October, 51% of football supporters “would choose their sponsor’s product rather than other brands if the price and quality were the same”. This might also mean that supporters of Everton FC, Liverpool’s fierce local rivals, refuse to drink anything connected with Carlsberg.

There is, though, a limit to the amount of money fans are willing or able to spend on the products or services provided by their club’s sponsors. Many of them probably couldn’t afford to travel on either Etihad (Manchester City’s sponsors for £45 million pa) or Emirates Airlines (Arsenal’s sponsors for £40 million pa) or purchase a car made by Chevolret (Manchester United: £47 million pa) and do Chelsea fans really order from Yokohama (£40 million pa) when they need new tyres for their vehicles?

So why are so many brands prepared to finance Premier League clubs to such a massive extent? In the opinion of “brandwatch.com”, it’s because they are eager to tap into the prestige of the game and realise there are vast potential benefits to be derived from the prospective millions of TV viewers and 212 territories of coverage around the world as well as the enhanced social media presence and online visibility. James Evans, a correspondent for “Football Today News”, has nevertheless noted that many people are questioning whether the role of sponsorship is becoming too dominant in a game which is increasingly lucrative in its global appeal and that many supporters resent the rebranding of both team names and entire stadiums.

There’s particular concern about the business sectors in which a large number of sponsors operate. On 30th July, the Guardian quoted a Press Association (PA) report that experts on “problem gambling” are disturbed by the growing number of football clubs that have sponsorship arrangements with betting firms and online casinos. This season, “almost 60% of the clubs in England’s top two divisions will have gambling companies on their shirts – nine in the Premier League and a staggering 17 of 24 in the Championship”. Tottenham are sponsored by AIA (Hong Kong / China: Insurance), Brighton by American Express, Southampton by Virgin Media UK, Cardiff by “Visit Malaysia” (Tourism), Watford by FxPro UK (Forex Finance) and Leicester by King Power (Thailand: Duty Free) – but most of the other Premiership teams have sponsors with direct links to the gambling industry. Among them: West Ham: Betway (Malta), Everton: SportPesa (Kenya), Crystal Palace: ManBetX (Malta), Newcastle: Fun88 (China / Isle of Man), Bournemouth: M88 (Gibraltar), Huddersfield: Ope Sports (Malta), Fulham: Dafabet (Malta), Wolves: W88 (Thailand), Burnley: Laba360 (Malta).

Professor Jim Orford of Gambling Watch UK has told PA Sport that he is worried by evidence that gambling is increasingly seen as a normal “part and parcel” of following and supporting one’s favourite sport or team. According to the Gambling Commission’s most recent statistics, highlighted by the Guardian, “There are 430,000 adult problem gamblers in the UK and another 370,000 children aged 11-16 who gamble every week”. The Premier League apparently declined to comment when asked by the Guardian if football is getting too close to the gambling industry, but “is understood to believe that it is for the clubs themselves to decide with whom they make deals”.

Sponsorship of course is not the only source of finance for the Premier League clubs. The Annual Review of Football Finance 2018 published by the Deloitte Consultancy has emphasised that the clubs also derive significant revenue from broadcasting sources: Under a deal reached in February, during the 2019-2022 “cycle” Sky Sports will pay the Premier League £3.6 billion for 128 domestic matches each season (£9.3 million per game) and BT Sport will pay £885 million for 32 domestic matches each season (£9.2 million per game). It doesn’t include international rights, for which Deloitte anticipates a “further growth in overall value”.

This doesn’t seem to impress the Daily Telegraph journalist, Damian Collins. In an article captioned “Money Is Killing Football”, he has declared that “Football is awash with broadcasting and sponsorship money and that has made a lot of people very rich and others very greedy”.

 

 

 

 

Filed under: Sports | Posted on October 30th, 2018 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

How To Solve The Food Wastage Crisis?

When you go into your local supermarket for your groceries, do you select the items which are at the front of the shelves? Probably not: More likely, you automatically look for the ones, often hidden at the back, which have the longest “best before”, “use by” and expiry dates”. According to research conducted by the National Federation of Women’s Institute (NFWI), reported by ITV News in May, less than half the people questioned understand the meaning of “best before” – a description which indicates that the food might not be at its “optimum quality” after the date specified but is still safe to eat.

As Mark Little, the Tesco supermarket chain’s “ Head of Food Waste” told ITV, many of their customers find the different date codes on the packaging confusing and so base their decision on whether or not to buy a product on its appearance rather than the label. This results in the supermarket often having to throw away perfectly edible food – especially, it seems, fruit and vegetables. On 8th October, the Guardian’s consumer affairs correspondent, Rebecca Smithers, quoted statistics issued by the Government’s advisory body “WRAP” (Waste & Resources Action Programme) indicating that around 7.3 million tonnes of household food worth £13 billion is discarded every year in the UK, 4.4 million tonnes of which still could be eaten but instead is put into the rubbish bin.

Smithers has consistently focused on this topic : On 6th October, she described as “shocking” the daily waste of 24 million slices of bread in Britain and on 25th September published the estimation by the United Nations that a third of the world’s food (approximately 1.3 billion tonnes as calculated by FAO, the Food & Agriculture Organization) is wasted while one in nine people across the globe remain undernourished. The major UK supermarkets, she noted have been held responsible for contributing to the country’s waste mountain “by sticking rigidly to quality specifications and routinely rejecting misshapen, but edible produce grown by suppliers”.

In May, Tesco responded to this criticism by removing “guidance dates” from about 70 of its fruit and vegetable lines and this month (as revealed in Smithers’ 8th October article) announced it will remove date labels from an additional 116 of its items – including apples, oranges, cabbages and asparagus. Although Tesco has portrayed this move as confirmation of its commitment to ensuring that no food that is safe for human consumption goes to waste, some sceptics may dismiss it merely as a ploy to sell more of its products and hence enhance its profits.

The NHS (National Health Service) has attempted to provide clarification of food labelling terminology. On its website, it explains that “use by” dates are for food that goes off quickly, such as smoked fish, meat products and ready-prepared salads. It warns against consuming food or drink after the specified date. “Doing so could put your health at risk. Any instructions, such as “eat within 3 days of opening” should be followed”. By contrast, “best before” dates, which appear on a wide range of frozen, dried, tinned and other foods are about quality, not safety. “When the date is passed, it doesn’t mean that the food will be harmful, but it might begin to lose its flavour and texture”.

There are, the NHS emphasises, special criteria for eggs: They have a “shelf life” of just 28 days, so by law, must reach the final consumer within 21 days from when they were laid by the hens, which then provides at least 7 days until the “best before” date expires. After that, the quality of the eggs will begin to deteriorate: “If any salmonella bacteria are present, they could multiply to high levels and could make the person ill”. The Sun newspaper considers “display until” and “sell by” labels to be rather less significant: The purpose of these, so it states, is to help the store’s employees with their jobs: “It means they don’t make any difference to shoppers, so you don’t need to worry about them”.

The Government’s “safety and hygiene” website (www.food.gov.uk) meanwhile cautions consumers not to trust “the sniff test”. Food can look and smell fine even after its “use by” date, it declares, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe to eat. It could still be contaminated. Despite this advice, the Chief Executive Officer of Morrisons, Dalton Philips, has admitted to the Daily Mail journalist Darren Boyle that when at home, he has on occasions relied more on the “smell test” than on the “best before” or “use by” dates on the package. Indeed, the bosses of other large retailers such as Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Sainsburys have also acknowledged in the survey referred to by Boyle that they ignore the expiry dates on their own food and “don’t pay attention to the ‘ridiculous’ labels on the food in their own fridge”.

Filed under: Healthcare, Society | Posted on October 16th, 2018 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

What’s For Dinner? The Food Companies Don’t Want You To Know:

Don’t eat anything your great-great grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food”. This is the advice offered by Michael Pollan, an American journalist, activist and author who has critically analysed the connection between the industrial food chains and what we put on our plates at meal-times. Among his many books are “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual” and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”. In the opinion of Sarah Boseley, the Guardian’s health correspondent, it’s not even necessary to go back four generations. As she pointed out in the newspaper on 12th April, half the food we take home “is made in factories from a long list of ingredients and additives, most of which never found a place in any grand-parents’ kitchen cupboard”.

We have, Boseley observed, become “ a nation of ultra-processed food eaters”, a fact she had already highlighted in a previous article in February when she cited the results of a survey conducted by the Public Health Nutrition journal. This showed that families in Britain eat more ready meals, biscuits and snacks than any of the other 19 European countries investigated, amounting to 50.7% of the diet. Germany is second on 46.2% and Ireland on 45.9%. According to data the Guardian has obtained from the market research organisation Euromonitor, the brands that profit most from this trend are Premier Foods (Mr Kipling cakes, Batchelors super noodles and soups), McVities (sweet biscuits) & Walkers (crisps) – both of which are “designed to make us want more” – Kellogg’s (breakfast cereals), Cadbury’s (chocolate), Wrigley’s (chewing-gum) and Haribo (sweets).

As Carlos Monteiro, a Professor with the Department of Nutrition at the University of Sao Paolo, Brazil, told Boselely, all of these are invariably made from cheap ingredients and produced on a huge scale: For instance, “Some instant noodles are not real noodles and it’s the same with chicken nuggets – you’re not getting real chicken”. Boselely also referred to the belief of Professor Corinna Hawkes, Director of the Centre for Food Policy, City, University of London, that “We need a change in our eating culture and children need to learn to like the taste of real foods. The solution is to make vegetables, fruits and whole grains more available, affordable, acceptable and appealing to all people and the excessive consumption of energy, saturated fats, sugar and salt more expensive and less available”.

The big food companies have responded to these criticisms by insisting that their commodities “can be consumed as part of a healthy, balanced diet” and that they are implementing changes which will enable customers to make healthier choices”. They also protect both their brand reputations and their profits (as the Sunday Times journalist, Kate Mansey, has reported), by funding scientific research, carried out mainly by university academics, in order to obtain favourable reviews of their products. The fact that, as Mansey has noted, “the food industry is bankrolling the building of laboratories and handing grants to universities across Britain”, has raised concerns about its influence on scientific integrity.

Among the examples provided by Mansey is research subsidised by Nestle which has claimed that “ a daily bar of chocolate could reduce stress for women”, studies part-funded by the French food giant, Danone, suggesting its yoghurt could reduce the risk of heart disease and increase brain function and an investigation financed by the Austrian company Red Bull which concluded that its energy drink “significantly improves driving performance” – a contention later challenged by the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

Kate Bratskeir, a contributor to the “Mic Network” has objected indignantly to the sponsorship arrangements the American Society for Nutrition (ASN) allows for companies such as PepsiCo, Nestle, Coca-Cola and McDonalds. She considers these amount to serious conflicts of interest: “The food brands get what they want (their products sold), scientists get what they’re after (funding to perform research) and the public is left with misinformation” – such as that Ocean Spray cranberry juice reduces urinary tract infection (UTI) symptoms, M&M, Snickers, Twix & Dove chocolates (all manufactured by Mars) are “miracle foods” and that Danone Activia yoghurt helps prevent colds and flu and is good for your intestine.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of “Authority Nutrition”, Kris Gunnars, declared in his column for Healthline.com on February 20th that “There’s no decency in the way junk food companies do their marketing. All they care about is profit.” Included in the list of his alleged “eleven biggest lies” are that most products with labels saying “low fat”,”reduced fat” or “fat free” are not healthy at all as they invariably contain extra sugar and other additives. Also, that most processed food products containing whole grains aren’t really “whole”, so-called “gluten-free” products are often loaded with unhealthy ingredients, and many food manufacturers use the word “organic” to mislead consumers: “Just because something is organic doesn’t mean it’s healthy”. Furthermore, the flavour in many processed foods may sound natural, but isn’t: “Orange-flavoured Vitamin Water tastes like oranges but there are no actual oranges in there: The sweet taste is derived from sugar and the orange flavour from artificial chemicals”.

Bon Apetit!

Filed under: Healthcare | Posted on October 2nd, 2018 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

London Fashion Week SS19: Hoping For A “Good Brexit”:

The latest LFW (Friday 14th September – Tuesday 18th September), at which the trends for Spring and Summer 2019 were exhibited, has just ended. It was preceded, as always, by statistics issued by the British Fashion Council (BFC) emphasising the vital financial contribution (£32 billion) the fashion industry makes to the UK economy. The LFW SS19 Prospectus enthusiastically hailed “this season’s packed schedule (which) cements London’s position as an international hub for creativity, innovation and commerce. It features catwalks, presentations and events from over 190 international brands”.

Looming over the occasion, however, was evident and widespread concern regarding the potentially damaging impact on the sector of the UK’s departure from the European Union (EU), due to take place on March 29th 2019. The new chairwoman of the BFC, Stephanie Phair, indeed acknowledged to the Evening Standard’s (ES) fashion correspondents, Naomi Ackerman and Karren Dacre, on 14th September, that the industry faces “extraordinary challenges” from “digital disruption, people thinking about sustainability and Brexit”.

Two days previously, the same newspaper’s business commentator, Joanna Bourke, in a full-page report captioned “Rising costs and a shortage of models: Brands battle Brexit as Fashion Week kicks off”, had highlighted the “new alarms which have been sounding”. She quoted John Horner, chairman of the British Fashion Model Agents Association, as pointing out that “designers rely on recruiting models that nobody else has seen”, hence that if getting European models into Britain suddenly involves more passport and visa costs as well as more bureaucracy, then “ the runways could suffer a dearth of new faces”.

The BFC’s Chief Executive, Caroline Rush, similarly stressed to Bourke the importance of ensuring that the 60% of EU and international models taking part in LFW are still able to easily enter the UK. Meanwhile, the Hackney-based designer Sadie Williams, is especially worried about higher material prices if the UK fails to achieve a favourable free-trade agreement with Brussels, as she buys many of her fabrics from the EU. The womenswear designer, Minki Cheng, is rather more optimistic: “As long as the Government and the creative council are committed to protecting the industry and its talents, we believe London will remain top”.

This was not, however, the gist of an outspoken but unsigned article in the Evening Standard’s Fashion Edition, published on 14th September to coincide with the start of LFW SS19. It was prefaced by the same slogan of “Fashion Hates Brexit” that the English fashion designer, Katharine Hamnett,“known for her ethical business philosophy”, has put on the new version of her T-shirts. She has apparently sold thousands of her previous ones advocating “Cancel Brexit”. The ES writer noted that 90% of British designers had voted to remain in the EU and that Richard Lim, chief executive of the analysts Retail Economics, predicts that “the price of a pair of jeans will, in all likelihood, go up after Brexit”, due to the introduction of tariffs and an exodus of European shop staff, designers, warehouse staff and delivery drivers, resulting in an “inflationary effect on wages”.

According to the editor of the “Ready For Brexit” website, Anna Tobin, “business that’s done unthinkingly now – shipping in cloth from Italian mills, sourcing components from China, Turkey and India – will become a logistical nightmare. The ES article did nevertheless concede that “it’s not all bad”, that the decline in the value of the pound sterling has seen surging numbers of Chinese, Arab and American fashion tourists spending much more money in London’s West End.

A rather different controversy surfaced on the second day of LFW SS19. As the Guardian columnist, Hadley Freeman, observed in “G2” on 13th September, “everyone knows that the row you are seated in at LFW is a reflection of how important you are considered to be”. On 15th September, the newspaper’s “wealth correspondent”, Rupert Neate, revealed that front row seats at some of the shows were being offered for sale for as much as £5,000 each. Examples given were the catwalk that same evening by Mary Katrantzou, “a London-based designer who sells cocktail dresses that cost £30,780”, and for the Victoria Beckham Show on the morning of Sunday 16th September – though Beckham herself was categorical that she was not aware of this.

Caroline Rush has defended the practice of selling front row tickets on the grounds that it enables the BFC to “offer a premium show venue to emerging designers at a reduced rate”. Ironically, many of the remaining tickets to the catwalks – both for sitting in rows further back or standing – are often issued to art and fashion students from as far away as Liverpool or Manchester who travel to London looking forward to attending a show, queue outside for sometimes an hour or more and are then not allowed in because the venue has reached “full capacity”. Freemasons Hall in Great Queen Street in particular has acquired a reputation as a location where this tends to occur.

Filed under: Immigration & Visas, Society | Posted on September 19th, 2018 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

The Premier League After Brexit: Good News For English Players & The National Team?

The American singer & song-writer, Darius Rucker, once declared that he divides the year into two halves: The football season and waiting for the football season. Although he was of course referring to the American version (he’s a big supporter of the Miami Dolphins), this view is undoubtedly shared by the many soccer fans in the UK for whom the summer months may seem just a little empty without matches to watch or attend, except (as this June & July) when a World Cup is taking place.

The gap between the end of one season and the beginning of the next, however, is these days fairly brief. The English Premier League (EPL), for example, finished in May and resumed in mid-August. There is, nonetheless, an element of uncertainty hovering over the competition: On 29th March 2019, two months before the end of the current season, the UK is due to leave the European Union. As Business Matters (BM) Magazine has pointed out, “Brexit’s impact on the Premier League is still unknown while negotiations continue” and Politico EU’s sports commentator, Peter Berlin, has warned that that there’s a risk the Premiership could “lose access to the luxury end of the international player market that has allowed them to claim to be the best league in the world”.

The Bloomberg columnist, David Hellier, has noted that English soccer clubs already face higher costs for the best foreign players because of the decline in the value of the pound since the Referendum on June 23rd 2016 and that the tighter immigration regulations planned by the UK Government could pose additional financial threats: “England’s standing in the soccer world would be diminished if EU stars gravitated to other countries after Brexit, potentially cutting the value of future TV rights when the prevailing £8 billion deal expires”. BM Magazine, by contrast, considers that there could be positive aspects to a change in the rules: “At the moment, players from across Europe can ply their trade in the EPL without any problems and it’s not uncommon for clubs to field 11 foreigners on a Saturday afternoon”. If this practice is ended, BM emphasises, the clubs will be forced to look at more home-grown players, giving youngsters around the country a boost as they seek a career at the top level: “This would surely be a good thing”.

Indeed, BM’s observation that “pundits and England managers alike have commented on the ever-decreasing pool of players available to the national coach, which has impacted on performances and results at major tournaments”, has been echoed by the present England manager, Gareth Southgate. As quoted by the Guardian journalist, Stuart James, on 31st August, Southgate expressed his considerable concern that English players are not getting enough opportunities in the EPL and cited the fact that only 30% of the players who started in Premiership matches over the weekend of 25th / 26th August were English. The figures are “even bleaker” at the top-six clubs, with whom only 19.2% of the first-choice team for the first three games of the season were English.

Southgate has called for a “fresh debate” on an issue that he acknowledges dates back many years: On 31st January 2017, the Daily Mirror correspondent Mark Jones reported that the game between Arsenal and Burnley the previous week had been the 149th time the then “Gunners” manager had named a starting X1 which didn’t contain a single English player, with the only Englishman who featured being Danny Welbeck who came off the bench for the final three minutes. This policy hasn’t changed under the new manager, Unai Emery, as was evident in Arsenal’s game against West Ham on 25th August. Chelsea did likewise against Newcastle on 26th August and Manchester City started with 10 foreign players when they beat Huddersfield Town 6-1 on 19th August.

Statistics issued by Sky Sports indicate that 69.2% of Premier League players are foreigners, with French and Spanish being the most common nationalities. The other seven European leagues in which the majority of players are foreigners are: Cyprus (57.1%), Belgium (55.8%), Portugal (55.6%), Italy (55.5%), the English Championship (50.8%), the Scottish Premiership (50.5%), Luxembourg (50.4%). Research by the “Ticket Gum” organisation has revealed that in the 2017/18 season, Chelsea were the most reliant on their foreign team members, who played for a total of 2,973 minutes, equivalent to 33 matches. The figure for Arsenal was 2,749 minutes (31 matches) and for the reigning champions, Manchester City, 2,647 minutes (29 matches).

For foreign players from outside the EU, their eligibility for a UK / Football Association work permit depends on how often they have played for their national team. If they are from a FIFA top ten country, they must have appeared in 30% of their country’s international matches in the preceding two years. This rises to 45% for players from an 11-20 nation, 60% for the next 10 countries and 75% for countries between 31 -50 in the FIFA ranking. As the Daily Telegraph has stressed, after Brexit – unless a special arrangement is agreed – this criteria will also apply to players from the 27 countries remaining in the European Union.

Filed under: Immigration & Visas, Sports | Posted on September 3rd, 2018 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

The Race To The Top: The World’s Next Fastest Elevator:

If you had an appointment on the 4th floor of a building, would you wait for the elevator or go up the stairs? President Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, has claimed that as a “modern woman”, she prefers to use the stairs. The American radio & TV writer, Andy Rooney, once noted that many people anyway feel uneasy waiting for a lift with a lot of strangers: “They don’t know what to do, so some press the button repeatedly as though it will help”.

For anyone concerned about being trapped between floors in a malfunctioning lift, the statistical risk of that happening – according to KJA Consultants Inc – is a mere 1 in 5,000. Instead, the best reasons for always taking the stairs, in the opinion of “Fitday.com” is that it provides you with a form of physical exercise for which you don’t have to pay (for instance, to a health club), is good for your heart, reduces your cholesterol levels, and can often be faster, especially during peak times, than waiting for the elevator to arrive to take you to your destination. It also apparently helps the environment by lessening energy consumption.

Research conducted by John Newbold of the building consultancy SVM Associates, together with the health technology company StepJockey, has revealed that employees in modern office buildings spend up to fifteen minutes a day waiting in lift lobbies, which is an “unacceptable waste of their time” and moreover that elevators expend as much as 36% more power than claimed by their manufacturers. The average wait, concluded Newbold, “should be under 25 seconds, so if it takes 60 seconds, as is frequently the case, this can result in more than 400 lost hours in a working week in a large office”. Not only is productivity hit but the “excess energy costs and associated carbon emissions are potentially enormous”. StepJockey also points out that stair climbing is officially classified as a “vigorous” form of exercise, burns up more calories than jogging and hence significantly improves our cardiovascular fitness.

None of these factors, however – as The Independent journalist Adam Taylor has reported – have deterred the manufacturers from competing fiercely to produce the world’s fastest lift. The world’s first safety lift, he observes, was installed by the American company Otis in a hotel in New York City: “It travelled five floors at a speed of less than half a mile per hour”. Britain’s fastest lifts, in the City of London’s Leadenhall building, travel at 18 mph. This is substantially slower than the “record-breaking 42.8 mph” achieved by the world’s current fastest elevator at the Shanghai Tower, which was built by Mitsubishi Electric and takes passengers up the 632 metre-tall building in just 53 seconds. As Taylor emphasises, available data indicates that by 2020, due to the country’s rapid urbanisation, 40% of all lifts will be located in China, which “accounts for 60% -80% of new installations globally each year. The second-largest lift market, India, is less than one-tenth the size”.

In fact, China already possesses five of the world’s ten fastest lifts – the remaining five being in Chicago (John Hancock Centre: 20.5 mph: Building Height – 457 metres), Tokyo (Sunshine 60 Building: 22 mph: BH – 240 metres), Dubai (Burj Khalifa: the world’s tallest skyscraper with a BH of 830 metres but a lift speed of just 22 mph), the Yokohama Landmark Tower in Japan (28 mph: BH 296 metres) and the Taiwan 101 in Taipei (37.7 mph: BH 508 metres).

Taylor assesses that, because assembling these lifts costs “a fantastic amount of money”, the market is beginning to slow. He quotes a Toshiba communications representative, Yoshinori Inoue, as declaring that “The competition for speed is over”. Yet in the same article, Taylor refers to plans by the South Korean company Hundai to begin testing constructions capable of 50 mph. It remains “unclear”, though, to what extent it will realistic or indeed safe to exceed the Shanghai Tower velocity levels: “One recent study has suggested that 51.4 mph would probably be the limit before passengers get sick. Travelling down quickly is even more difficult. Go too fast and the body thinks it’s falling”.

Dr Gina Barney, a British expert in “lift technology and vertical transportation” concurs with this view. In an interview with BBC, she has stressed that protecting passengers from discomfort is a big challenge for high speed lifts: “Probably the most significant problem with high-speed travel in buildings is that you’re going to get pressures on your ears changing – so people suffer some pain.”Canny Elevator, a Chinese company based just outside Shanghai, is nevertheless proceeding with the building of a 3,100-foot tower which, so it has announced “ will be the tallest in the world”.

Filed under: Healthcare, Society | Posted on August 21st, 2018 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

What’s In That Cupboard? If You Don’Need It, Get Rid Of It:

According to research conducted by the online trading site, Zifflit, 57% of British people are reluctant to throw away their accumulated clutter. Instead, they prefer to hide it away indefinitely in whatever space is available in their homes. The reason for this – so Kate Ibbotson, the founder of the “Tidy Mind” organisation, has told the Daily Mail journalist Siofra Brennan – is the “just in case” mentality, the fear many of us have that we’ll get rid of something only to discover a few weeks later that we need it after all. Ibbotson regards this as merely a way of postponing for as long as possible a decision as to what do do with possessions we no longer use.

Marie Kondo, the Japanese author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” has pointed out in her book that putting things away creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved, but that sooner or later, all the storage units will become full – so what do you do then? Effective tidying, she emphasises, must start with discarding and involves only three essential actions: “ All you have to do is to take the time to examine every item you own, decide whether or not you still want it, then choose where to put what you will keep”. Ask yourself, she advises, why you have that object in the first place and why you bought certain clothes if you never wear them.

Kondo considers books to be some of the hardest things for people to throw away. She doesn’t believe, though, that there’s any point in their just being on your shelves: “Only keep the ones to which you are really attached”. She also suggests that we should “bin” any documentation such as our credit card statements once we’ve checked that they are correct and that we should dispose of the box containing our new smartphone as soon as we’ve unpacked it: “You don’t need the manual or the CD that comes with it either – you can figure out the applications for yourself”. As for buttons, Kondo has come to the conclusion that when one falls off a coat or jacket, people don’t usually bother to sew on another one, even when they have kept the spares: “So if you are not going to use the spare buttons lying at the bottom of the wardrobe, throw them all out”.

Elizabeth Larkin on “thespruce.com” provides her “ultimate list of things to get rid of immediately”, by recyling, donating or even (if possible) selling them. What sense is there, she queries, in retaining plastic forks, knives and spoons, kitchen utensils or appliances you never employ, mismatched or warped food storage containers or expired pantry products such as the “Hungarian paprika you bought for a recipe four years ago and which for sure doesn’t taste the same any more”. Receipts, in her opinion, should go straight into the rubbish bag “if you’re already enjoying your purchase” and likewise with rubber bands, dried out bottles of glue, pens with no ink, old cell phones and newspapers which are more than two days old. In the case of magazines which “you really love and you will frequently refer back to: Make sure these are stored properly and not just hanging around in piles”. When she receives greeting cards, she puts them on display for a while, then recycles them: “You don’t expect anyone to keep yours, do you?”

As the “nosidebar.com” commentator, Allison Fallon, has noted under the caption “How To Get Your Life Back”, another key issue is what to do with duplicates: Do you have two vacuum cleaners or two lawn mowers, she asks: “Maybe you got a new one and are keeping the old one. Why? Just in case? Just in case of what?” She also warns us to beware of “shoving objects that we aren’t sure we want to keep but aren’t ready to get rid of” into places such as under the bed, so that they become “out of sight and out of mind” and we forget they are there or even what they are.

For those people who feel overwhelmed by the clutter inexorably amassing around their home and spilling out of their cupboards, there is an organisation to which they can turn for help: The Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers (APDO), which was formed in 2004, now has 281 accredited members and is “part of a rapidly growing industry”. APDO describes itself as a unique enterprise offering experienced professionals who will provide a practical and sympathetic service and will get the property back to looking its best. They exhort their readers to “clear their mind by freeing up the space in their home” and declare that they are available for de-cluttering jobs of any size: “Lots of the individuals who call us need only minimal assistance to restore their property to its most aesthetically pleasing state: How big or small the mess is doesn’t matter to us”.

 

Filed under: Society | Posted on July 24th, 2018 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

Under Attack: TheTraditional Sounds of Britain’s Countryside:

Jean Arp, the 20th Century German-French sculptor, artist and poet, once lamented that mankind has turned its back on silence. Day after day, he declared, it invents machines and devices that “increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation and meditation”. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has acknowledged that environmental noise represents a major threat to public well-being and so has recommended that it should at least be limited at night to a maximum of 40 decibels.

In practice, the Guardian columnist Richard Godwin noted on 4th July, “comparative decibel levels” (based on statistics issued by Industrial Noise Control.com) are becoming much louder: A normal conversation can reach 55 decibels, the sounds from a motorway at a distance of 15 metres 76dB, a motorbike at 7.5m (90dB), a jet plane landing at one nautical mile (97dB: hence the widespread objections to a third runway at Heathrow Airport) and live rock music (108-114dB).

However, Tony Lewis, Head of Policy at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, quoted by Godwin, has emphasised that people do have a legal right to a reasonably quiet environment, so can contact their local authority if they feel they are being unduly disturbed. The Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council in Wales, for example, states on its website that it investigates around 400 complaints about “noise nuisance” every year. Most of these are related to noisy neighbours (music, shouting, alarms and DIY at unacceptable hours), noise from commercial venues such as pubs and industrial premises (factories and construction / demolition sites), car alarms or loud stereos (but only if the vehicle is parked) and persistent barking dogs. They don’t have the power, though, to resolve issues connected to road traffic noise.

Godwin has observed that, unsurprisingly, all of the loudest locations are in cities: “It’s well established that the more densely populated an area is, the more complaints there will be”. One obvious solution therefore would appear to be to move away from a crowded urban conglomeration to a more peaceful rural setting. It’s a decision that many city dwellers have made – but without taking into consideration the fact that the countryside has its own noises which they might find equally unsettling.

As Thierry Ottaviani, president of France’s National Committee for Victims of Noise and Pollution, told the Daily Telegraph correspondent Henry Samuel, “These are people who could no longer bear the stress of the city. They have bought a house in the country, thinking that they would find absolute tranquillity but forgetting that it’s also a living environment with a working life”.Jacques Bischoff, the mayor of the village of Cesny-aux-Vignes in Normandy, was cited by Samuel as urging city folk to learn to cohabit with the traditional country sounds of tractors, combine harvesters, braying donkeys, chiming church bells and the wildlife which was there long before they arrived.

It’s a similar situation in the UK: On 18th April, Richard Hartley-Parkinson, a commentator for the Metro newspaper, highlighted the case of Stephen Nolan, a farmer from Higher Wheelton in Lancashire, who had become exasperated with “townies” moving to to the countryside and then complaining about the horses, chickens, hens and geese. His response was to post a notice on his gate pointing out that the property is a farm, that it has animals who make funny sounds and smell bad: “If you can’t tolerate all of this (he advised), then don’t buy a property next to a farm”.

On 29th June, Alex Shipman, also a journalist for the Metro, reported that the bells of St Mary’s Church in Fishguard, Pembrokeshire, had been silenced for the first time in 161 years because someone had complained that the “8 am racket had disrupted their Sunday lie-in”. This followed similar circumstances in Sandwich, Kent, in February, when St Peter’s Church was ordered by the local council to stop ringing its bells at night, after 239 years, because one person insisted that its chimes were keeping them awake – despite more than 4,000 people signing a petition to keep the bells tolling. In the view of a Fishguard resident, this is a trend that has been instigated by people “who move to the countryside and then moan about cockerels crowing at dawn”.

There have indeed been a series of recent court cases involving cockerel owners who have been fined because their birds have been crowing too loudly and too frequently. The South Northamptonshire Council specifies that “the law will consider nuisance is being caused if your cockerel is crowing at unsocial hours – namely at night, early morning or late evening – and is crowing for long periods”. According to Danelle Wolford of the “Urban Farming. Healthy Living” website, a rooster may crow between between 12 to 15 times a day; “It’s not possible to silence its crow, but you can decrease the volume by adjusting its lifestyle or placing a collar around its neck”. At night-time, its coop should be well stocked with sufficient food and water and kept dark as this will limit its exposure to light. Furthermore: “Roosters crow to assert their dominance over other roosters – so to avoid crowing contests, keep only one in the roost”.

Filed under: Society | Posted on July 10th, 2018 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

It’s An Emergency! The Food In Britain’s NHS Hospitals:

It’s about 8 am in the ward. The nurses are bustling around, preparing the medication to be administered to their patients, most of whom are now awake. The familiar rattle of the approaching breakfast trolley doesn’t, however, engender any great sense of anticipation. Those patients watching the morning news programmes on their bedside TVs continue to do so. When invited to make a choice between the available cereals, there’s very little response. Why? If they select the rice crispies, it’s piled high in their bowls with very little milk added. The porridge looks and tastes like inedible mush. The toast resembles burnt pieces of plastic. The tea is very definitely not Twinings English Breakfast or Earl Grey.

Any patient who does manage to force some of this down their throat has to digest it fairly quickly, as by noon the trolley will be back with lunch. The meals have been selected in advance from the menu provided, but that doesn’t make them any more appetising. Some hospitals, such as the Royal Free in Hampstead, North London, say they offer flexible meal times, namely 7.30 am – 9.30 am (breakfast), noon – 1pm (lunch) and 5.45 pm – 7 pm (supper). This makes evident sense, as people have very different eating habits. Many NHS hospitals, however, appear to have very rigid schedules and hence insist on their patients being served their food at fixed prescribed intervals, irrespective of whether they are hungry or would prefer to wait a while longer.

The 77-year-old cookery writer and restaurateur, Prue Leith, in an article for The Guardian, has described hospital food as a “ recipe for disaster”. Patients, she declares, deserve so much better than plastic containers filled with sweaty cheese, dabs of margarine and unidentifiable grey slop. In her view, it’s no surprise at all that “80,00 hospital meals are left uneaten every day and two-thirds of staff admit they would not themselves eat what they serve up to patients. You can’t blame either patients or staff: most hospital food is a disgrace”. Indeed, she’s concluded that hospitals have an incentive to provide bad food, that if it’s really horrible, the patients will not ask for it again, less will need to be prepared and the catering bill will go down: “If the grub were better, more people would eat it and the catering costs would rise”.

Due to the long-term outsourcing contracts which many hospitals have signed and can’t now get out of, Leith points out, very few of their kitchen actually cook any food, at least for the patients. A company based hundreds of miles away prepares, for example “ a dish with the cheapest imported chicken, minced, pelleted and freeze-dried, then topped with a packet sauce made of who knows what. It’s cooked, refrozen in portions, then delivered to the hospital to be “regenerated” (warmed up) with boiled frozen vegetables. Finally, it’s kept warm on a trolley before being plonked in front of the unfortunate patient. No wonder it’s disgusting”.

Leith recommends a much smaller range of healthy, filling options, such as vegetable soup, fishcakes with chilli chutney, chicken and leek pie or vegetarian curry and the possibility of ordering a tempting salad or scrambled egg on toast for patients not ready for a full meal. Above all, everything should be cooked fresh and on the spot, perhaps even on the ward itself to cater for patients who cannot eat at scheduled mealtimes: “If anyone thinks this is unaffordable, they should look at current waste rates, which are running at 70% in some hospitals”.

The food journalist, Bee Wilson, has commented in The Telegraph that “our health service has largely lost any sense that food is medicine”. In schools and prisons, she notes, the lunches may not always be delicious, but they must abide by certain basic nutritional requirements: “Yet in hospitals – places where, in theory, we go to get well – meals are still not governed by legal standards”. She quotes the depiction by Aseem Malhotra, a cardiologist at Croydon University Hospital, of hospital food as constituting a “toxic environment”.

This same theme was the main feature of an article on 20th April by the New Statesman columnist, Felcity Cloake, captioned “Why NHS catering needs a revolution”. Plate after plate of disappointment, she wrote, is not only demoralising for people who may already be at a low ebb. but overlooks the part food has to play in the recovery process: “Balanced, appetising meals are vital to help weaker patients build up strength during their stay”.

A survey on London hospitals conducted by the Campaign For Better Hospital Food has revealed that only 30% cook fresh food on-site for their patients but 77% do so for their staff, which has prompted the indignant headline in The Telegraph that “doctors and nurses eat better than sick patients”. Furthermore, that 17% serve food to the patients in ready meal packaging and 20% don’t provide them with a hot dish if they miss the mealtime. Recently released official data indicates that £560 million was spent on 144 million hospital patient breakfasts, lunches and dinners in 2016/17 – which equals an expenditure of about £3.68 on each meal.

Filed under: Healthcare | Posted on July 2nd, 2018 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

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