Tuesday, 22 September 2015

We should celebrate achievement much more

Immediately before Sheffield Wednesday’s home match against Fulham last Saturday, the players and officials arranged themselves around the centre circle.

It was announced that there would be a minute’s silence in remembrance of Ron Springett who had died aged 80.

Ron played 384 matches for The Owls before re-joining Queen’s Park Rangers in a unique deal which saw his brother Peter, another goalkeeper, come the other way. Whilst at Hillsborough, Ron had represented England on 33 occasions and was in England’s World Cup Squad’s in 1962 and 1966. Only the emergence of Tinsley, Sheffield-born Gordon Banks – England’s greatest ever goalkeeper – stopped him being on the pitch when England defeated Germany in the 1966 final.
At the proclamation, people stopped in their tracks. The crowd hushed. The referee blew his whistle to mark the start of the minute’s quiet.

The silence lasted precisely 1 second before the crowd burst into spontaneous applause. It wasn’t just the home supporters; the Fulham fans and all the players were just as effusive. They clapped and clapped and clapped until the minute was up and the referee’s whistle sounded again, and then a loud cheer rocked the ground.

For me, the moment was more emotional than for most. The 15th of March, 1958 was my Dad’s 50th Birthday. Ron Springett played his first game for The Owls against Bolton Wanderers that day. But he wasn’t the only one making his debut. My uncle and my cousin took me, aged 8 years, to watch my first Sheffield Wednesday match. We walked down the hill to Hillsborough from my council house home in Longley.

I seem to remember that Albert Quixall scored and Wednesday won 1-0. Whatever, I was gripped and, despite what I have to admit has been year after year of mainly disappointment, I still am. I’ve hardy missed a home match on the Kop since that date.

Ron’s contribution was considerable. Although he would have signed at the maximum wage then applying, it wasn’t that great. He certainly didn’t get the enormous financial rewards enjoyed by today’s top players.

Saturday reminded me that we ought to spend more time celebrating achievement.

Not just of individuals like Ron, but also of those citizens who give their time and energy – week in week out – to support other people and their local communities.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Open all hours?

David Cameron’s Conservative government seems intent on undermining the democratic process.
Bad news’ announcements (like the delay on rail electrification) are delayed, commissioned research remains unpublished if the conclusions are inconvenient, and there’s been a flurry of written statements on Fridays and at the very end of the parliamentary session in a way designed to prevent proper scrutiny. David Cameron himself has tried to turn Prime Minister’s Question Time into Questions to the Opposition Parties as a way of avoiding being accountable for his performance.

Therefore, it was entirely consistent that, after parliament had broken up for the summer recess and most of the public were thinking about their summer holidays, the government should announce a short consultation about changing the Sunday trading laws.

The current Sunday trading laws were established in 1994. Basically, whereas small shops can open all day, large stores were newly allowed to open for 6 hours a day. It is undoubtedly the case that retail shopping has dramatically changed over the last 20 years. Out-of-town malls have threatened city centres and, more recently, there has been a significant switch to internet shopping.

The big retailers were never satisfied with the 6 hour limit and would like to see the abolition of all Sunday trading laws. They use international comparisons to suggest that deregulation would lead to a significant increase in some types of shopping.

I think this is mostly poppycock. People don’t suddenly have more money to spend because the shops are open longer! In fact, if stores are open longer – with all the associated costs – but spending does not increase, prices will necessarily rise.

However, changing opening hours will undoubtedly have an impact on the distribution of spending. The big retailers will want to buy market share, whilst small retailers are likely to suffer.

The government is suggesting that, in different ways, some decisions on Sunday trading could be localised. Superficially, that might look attractive but, in reality, it might be difficult for one area to resist change if its neighbor is open all hours.