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It is a privilege to introduce myself to you as the new editor of SGB Sports.
Rebecca Adlington really is a class act. The world-record holder for the 800m Freestyle since an awe-inspiring performance at the Beijing Olympics, there have been choppy waters for the Mansfield swimmer since: she finished fourth to be shoved off the podium in her favoured event in the World Champs last year, and then let nerves get to her in the recent Europeans to slump to 7th place.
How sad it was to learn of the recent death of Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins, at the age of 61. A tortured genius, Higgins sometimes seemed better suited to bare-knuckle boxing in the back streets of Belfast than he was to snooker, yet with a cue in his hands, and when the mood took him, Higgins was untouchable among his peers over the green baize.
The sport of darts is enjoying a fantastic resurgence in the early 21st century, having slipped off the radar by the end of the last century. The advent of satellite television has clearly spurred the sport back into the mainstream arena.
There is an intoxicating string of sporting events set to unfold before a few billion people turn to the football World Cup in June – such as rugby’s Six Nations, Vancouver’s Winter Olympics, golf’s US Masters, not to mention the conclusion to football’s own club season – but in the trade, the most significant gathering of the ‘beautiful game’ is looming large already.
It’s been a tough couple of years for most companies, with banks completely screwing us all, in part at least thanks to Big Bad Gordy’s rules and regulations put in place during his tenure as Chancellor of the Exchequer. The tough times are far from over, too, for most of us.
For the last few months, I’ve been walking my lovely dog Millie wearing a very comfortable pair of walking boots. They give me great security (not least from the very real threat of treading in dog poo, as the dog would have to be the size of Digby, The Biggest Dog In The World to do a poo big enough to get over the top of my boots), and they (the boots) make me almost as tall as my wife, as long as she’s not wearing any shoes at all.
It feels like the start of a new season at Sporting Goods Business. We have that determined stride of a team running out onto the pitch in their new kit for the first time, with that sense of optimism that comes when embarking on a new campaign.
The nights are drawing in, winter is on the horizon, and the already-gorgeous English countryside is turned absolutely majestic by the blaze of colours that heralds the arrival of Autumn.
What better time to get out the walking boots than this?
In the time I've been working on SGB - Sports and Outdoor, I've seen some superb gear. I was thinking, just before writing this, about many of the bits and pieces that have stood out for me both as an editor and a consumer. Gore's amazing running gear, for example, the jackets in particular; New Balance's running shoes from last year, among the best I've ever used; Skins and Linebreak's compression gear, which have helped with all kinds of aches and pains; Saucony's Hi-Viz range; Ronhill's continued excellence across the board; Brooks shoes which are consistently great, but also their outstanding apparel range; MIzuno's shoes, which were a wonderful surprise... There's a common bond through most of those - they're all related to running!
I saw something very strange recently, and it's something we'll be expanding on a lot in future issues of SGB. I was invited to a product launch in Newcastle, where I was introduced to Accapi. The room contained five or six reasonably cynical journalists, and every one of us left with a furrowed brow, minds ticking over what we'd just seen, and with a pair of Accapi socks tucked in our bags to try out.
It has been an unbelievable year for athletics and sport in general, despite the global recession and accompanying doom-mongering. In the trade, all sorts has happened to the multiples, culminating in the decision by the Serious Fraud Office to investigate JJB Sports and Sports Direct for their alleged involvement in a ‘cartel' involving the sale of sports good. Goodness knows what the result of this will be, and frankly it could take years for this to bear any fruit, whether it be sweet or sour. And in the meantime, there's another World Cup coming in just nine months or so, and the opportunity to not sell any England shirts because the multiples have them at such vastly reduced prices, the independent can't compete without cutting their own throats.
From next issue (October) we're doing something quite radical to SGB - Sports and Outdoor. We're going to stop sending it out, unless you opt in to having it posted to you; instead, we'll email you a free copy of the digital publication. This means we can cut drastically down on the amount of paper we use, which can only be a good thing!
How about that Usain Bolt, eh? Actually, despite his utterly astonishing performances in the World Championships in Berlin (the best in recent memory by far), Bolt wasn't the most talked-about athlete there; that surely has to be Caster Semenya, the South African athlete who has been unfortunately singled out and humiliated with questions about whether she can run as a woman. Surely the governing body of athletics has the maturity and common sense to do an investigation without the whole world finding out?
After an impressive bout of swine flu, I've actually been doing more quality walking than probably ever before, and the benefits of a decent pair of boots comes home to me with each walk. After the loss of my symptoms, my thoughtful wife took me on the coastal walk from Borth to Aberystwyth; a week or so later, and more locally, we walked up Caradoc in the Stretton Hills, steep side first; then we did Nordy Bank, taking an off-path route back to the car park and feeling the benefit of a good Gore Tex-lined pair of boots as my terrain-reading ability led us through waterlog after waterlog.
First things first, I'm not going to mention the Ashes series. I've been glued to my desk bringing you this issue of SGB, and I've hardly seen a thing on TV of late. I was lucky enough to catch that final set of the Wimbledon men's final, which was just sensational and a great advert for sport. More recently, the UK Championships in Birmingham have been great fun.
I had a terrific camping trip recently, just a one-nighter at a campsite in Rhayader, Wales, and it had all the hallmarks of a quality trip: a touch of sunburn, at least one completely trashed frying pan, and five very happy people.
Cristiano Ronaldo? £80m? Sold to a club in a country with the highest rate of unemployment in Europe right now, and which has been harder hit than any other by the recession? You have got to be bloody joking.
Everyone I know, pretty much, is camping in the UK this summer, or going on a British holiday. It's funny, but even when reading the news hitting my desk that all trumpeted "Brits holidaying in Britain" etc, it didn't really hit home what that meant. The people I know that aren't holidaying in the UK, aren't holidaying at all. This should be good for the British economy, and hopefully for the future, when people will have the camping gear and know the country that much better, and realise that what is on their doorstep is actually pretty bloody good. I've lived in many places in the UK, and everywhere I've lived I've met people who have happily gone abroad every year for their holidays, but who had never left their home county in the UK.
You see some great things in my line of work, and journalists, members of the press, can often enjoy some terrific privileges; receiving press releases is often not one of those great things. I got something in my inbox last week which was a press release about how online 'forums' are boring and how their client's online forum isn't dull at all, because it has a different name.
First up this month, I'd like to congratulate Ardblair on becoming distributors for Polaroid sports glasses, they should be a great addition to an already very strong portfolio.
As I write this, the dust has barely settled on Chelsea and Liverpool's epic 4-4 Champions League draw. What a great advertisement for the sport the game was - for once, top-flight football actually looked like fun. Doesn't happen very often, so let's cherish that feeling...
It's a long, slow job when you come on board any magazine as editor. Some editors make radical changes immediately, and sometimes it even works; some editors, myself included, prefer to feel their way and make changes as they go. Over the last few months there has been significant investment in SGB, as we've identified some things that need changing and improving. The sports side of the magazine has seen the bulk of this so far, but this year the onus is on building the SGB Outdoor side of the publication.
Hello! Exciting times, as the UK gears up for... Well, I'm not sure what we're gearing up for. But it's exciting times, anyway.
I'm looking forward to the OS Outdoors Show, though by the time you read this it will probably have finished. The attendance figures last year were incredible, and it shows that there is a real thirst for the outdoors in the UK. I suspect figures this year will be the same or even better, as we keep being told that people are planning domestic holidays this year instead of going abroad.
I was thinking of something to write, looking back over a month of sport, and I've come up with just about nothing. Okay, so the new year honours have been handed out, and Eleanor Simmonds got her reward for those incredible Paralympian performance, among other worthy recipients. But February... It's a really dull month for sport, isn't it?
Well, ispo was certainly fun again this year. It's so damned big, and there's so much to see and do, that one comes away wondering if you shouldn't spend an entire week there. The only fly in the ointment was a brilliantly effective general transport strike on the third day which effectively brought Munich to a standstill. It was spectacular; no public transport was staffed at all, so Munich residents took to the roads. Of course, so did ispo attendees, and the result was gridlock, give or take.
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