Wednesday, 16 September 2009

A Sporting Life

Sport is at the heart of much of what I do, in both a professional and personal capacity. At Press Ahead, we have worked on numerous sports related projects over the years, and at the moment we’re heavily involved in Sunderland’s bid to bring World Cup football to the region in 2018. Working closely with Sunderland AFC, Sunderland City Council and other partners, I think we’re making a strong case for the city and for the North East. There are 16 cities vying to be part of the England 2018 proposal that will go to FIFA in December and this list will be whittled down to 12 by the national bid team.

NewcastleGateshead is also submitting a bid and it would be fantastic if both cities make it to the final list. We certainly have the facilities up here and just as important, we have the passionate people who will make World Cup games in this region really special occasions.

It’s been extremely enjoyable to be involved in this campaign and it has been marked by some great visual stories that have been featured widely in the regional media. Levels of public support for individual cities will be taken into account by the England 2018 team, so we are encouraging people to visit and register their support or text “Sunderland2018” followed by their name, house number and postcode, all to 62299. Hint, hint…

Away from work, I’ve really enjoyed the 2009 international and domestic cricket season. The Ashes series was probably the highlight and it was a privilege to be at the Oval on the third day of the final Test, as England edged towards victory. I wasn’t there for the finale, but I was listening to the ever excellent Test Match Special while watching Durham CCC play out a rain affected Pro 40 game at the fantastic Riverside Stadium. Most of the crowd who were there with me were also tuned in to the Ashes, judging by the cheers that erupted every time England took an Australian wicket. This latest home series may not have had the quality or nail biting intensity of its predecessor in 2005, but it was consistently entertaining and of course England managed to secure the right result.

Back in the domestic game, the Durham story is remarkable. A first class county for less than two decades, Durham has just wrapped up the County Championship for the second successive year and the club is already planning its campaign for three in a row. In the longer form of the game, Durham has undoubtedly become the county powerhouse, while at the same time developing one of the best venues in world cricket and providing a production line of players for the national team. These really are astounding achievements and huge credit is due to everyone at the club, from chairman Clive Leach and chief executive David Harker, to coach Geoff Cook and of course the players.

I (along with my family) was able to get along to the Riverside on 12th September to see Durham wrap up the title with another comprehensive victory, over their nearest ‘challengers’, Nottinghamshire. It was a great afternoon. The club offered free entry to everyone, the sun shone throughout and Steve ‘Grievous Bodily’ Harmison fittingly took the final Notts wicket just after the tea break. Cue a formal presentation of the trophy and some great celebrations in front of the main stand.

The club can now also celebrate being awarded an Ashes Test for 2013, which is fantastic news. In my opinion, it will be four years overdue as the Riverside should have hosted a match this year rather than Cardiff (though to be fair, the Swalec Stadium did stage a great Test). Nevertheless, this is very exciting and by the time we get to 2013, the Riverside will have been further developed into what I am sure will be an even more outstanding 20,000 capacity ground. I can’t wait.

There’s a person who nicely links all of the above stories - Paul Collingwood. ‘Colly’ comes from the production line I mentioned and has been a great servant and ambassador for England and Durham in all forms of cricket. He sometimes gets a negative press for his style of play and always seems to be on the verge of losing his England place (at least as far as the media are concerned).
I for one am a huge admirer of Colly and to all the critics who point to his poor form this summer after the Lord’s Test, I cite the fact that if it wasn’t for his heroics on the last day at Cardiff, Monty Panesar and James Anderson (who took most of the headlines) wouldn’t have had the chance to hold out for a draw and England would have most likely lost the Ashes.

Colly may actually now be drawing towards the end of his England career, but he still has a huge amount to offer cricket in England and Durham, and I will watch his next steps with interest. He’s also a big Sunderland AFC fan and took time out from his preparations for that great first Test to offer his support to the Sunderland 2018 bid. So, I salute you Paul Collingwood, a man with a surname steeped in North East heritage, who is currently creating his own place in the region’s history.

Right, I’d better make my final preparations for this year’s Great North Run. As ever, I am looking forward to the sense of occasion at the start and the first pint after I reach the finishing line. The 13 miles, 192 yards and 18 inches between the two are slightly less appealing. I’m going to be raising money for a great cause and all sponsorship support will be very welcome. You can find out more on

Friday, 11 September 2009

Still alive, and kicking, and writing...

Lines from Lines has had a somewhat extended summer break. I've not been idle (honestly), but holidays, loads of work and life in general have conspired to keep me busy elsewhere. I'm going to try and make up for that 'silence' over the next few weeks with some concise posts on a range of subjects that have been exercising my mind and occupying my time. This is the first of those concise posts.