Friday, October 02, 2015

Wolfsburg fans, Tory delegates - welcome to Manchester

I've been to a number of events this week where the role of sport in developing a sense of place has been rather profoundly highlighted.

I also met my old pal David Parkin this week, the founder of The Business Desk and the go-to business journalist in Yorkshire in the last decade. He and I both support Championship football teams. Where we differ however is that the city I work in has the top two in the Premiership, while Leeds United still appear stuck in the Championship wilderness with an eccentric and erratic owner.

On Wednesday this week Manchester was full of German supporters. There is indisputable evidence that the momentum of Greater Manchester is helped by the brand reinforcement of its success in sport. The same is true over in Yorkshire as the Tour de France last year ably demonstrated.

We talked about a piece in the Telegraph last Saturday where Gary Neville laid down the charge that the demise of Northern clubs in football is a symptom of the economic dominance and alure of an ever powerful London. Top players are turning down Liverpool and Newcastle in favour of Arsenal, Crystal Palace and even Bournemouth. You could realistically see Newcastle and Sunderland drop out and be replaced by Brighton and Reading. This is bad news on so many levels.

More locally, we have a situation down the road in Woodley where a very popular sports facility has grown and grown. This should be welcomed, but as access to it is via a residential housing estate it is resented. What should have been a welcome addition to a local community has become a blight causing traffic chaos and deep resentment. I was asked to go to a very angry public meeting on Thursday night to support local residents who had a number of questions for councillors and officers about their attempts to address this dreadful situation.

It's a classic case of poor forward planning. Why build something if you don't expect it to succeed? And what will the price of that success be? And how could it add to the sense of place and pride?

Finally, it's Conservative Party conference in Manchester next week. Roads will be closed - even more than usual. There will be snipers on the roofs, there will be a large protest march on Sunday and there are stickers on lamposts urging a week of action to "Take Back Manchester".

I was deeply ashamed to read the guidance given to Tory delegates to hide their ID. Some might say this is hype to demonise the protestors. I rather suspect it's common sense advice. Either way it saddens me. They clearly don't want to risk a delegate getting a punch on the nose, or worse. It's the kind of advice you get when you go to Millwall. Is that what Manchester city centre has become for visitors to our city? I do hope not.

For what's it worth, whether you're a Wolsburg supporter, a caravan club member or a Tory Party delegate you are welcome in Manchester.

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