The ‘Unconscious Uncoupling’ of Grass Roots Football

Grass roots footbal in decline in the UK

I coached kids football for five or so years with my mate who was one of the other parents. Together, we took our team to win their league at Under 12′s. It was quite a proud moment.

The reason I stopped was that in that same season I had a genuine death threat from an opposition parent (who our team had beaten) which was a little unsettling to say the least. It’s kids football, it’s not really that important is it?

But football is now in general decline at grass roots level for exactly that reason. The fun has gone and for many parents it’s a desperate chance for a ticket out of poverty. Winning is everything and if their son or daughter is the next big thing, they’re made for life. Statistically, football is the sport that it’s easiest to get rich at. Assuming the top two leagues are generally pretty wealthy, then you have around 500+ players earning mega money in the UK alone. Add in the other European Leagues and the rising Far East markets, and it’s comparatively easy. In golf or tennis, this may only be the top 50-100 in the world.

But this week, Sport England announced it has cut FA funding by £1.6m after a grassroots decline. Football is in trouble. Never before has the professional game been so completely disconnected to the grass roots game. Unless they address this, the game will just slowly wither and die. There won’t be the players coming through to feed the national teams and there may not be those growing up with football as part of their life as were were.

So, the solution?

Simple for me.

1. Make football fun again. Don’t play competitive football until they get well into their teens. Kids want to play football with their friends, they don’t care whether they win or lose, It’s the parents who do. They’ll play their competitive games in the playground anyway, without their parents screaming at them and taking the fun away.

2. Build respect into the game from the outset. The FA are now attempting to teach this to the kids, but they need to keep the parents away as normally that’s where the problems lie.

3. Keep the game sizes small so all the kids get lots of time on the ball to raise their overall skill levels. The more they play the more they will improve and in theory the more they should want to play.

4. Stop players in the professional game from swearing on the pitch and saying anything AT ALL to the referee. Look at rugby for a model here. It’s flawless and everyone calls the referee ‘Sir’ as they have ultimate power on the pitch and off it.

I don’t really care about England games anymore, I’m not even that bothered about the Premiership. I’ll always be an Oxford fan, but my love for the game and more importantly, it’s future as a national sport is in jeopardy unless they change the way the game is played at the very bottom of the footballing pyramid.

ps, Thanks to Ruby Lyle for the image of Charlie G.

Norton Anti Virus – Getting it right on Social media

A while ago I laughed at O2 for trying to get down wiv da kids and getting it horribly wrong. What they did was try to speak in the voice of their audience rather than in the voice of their brand .

Norton, on the other hand have stuck to their script and still intervened with one of their customers. This is a far cleverer way of handling it and shows a great choice of strategy for social media. Nice one Norton.

Norton Anti Virus getting down wiv da kids

The new rule of SEO

Matt Cutts - The new rules of SEO

I have spent lots of time working on SEO strategies over the last few months. For years it was getting more and more complicated, but now it looks like it’s getting simpler again with the latest article by Matt Cutts of Google which puts an end to pretty much all external link building.

So, how do you continue to rank your sites when Google have so much power and how do you try and force your way up the SERPS (search engine results pages)?

The simple answer is that you don’t.

What you have to do now is build a brilliant product or service, gather great reviews and then encourage social traffic through all of the main channels (including Google+). It’s a slow process, but the old saying ‘grow slow, grow strong’ is now 100% correct for SEO too.

Trademarking your own name

AC Lyle - The inventor of Ginger Beer
AC Lyle – The inventor of Ginger Beer

Back in 1884 my great, great, great Granny, Elizabeth Lyle  started a soft drinks firm in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. It grew and grew and survived two world wars, but sadly didn’t survive the death of my Grandfather Edgar Lyle in 1964, when the business was sold to Hooper Struve, which was in turn later bought by R Whites. His own father Alexander Lyle who died in 1953  was credited on his death with being the man who invented Ginger Beer.

I still have all the paperwork relating to this and all the others recipes that were left to me by my own Granny Jean Lyle and I promised my own father Anthony, I would bring it back to the market when I had the required experience and funds to do so. I started this process in the summer this year.

But today, this has been blocked by a rather superior trademark firm from London Venner Shipley who have contested my trademark application for the name ‘Lyles’ in the area of class 32, which loosely relates to soft drinks.

The fact that our name is a family name and the business started before their own clients’ is irrelevant. because they own a trademark and have employed expensive but illiterate lawyers (who like to use tautological expressions to sign off letters). Yes, yes, I will withdraw my application immediately, asap and promptly Messrs Venner and Shipley.

Venner Shipley

I think that’s quite sad. I also think it is truly awful that they have been allowed to send such an appallingly written letter to let me know.

For the record, the Trade Mark Office staff have been fabulous and were genuinely trying to find a way to help me get around their lawyers, but if I can’t work with my own name, what’s the point in putting my heart and soul in trying to rebuild an amazing family business and who can really afford to take these firms on?

Steve Jobs – by Walter Isaacson – One of the best books I’ve ever read

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

I am a bit of an Apple fan, so when my good pal Andy Hanselman bought me this giant book as a gift, I was looking for the right time to sit down and get started on this 600 page monster. As it happened, this time didn’t seem to be materialising, so I sat down to read it anyway and I’m extremely glad I did as it is completely brilliant and inspirational, if not a little sad. You can buy it here. I recommend you do.

What it does is go through the history of the way the business developed as well as give a real warts and all account of the man himself. there’s no doubt he was a completely obsessive and extraordinarily odd man, but he was also driven by passion for detail and a search for quality like we’ve never seen before.

I advise anyone who ever asks that you have to focus on quality to build a brand, but this is what Jobs did everywhere – throughout every single aspect of the business. And, I’m convinced that this is why Apple has been so successful. That and the fact that he had an amazing design partner in Jony Ives and between them they had incredible vision too.

A few highlights for me.

1. As an understanding of why differentiation is critical – “It’s better to be a pirate than to join the navy”. Most products that come to the market do so in flocks, following a market leader. Apple deliberately and methodically went the other way.

2. On having an enemy for the whole team to focus on – “Throughout his career, Jobs liked to see himself as an enlightened rebel pitted against evil empires, a Jedi warrior of Buddhist samurai fighting the forces of darkness. IBM was the perfect foil. He cast the battle not as mere business competition but as a spiritual struggle”

3. On why the little things matter too – Jobs father had taught him that a drive for perfection meant caring about the craftsmanship, even for the parts unseen. Jobs applied that to the layout of the circuit board inside the Apple II. He rejected the initial design as the lines weren’t straight enough”. This point is again critical. Most businesses do the big things just fine. The ones that go onto become great brands care about the little things too, as this is where differentiation and ultimately, perfection lies.

Anyway, enough from me. read it. It’s an amazing and beautifully written book.

Fantabulous 3 for 2 offer at BeWILDerwood – October half term – BeWILDerwood voucher

It’s unusual to see an offer like this from BeWILDerwood, but it’s a good one with a 3 for 2 during the NORFOLK October half-term. Just download it and then bring it with you to get in cheaper. Just out of interest, it’s normally quieter on Saturdays as that’s the day that people are travelling to and from Norfolk.

Johnny Lyle - BeWILDerwood 3 for 2 October half term 2013

Johnny Lyle branding and brand experience. How branding works and why!

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