Sunday, 21 February 2016

A Question of Sport, A Winning Wine but no Tea with your Dundee Cake

One of the most excruciating moments of life came when at the last moment I was asked to be part of an inter-hospital Quiz Team. It was a long time ago. Now pub quiz’s had never been a big part of my life but for the sake of the hospital team, I stepped up to the mark. Things went better than I had expected until we got to the last question, a tie-breaker question – ‘which team won the 1966 World Cup?’. I had no idea who had won and looking around at the increasingly panic stricken faces of my team mates I just wanted the floor to open up and swallow me. We didn’t win the competition.

Unlike last night. Last night I was up at the House in Scotland and it was our cheese and wine event in the village hall. I was one of 5 people asked to present a wine, costing less than £6 a bottle. I presented a Sauvignon Blanc called Fern Bay, which comes from grapes grown in the Hawke Bay region of New Zealand. W and I like the wine for its gooseberry flavour and because it reminds us of 2 of our children and 4 of our grandchildren who live in Hastings, one of 2 towns in the area famous for its Art-Deco architecture and fine wines. It was a great presentation (even if I say so myself) and it was one competition I 'won' hands down, 

However, I wasn’t and haven't been asked to take part in any more quiz nights until many years ago when I was courting W – and then it was by accident. We were in a pub having a quiet drink when we were asked if we wanted to participate – previous experience not withstanding I said yes, and although we didn’t win, it was actually good fun. I can’t recall now if there were any sports questions or not, but if they had been I am not sure I would have been any better at answering them than the World Cup question. 

Sport and I don’t mix. Yes I do like the big occasion events, or I can get caught up in the public support of something like the Women’s Curling Team winning the Gold medal at the 2002 winter Olympics. So I have been surprised at how interested I have become in finding out about the many sports related activities there are across the University. One of the exciting things about my new role at the University has been meeting so many new people, and so many of these new people are working on projects related to sport – and they are all people passionate about their particular sport or sporting area.

As well as the obvious football connections with Manchester, we have colleagues and sportspeople from basketball, athletics, cycling, squash all making a contribution. We have colleagues who are academic advisors to the next World Cup and the next Olympics. We have sports scientist, sports psychologists and sports business colleagues.  The Salford University Students Union has over 40 different sports clubs, with everything from archery through to fencing, surfing, football, ninjutsu, mountaineering, horse riding, karting and wrestling.  There is plenty to think about in terms of developing a possible sports focused Industry Collaborative Zone (ICZ).

There also appears to be plenty to think about when health and sports come together. Last week I picked up on the story of the former NHS Cumbria Chief Executive (Nigel Maguire) and his campaign to stop using plastic playing fields after his son developed Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The conjecture is that the rubber pellets (often made from old car tyres) which are added to the 3G pitches to give them bounce, maybe connected to cancer clusters. It is feared that the pellets maybe accidentally swallowed, or become lodged in open cuts to arms and legs and cause illness as a consequence.

However, thousands or amateur and professional athletes play on all weather surfaces every week, and while in the US it’s alleged that hundreds of young footballers who regularly played on artificial pitches went on to develop cancers, the producers of these pitches strongly refute there is a connection. But some studies have found that the rubber pellets do contain substances such as mercury, lead, arsenic and other carcinogens. Professor Andrew Watterson from the University of Stirling notes that there are no good epidemiological studies available on cancers linked to football players and 3G pitches. However there is study underway which is due to finish in 2018 – so watch this space. 

The other story that caught my eye also came from a university in Scotland, this time Dundee University. Apparently that are so cash-strapped (forecasting a £10m deficit by 2017) that staff have been told they can no longer order tea, coffee or biscuits for meetings. The ban on tea break supplies was contained in an email telling staff they should refrain from ordering stationery, office supplies, furniture, IT supplies and so on. My heart went out to Elaine Plenderleith, the administrator who wrote the email and her 15 minutes of unwanted fame.