You don’t get me, I’m part of the union.”

On Monday the government will introduce in parliament the biggest crack down on the trade unions in thirty years. Len McCluskey’s Unite union is up for the challenge. The General Secretary will spend the weekend at the Trades Union Congress testing support for his call to break the law to resist the Tories plans.

The issue will be an interesting test for the new Labour leader. To support or oppose particular strikes has been one of the most difficult problems for Labour leaders for decades. Barbara Castle crossed the unions in the 1960s, Jim Callaghan’s government was brought down by them in 1979, Neil Kinnock’s discomfort over Arthur Scargill’s miners strike in 1984/5 is the stuff of legend and Ed Miliband’s refusal to take sides became a joke on You Tube.

The reason why the party, created by the unions, has agonised over the issue of union power is because it has feared losing moderate voters. It is this equivocation that has dismayed the left, and particularly the young. During the leadership election they have surged back to Labour in the expectation of more crusading policies. Their argument is that if the party fights with conviction for working people, more will join, Middle England will be overwhelmed and a socialist Labour Party will sweep to power in 2020. The battle over the Trade Union bill will be a first test.

The measure will make unlawful a strike unless 50% of those being asked to strike, vote in the ballot. 40% of those asked to vote must support the strike in key public services. The strike mandate will only last four months Unlawful picketing will become a criminal, not civil, offence. Most controversial of all is the right being given to employers to hire agency staff to break the strike. The Labour Party’s finances are set to be hit with a further provision to require union members to positively agree to pay the political levy.

The number of working days lost to strike action in the 12 months to April was 704,000, a far cry from the 13 million a year in the 70s. However there have been a number of strikes on the London Underground and in schools causing major inconvenience to parents and commuters. This has been the trigger for ministers to act. What will New Old Labour do?


I attended the excellent global soccer business conference in Manchester this week and thought I would share with you a comment by a panellist. It came during a discussion about fans’ use of new media. Facebook and YouTube had come out of left field with nobody seeing what impact they would have It was noted that some football clubs had given up trying to stop fans taking mobile phone shots of matches and embraced the clips on their websites.

Then the prediction of the next big thing, fans resistance to being the falls guys in the war between Sky and BT for TV soccer rights. As was correctly observed the poor fan now has to pay two huge monthly fees to get full match coverage. Who could stop this? Well perhaps Apple will come to the fans rescue, wipe out BT and Sky and unify the package at a cheaper price. Just a thought.







I pose the question because of the sacking of David Moyes. An issue that has had at least the same amount of coverage as David Cameron’s fall will eventually attract. Even the staid Today programme on Radio 4 kept having items from Old Trafford awkwardly introduced by John Humphrys.


In football the personality of the manager is almost always crucial to success. They need to have a knowledge of the game and man management in equal measure. A media persona also helps. It didn’t always. Sir Alf Ramsey had as much charisma as Clement Attlee but both understated men had enormous success. The former led us to World Cup victory, the latter led Labour to its landslide triumph in 1945. But that was in the age before rolling news.


Now managers have to feed the hungry news beast. Jose Mourinho, the Chelsea boss has this off to a tee. But David Moyes looked haunted from the start. His excuses became repetitive. He looked overwhelmed.

So are United now going to join all the other clubs, bar Arsenal in a constant managerial Merry go round. The fans like this constant change. So says Alyson Rudd, a football columnist with The Times. Do they? Is it actually good for clubs to change their manager every three years are so? Is it good for business to have constant changes in leadership? Let’s remember we used to praise Manchester United for sticking with Sir Alex Ferguson even when the times were bad around 1990.


Sir Terry Leahy had fourteen years at the top of Tesco. He’s been gone three years now and last week’s figures weren’t so good. Is that because Leahy is not in charge or because the economics of superstores is changing?


Do critics of David Cameron’s leadership take into account that he has no majority and came to power in very difficult economic circumstances? Do critics of David Moyes take into account that he was handed a team past its sell by date and with the old boss still around the boardroom. There is also the inevitable cycle that afflicts football and business. No team or company can always be at the top.


The pressure to succeed takes its toll, the product goes out of fashion, and succession planning fails.

Sir Alex Ferguson will have some explaining to do at the Harvard Business School where is now a guest lecturer. Continuity in business and football management is hard. When United last screwed up their succession planning, it was nearly twenty years before Sir Alex came on the scene. For business and football, once you are knocked off the top, it can be a long way back. Liverpool fans know that.


We don’t just need to look in the Premiership. Sean Dyche has just taken Burnley back to the Premiership. He’s one to watch. Meanwhile at Leeds United the lesson that you can be a long tome away from glory is still being learnt. Just because you make one mistake with business leadership, doesn’t mean you can’t fail again and again and again. Good luck with Massimo Cellino, United.






How many times have you heard that forecast as the football season gets underway? We all know that the financing of football is crazy. We all know that the forthcoming season will produce stories of clubs tottering on the brink of oblivion. But it never happens does it?

I say never. Maidstone United seems to be dead and buried but Accrington Stanley and Aldershot have risen from the grave and Portsmouth stagger on. Fan loyalty comes to the rescue when all the red financial lights are on.

But could Portsmouth or even Blackburn Rovers go out of business for ever? A recent Downtown seminar on football heard the forecast repeated that this season one or more of our clubs will bite the dust.

That wasn’t the only startling forecast by Alan Switzer; Director in Deloitte’s Manchester based Sports Business Group as he presented the company’s annual review of football finances.

He also believes UEFA are serious about enforcing their financial fair play rules. The burning question here is would UEFA devalue the Champions League by telling Manchester City, for instance, that they can’t play in the 2014/15 competition if they are not breaking even?

Alan believes there might be some leniency if the direction of travel is right and developments around youth academies will be exempt. However he is in no doubt that UEFA are determined to bring an end to the precarious arms race that is afflicting so many clubs.

Deloitte’s figures are staggering. Premier League average salaries are over a million a year whilst in Division Two it is£47,000. Soon the Championship play off match will be for £150m; even Sky won’t need to hype that! The Premier League wages to turnover ratio is 70%. Most significantly profit levels are flat.

Why the alarm with the new Sky/BT deal coming along worth £3 billion? It may be an opportunity for clubs to put their finances in order, but that would be a triumph of hope over experience. It seems more likely that the poor old fans will see their viewing subscriptions soar up in order to put even more money in players’ wallets.

Alan Switzer produced a graph showing that success was linked to the money clubs spent. There are exceptions like Blackpool’s glorious adventure but generally you get what you pay for.

Is there a tipping point where Sky won’t be able to milk the fans anymore? The seminar heard that increasingly pubs are struggling to pay to show the matches.

The big kick off will soon be with us, but first it’s wall to wall Olympic Games.
North West companies have benefited from Olympic orders. Watson Steel of Bolton, Ainscough cranes from Wigan and Glasdon recycling based in Blackpool being among them. But let’s not kid ourselves it’s London and the South East, the region that least needs it that is benefiting most.

However let’s hope it all goes well and reflect on the fact that without the success of the Commonwealth Games in Manchester ten years ago, none of this would be happening.



A brief word on the latest revelations around Hillsborough, and then I’ll move on to my main topic.

It appears a senior police officer in the Merseyside force helped to fuel the slander against Liverpool fans while rank and file bobbies were expressing their disgust at the accusations in The Sun.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the force was led by Chief Constable Ken Oxford who, it appears, was troubled with Anfield being turned into a shrine for the victims. With someone like that at the head of the police force, perhaps the revelation is not such a surprise.

Policing has moved on and the Merseyside force is now hopefully more sensitive to the community they serve.

Anyway it is not the papers relating to the Merseyside force we want to see but South Yorkshire. Why haven’t they leaked? Why are we now told it could be late this year before we get the full release of documents? I hope it is only personal details that are being redacted. The suffering has gone on long enough. Let Bishop James’ Commission report without further delay.



Peter Salmon should be the next Director General of the BBC. I’ve spent the last few days with people involved in one of the most important job creators in the North West…. the media.

The Nations and Regions TV conference was held in Salford this week and there was the suggestion that our very own Peter Salmon should leap into the top job at the Beeb.

Salmon’s career has equipped him for the post. He went from Granada to a range of top jobs in the BBC and ITV culminating in him masterminding the corporation’s move to Salford in the face of fierce, prejudiced hostility from the southern based national press.

Incidentally on that subject did you spot the howler in the Telegraph the other day? While running one of their anti-BBC in Salford stories, they said Media City was in the MIDLANDS!

Now that error was written by a journalist and passed by a sub editor in one of our main quality papers. The North is a land of which they know little and the error is a powerful argument for redressing the media bias with a critical mass of production up here.



Do you want local TV? Jeremy Hunt does and has identified Preston, Manchesterand Liverpool among the first places for its roll out.

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has a poor opinion of regional television. He told the Salford conference that we only had it because it was based on where the transmission masts were in 1955 when ITV got underway. He says major cities in the USA have 6 local TV services providing much more local content.

The problem with this idea has always been making it pay. Channel One in Liverpool and more recently Channel M in Manchester failed the viability test.

Hunt believes he’s cracked the problem by getting the BBC to stump up £30m for the 44 stations which the Secretary of State believes can operate on a half million pound budget a year.



If you support clubs like Morecambe, Preston and Oldham you will be concerned about rumours that the BBC may be dropping its coverage of non-Premier League football.

The Football League Show and Late Kick Off give vital coverage to the lower leagues at a time when much of the media is obsessed with the Premiership.

At the conference I had a chance to question the BBC’s Head of Sport Barbara Slater who said “discussions were ongoing”.

I understand the Football League are desperate to keep the BBC on board and are only asking for a modest amount for their coverage.

For the BBC to claim they can’t afford to continue covering the lower leagues would be a desertion of their public service duty.