Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Drain the swamp

Remember Heart of Mersey? Probably not, but you may be familiar one of their many offshoots - the Health Equalities Group, Food Active, Give Up Loving Pop (GULP) the European Health Stadia Network (AKA Healthy Stadia) - or its vape-hating frontman Robin Ireland. 

Heart of Mersey is the umbrella group and a registered charity which describes itself as 'primarily an advocacy organisation'. As the name implies, its official objective is to tackle heart disease, but in practice this involved campaigning against vaping, fizzy drinks and outdoor smoking.

As I mentioned last year, its financial accounts make for interesting reading. In the heyday of New Labour sockpuppet funding, Heart of Mersey got a lot of money from the NHS but this dried up in 2013. They have been burning through their bank reserves ever since.

Really burning through them. As their income dwindled to almost nothing, they spent vastly more than they were taking in.

In 2012/13, they had twelve employees, nine trustees, including Simon 'Caps Lock' Capewell, and an income of £848,888.

By 2016/17, most of the trustees had disappeared and it was employing just two people, albeit at a cost of £166,632. Robin Ireland, the former chief executive, has buggered off to Glasgow to do a PhD, presumably in 'public health', and in 2017/18, it had so little income that it wasn't even required to file financial accounts.

As an organisation that was overwhelmingly funded by the taxpayer in its glory years, it is not obvious why it was allowed to squirrel so much money away rather than spend it on whatever it was supposed to be spent on. After running down the bank account, it now seems to be a shell.

And yet its spirit lives on through the various front groups it set up. Food Active campaigns for the Coca-Cola truck tour to be banned and is funded by local authorities in the North West. Give Up Loving Pop is funded by Food Active.

And then there is Healthy Stadia, whose existence I was reminded of this morning when I saw this news from the sixth division of English football:

Southport Football Club are proud to announce that as of Saturday 9 February 2019, the Merseyrail Community Stadium will become a ‘Healthy Stadia’.

With the help of the Community Foundation the club will launch three key initiatives within the stadium on match-days.

The two main covered stands – The Jack Carr and The Pure Business Group Main Stand will become a fully non-smoking zone (this includes the use of vapes), where fans instead are encouraged to smoke within the ground on open terraces such as the Popular side.

The club, in the future, will also be looking to incorporate that the whole ground is a non-smoking zone to further promote a positive healthy experience for all who attend [except smokers - CJS].

In partnership with Willow Catering, the second initiative, will offer supporters something healthier as an alternative option to the traditional match-day food on sale. This includes salad snack pots, fruit and vegetables and low sugar drinks. Healthy options will be available at the counter.

Both of the above initiatives will be in effect for the Vanarama National League North fixture against Chorley at the weekend.

The third way the club would like to promote the healthy lifestyles movement is to ask fans to look at how they travel to the ground on the day.

Can groups of friends or families car share, use the Arriva bus services or even better walk, cycle or run to make the planet greener? For those who cycle a place to store your bike will be made available.

The club will be expanding its Healthy Stadia plan over the course of the rest of the season in readiness for the 2019/20 campaign where further improvements will be made and are asking for regular attendees to help the club in its social responsibility to show the benefits of a healthy and active lifestyle.

As one fan of Stockport County says below the line, 'many of us attend football to get away from this perpetual hectoring'. 

Another replied:

Can supporting port get any better? We can now walk to the ground then stand freezing our balls off whilst eating an Apple and watching mid table hoof ball football whilst hoping teams below us don't win so we can avoid a second successive relegation battle into an even shitter Sunday league.

And who is to thank for this 'perpetual hectoring'? Look no further than our old friends at the European Commission who are always happy to step up to the plate when every other source of taxpayers' money has been exhausted.

Bring on Brexit. Drain the swamp.

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