Monday, 8 September 2008

On the radio again

I've just been on BBC Radio Tees talking about Darlington FC's three hour "Happy Hour" cheap drinks promotion on match days. The story was reported in this morning's Northern Echo and the radio producer was on the phone at 8.15 asking me to come on air at 8.30. Apparently, "a row has broken out".

The football club's response to my criticism is that it has to compete with other establishments in the town by offering cheap drinks. Well, I don't accept that. Darlington Football Club is not a bar on Skinnergate, or a pub on Neasham Road: it's a sports club with a family image and a large proportion of its fans under the age of 18.

The drinks industry as a whole claims to be cleaning up its act by reducing the availability of cheap drink promotions. For a family-oriented sports club to be introducing these sorts of promotions is irresponsible and potentially harmful both socially and in terms of individual health.

Excessive alcohol consumption and binge drinking is a massive social and health problem and Darlington Football Club should be taking a lead in campaigning against it.


Anonymous said...

Your comments rearding tis issue are totaly unfounded and yo have not made yourself many friends amongst Darlington FC fans.
I think you should stick to issues that are important, with regards to the Lib dem fliers that have been posted through the door today, because of your negative view towards the foball cub this has been placed straight in the bin and i dare say many more have done this today. You should be getting behind the club in difficult times not putting it down!!!!!!!!

Mr S Lawson said...

Absolute tosh! I think if are looking to get yourself elected,hows about you tackle real issues like the alchohol problems that blight the town centre most nights causing the police/resedents endless problems or maybe the drug culture that is infesting the town,the traffic chaos,the yobs terrifying estates,the crime rate,i could go on and on!
But no you target OUR football club and its patrons,trying to fix a problem that never will or ever has existed!
Clueless,utterly clueless

Yackley_Quaker said...

The happy hour drinks promotion initiated by the football club will reduce the price of a pint of beer from £2.40 to a par with many pubs in the town centre. Of course you would not realise this, never having been to the ground.
You are having a go at our football club which is struggling to bring in a few extra fans bt staging "Happy Hours" for 1 and 1/2 hours before and 1 and 1/2 hours after the game. A total of three hours, not the "six hour piss up" you claim in your unfounded attack.
If you really want to improve things for the people of this town why not campaign for a better bus service or do something about the gangs of chavs who haunt our parks drinking White Lightening etc., or even better target the shops that sell this cheap booze in the first place rather than the football club which is simply trying to make itself competitive to attract fans to the bars before and after games.

paul h said...

mike u are a complete buffoon, rather than slate the football club for your self publicity, try focusing on issues that matter like street yobs, drugs, brothels, and trafic conjestion to name but a few. alternatively resign ands go back to reading oh no u couldnt do without the inflated expenses the come out of my community charge could you?

An annoyed Darlo_Pete said...

They say all publicity is good publicity, well not in this case. All Darlington fans will remember how you attacked the club, for what was completely unfounded reasons. There is no problem with drink at the Arena. Check out your facts before you attack the club that represents the town, you want to represent.

beatroute66 (David Steel) said...

As a non-drinker for the last 2/3 years, I have to say hand on heart that I can't recall one incident that *I* have seen at both the Arena or Feethams that has been a direct result of 'binge drinking'. I've been a season ticket holder for coming up 20 years now and have never been a big drinker even in my 'drinking' days, so feel well placed to comment here.

This is all wrong. There are so many other 'issues' to 'tackle' around the drink culture in this country/area that makes picking on a local football club doing a little deal for it's supporters seem pretty pathetic to me. Was it a slow news day the day the club's poster turned up?

Actually, the stance you've taken doesn't surprise me. The local paper and most of the locals don't give a crap about the club, so why should local councillors and politicians?

I'm glad you've had you 5 minutes in the sun on radio, in the paper, on our message board, etc. You can toddle off now - isn't there an evening do you should be at just now necking free wine and eating free buffet like most of the other free-loaders who "represent the community" do?

Honestly, the club tries to generate some local interest in forthcoming games via old fashioned poster advertising and we wind up splashed across the local media as some kind of cause of alcoholism and drink-fuelled bad behaviour?!

Shake your hanging head, councillor.

Broadsexile said...

Given that you represent a ward in a town which has a comparatively large number of socio-economic problems, do you think that attacking one of the most well-known points of positive identification for Darlington people is really a smart idea? Seriously short-sighted political thinking there, Cllr Barker. May I suggest that your next vote-winning scheme involves suggesting a positive way in which cultural and leisure facilities in the town might be improved, rather than simply launching an attack on a scheme which you have shown no evidence of understanding. I think the last place you need to look if you're planning to tackle binge drinking in Darlington is the Arena: maybe you should be asking what it is that is missing that makes so many people want to go out and get absolutely paralytic in the town centre on a night.

Mike Barker said...

Ok, you may take offence against the way I have portrayed the football club, and you're right to want the club to do all it can to maximise its income, but the fact remains:

Happy Hour promotions, wherever they take place, exist to increase the income of the company carrying out the promotion. At reduced prices this means selling more alcohol to make a profit.

Alcohol is highly disruptive both for the individual and society. Excessive consumption - a major and increasing problem in Britain - quite simply has to be curtailed. The Government is considering introducing mandatory restrictions on drinks promotions to replace the less effective voluntary code which the drinks industry claims to support.

By launching its own Happy Hour promotion - designed to increase the consumption of alcohol on its premises - the football club is giving its support to an unwelcome feature of our drinks culture.

The football club is saying that Happy Hours are ok, because they make them more money. In my opinion Happy Hours are not ok, because the real losers are the people who are encouraged to drink more and society which suffers from the consequences of individual excess.

It may well be the case that the football club will not be the scene of evidence of the worst excesses of alcohol consumption, but by participating in the concept of the Happy Hour the club - a family oriented sports club - is effectively saying that drinking more is a good thing - because that's the only way they can make a profit on such a promotion - by getting people to drink more. And that sends out completely the wrong message, particularly to young sports fans.

1superlidds said...

Fair play you say encouraging the drinking of alcohol is not the right message to send out to young sports fans (if that is how you personally perceive it) on the same gesture neither is the eating of pasties, sausage rolls and other such products sold in football grounds and high streets up and down the country.
Why have you not campaigned vigorously to stop such sales? Greggs recently had a by 1 get second discounted on steak bake do you not think that also wreckless?
Just to clear things up you say you are 'MD of local food retailing and bakery business' Would be interesting to know (just to be sure you are being consistent in your healthy lifestyle campaign) what food abd baking products your company sells and if you sell pastry products such as sausage rolls/pasties etc am sure you wouldn't dream of it but at least this gives you the chance to state that - obviously if you did you would look a proper hypocrite haha!!

Mike Barker said...

SuperLidds: I own a healthfood shop and wholefood bakery. Some of our products are made with wholemeal pastry, but everything is vegetarian and, as far as possible, healthy and wholesome!

The big difference between the promotion of unhealthy food and the promotion of alcohol consumption is that, while over-indulgence of the former may lead to individual health problems and eventually a cost to the state in terms of health care, the latter can lead to violence, anti-social behaviour and the creation of no-go areas for many people in our town and city centres. The individual and social costs of excessive drinking are far greater than those associated with eating unhealthy food.

Anonymous said...

So you are happy to accept the sale of unhealthy foods, many of which contain additives known to cause behavioural problems with todays kids a contributary factor of anti-social behaviour but not alcohol.
Both unhealthy foods and alcohol are fine in moderation, in fact in moderation I would say (having seen my niece's behaviour as a child when ever she ate a bar of chocolate) moderate alcohol consumption to an adult is less harmful than junk food to a child, but you are now discussing 'over consumption' and you have no evidence to support what you say regarding the initiative on offer at the Arena - I have taken my kids to the ground during the happy hour last season (its not a new initiative its just passed by so harmlessly and trouble free that you were unaware of it taking place!!) and I had a pint and a chat with friends while the kids had a glass of coke each - now you may deem that wreckless and unsociable behaviour thats your choice but my kids have been raised in a correct manner, they are polite and respectful, would never dream of acting in an anti-social manner (they dont even drop litter), they don't answer back or cheek people and if they had a public domain blog site am damn sure they would not title a blog with the sort of imature expletives you use.
Your initial argument was based on a sports club offering such an unhealthy inititive but when I discuss that you suddenly say its not the health side that concerns you but the ramifications of cost to society....well why mention the fact that DFC is a sports club??
Why have you not attended a game at first hand to experience match day for yourself before passing judgement? why have you not spent any time with the football club seeing the positive impact that the club are having on the community with under achieving school kids and the current programme helping drug addicts? why concentrate on a very tiny issue of a seasonal once a fortnight (16 saturdays a year) happy hour when places like Wetherspoons and other town centre pubs continue to sell beer at a cheaper price through out the week?
Why not criticise Cleveland Bridge FC or Darlington RA where their club bars continue to undercut DFC prices everyday of the week?

The fact is you saw a single line on an advert and got it totally wrong - an apology to the club an acceptance that you grossly over reacted is called for but as is the case with any politician you do not listen to the voter so I won't hold my breath

Broadsexile said...

There's a very good point from the anonymous poster at the bottom there. It is all well and good o criticise sports clubs for 'promoting' a lifestyle which is perhaps not complimentary to the vaguely Orwellian vision of health and leisure Cllr Barker presents (half an hour of exercises before the three-minute hate, perhaps?) but what about the hundreds of football clubs, both in the north-east and elsewhere in the country, where ongoing existence is ONLY maintained by onsite bars and social clubs? Most non-league teams below Conference North/ South would be out of business the moment their drink license was revoked: you have to accept the fact that football clubs are focal points which reflect a spectrum of interests in communities (social as well as sporting). You can't just reduce their function to stimulating the production of socially-contributing young people because they are institions with a long history as places of communal interaction and exchange.

My inclination is that you know that what you're saying isn't right but that it would not be politically expedient for you for you to apologise and admit that you hadn't thought the issue out properly. Let's expand your argument a bit, then. You list 'modern literature' as an interest in the sidebar on your blog: what about the hundreds of drunken protagonists that are to be found there? What about drinkers in films, or indeed in popular music? Do we ban the sale of Tom Waits records because they portray (and glamourise) a lifestyle of drink and dissolution? Or Raymond Chandler or Ian Rankin's detective fiction, which frequently makes drink-driving seem like an acceptable thing to do?

You seriously need to retract your remarks because they are making you look like A) a very unrigorous researcher and B) a politician who is willing to strike at soft targets - which, following the fiasco of the Reynolds years, the club still is - to score points. Anyway, thanks for listening.

Mike Barker said...

Ok, a few different points here.

1. I cannot see anywhere where I have said I am happy about the sale of unhealthy food. I was asked to compare alcohol with fatty foods, which I did by saying that, on balance, I regarded alcohol as a greater problem: you should not infer from this that I am happy with the sale of unhealthy food.

2. I have nowhere said that the individual health problems associated with alcohol consumption do not concern me. Read what I've written and you'll see otherwise. What I said was that the main difference between excessive alcohol consumption and excessive consumption of unhealthy foods was the anti-social ramifications of the former.

3. I have been to the Arena many times, though not as often as when they played at Feethams, mainly because I went with my kids and they are all grown up now. I know exactly what it's like at the Arena on a match day. It doesn't alter the fact that, however well behaved Darlo fans are at the ground, and however well the bar is run, the club is promoting cheap drink, which it will have to sell more of to make a profit, and I think that sends out entirely the wrong message.

4. I'm happy to acknowledge the good work doen by the club in all sorts of other areas, and I truely wish the club well. Although you and others obviously don't agree with me, on this particular matter I think they've got it wrong and are sending out the wrong message.

Mike Barker said...

Hmmm, three more posts in the short time I was replying to an earlier one. I have some work to do now, but I'll be back - by which time no doubt there'll be more to answer!

Anonymous said...

And another thought that has just merited some discussion here in the office.

Are the garages who sell cheaper petrol, encouraging people to add to Global Warming/Climate Change???

By your own reasoning, in order to make profits, these garages would need to sell more fuel than the higher priced garages would. Therfore, by selling more fuel, more emmisions will be created, adding to the much publicised critical state of our environment, leading to flooding, homelessness, dispair et al...

So, can we expect to see you campaining agains the £1.11 / ltr garages in the near future??

Where do you buy YOUR fuel Mike?? The most expensive garage perhaps?? I would be willing to bet that as an MD of your own company, there will be company vehicles involved, and you will probably keep an eye of fuel prices to ensure that your drivers get the best prices possible, in order to maximise your profits..

As I said in my previuos comment, your arguement is fundamentally flawed, trying to create a problem/issue where none exists.

I hope that action is taken against your comments, as your comments seem, at the very best, completely negative, and in all likelyhood could be considered libellous.

1superlidds said...

again you mistake fact with assumption - there has been NO evidence of alcohol abuse at the stadium - the happy hour has run for a considerable length of time yet you only became aware of this when you saw the flier.
NOW suddenly you say you HAVE attended games (yawn...lets take a left turn at this junction shall we? haha!!) yet you still never witnessed unsociable behaviour resulting from the happy hours so your suggested 'attendance' and acceptance that you saw nothing untoward actually flies in the face of your wildly inaccurate, unsubstantiated and unfair accusations of the club.
It shouldn't be overlooked either that unhealthy eating DOES contribute to anti-social behaviour and if your battle is on anti-social behaviour then you tackle all issues of it and not cherry pick.
Sometimes its better to stay quite and look a fool than to open your mouth and be one so I suggest you accept you are wrong on this issue

DL5 said...

Councillor Barker

You can bat your corner as much as you want, the simple fact in this matter is that you've channelled your energy in the wrong direction.

I think we all agree that binge drinking leads to drunkenness leads to violence and damage on the streets and long term health problems

Darlington Football club is promoting a happy hour to attract people through the doors who are otherwise only going to drink the same amount elsewhere, maybe they'll have an extra pint, probably more people will come through the doors,hardly a problem is it?

You're creating a problem where one does not exist. Have you liaised with Darlington Police? have they any concerns, I doubt it, maybe you'll be requesting a riot van on standby for saturdays, and perhaps an ambulance to deal with alcohol poisoning

I take it you will also be slating the major supermarkets and off licences where you can pick up a bottle of Stella for 33p if bought in bulk.

I take it you'll be assisting in patrols in every park and street in Darlington where youths gather to drink the Stella and white lightning, take E's smack, crack and blow then proceed to damage things and assault people.

IF your party ever comes to power and IF you ever make health minister will we see the introduction of prohibition? If we did the country would be bankrupt

You're peeing in the wind with this one and quite frankly don't seem to know your arse from your elbow. I can hear you asking yourself how you get out of this one without losing too much face, well be the big man apologise then come to the game and have a pint

Its about time you focussed on the concerns of your public rather than wasting your time with a non existent problem like this.

TFDM said...

Hey Mike, nothing like making a mountain out of a nothing event is there? Still I’m sure it has proved useful for you. Plenty of people reading a no mark blog which I am sure that no one would have noticed otherwise.

To be honest we shouldn’t be surprised at this turn of events. After all this is an individual who uses his time to go around the time and hunt down inappropriate use of apostrophes throughout the town's signage (seriously check his blog!).

Mike your wrong, plain and simple. The football club should not be vilified for knocking a few pence off a pint which in reality simply brings their prices level with the vast majority of establishments in this town. The real problems are the places in town which offer 2 for 1 promotions and free doubles etc.

People are not going to flock to the ground in droves simply because the club is offering a slightly cheaper pint. I suggest you channel your energies towards things people in this town really want to see. Things like improved bus services and improved council services, not headline generating rubbish like this.

Anonymous said...

If you look through this blog you'll probably notice that Mike has dealt with issues such as Bus timetables, council excesses as well as various issues raised by the residents in his ward, most recently the problems of rogue car traders on North Road. Those who have lambasted him simply because he disagrees with the promotion of a potentially harmful excess by a prominant local organisation, the football club, show a great deal of narrow mindedness and possibly a deep seated guilt about their own drinking habits.

The drinking culture in this country is becoming more of a problem every year with people taking up excessive drinking at a younger age. Whilst it would obviously be a gross infringement of liberty to stop people drinking, there is nothing wrong with voicing the opinion that a happy hour offer at a venue regularly attended by families and young people is not necessarily a good thing.

Anonymous said...

'there is nothing wrong with voicing the opinion that a happy hour offer at a venue regularly attended by families and young people is not necessarily a good thing'

no but be consistent - families regularly attend weatherspoon pubs for meals - these are venues that 52 weeks of the year sell alcohol cheaper than the reduced price Darlington FC sell there drink for on those few occassions (I hardly consider 16 saturdays a year with a fortnight between matches as wreckless.
You say people lambasted him despite his good deeds in other areas?
Darlington FC provide educational promotions for school children in our community

Darlington FC provide football courses for schools in our community

Darlington FC provide coaching courses for disabled and special needs associations in our community

Darlington FC provided summer coaching courses held over school holidays for our community.

Darlington FC attended hospitals visiting the sick over christmas in our community

all that and more yet Mr Barker lambasts the football club over one issue he didnt agree with!!!!

As ' The drinking culture in this country is becoming more of a problem every year with people taking up excessive drinking at a younger age' again you follow his pattern of assumption - there has been no instances to suggest there is any problem on the few occassions over the course of a year where the club reduce prices. This whole issue never came about because of any problems raised by it but because he took offence at discovering it takes place.
If he has an issue with drinking culture problems then the town centre is the plavce to tackle it, maybe stand outside the old Charlie Brown site one weekend and learn why its developing the nickname 'Bluebottle bend' I had a friend up from Torquay a fortnight back and she still jokes about the amount of blue plastic cider bottles she came across littered in the town. so while he gets himself hett up over a limited edition deal, right under his nose the real problems, the serious issues continue to get worse and worse.
Its the equivalent of complaining about a rubbish bin being full in Cockerton while ignoring the fact that Eastbourne is being turned into a landfill.

1superlidds said...

To take that post ansd slightly amend but yet read very similarly:

If you look at what Darlington Football club have done in the community you will see they have dealt with issues like Football coaching courses for the community in the summer holidays, school coaching within term time for our community, coaching courses during evenings for a special needs/disability group, a drugs rehab course for people within our community - they are just a number of functions the club has quietly got on with within our community. He lambasted the club because he disagreed with the clubs limited period of reduced prices for drink on just SIXTEEN saturdays over the course of a year, when other establishments have even cheaper prices 552 weeks of the year - that shows great deal of narrow mindedness and possibly a deep seated guilt about his inability to tackle the far more alarming issues of drink health problems within the town

The drinking culture in this country is becoming more of a problem every year with people taking up excessive drinking at a younger age. But there has been no evidence to suggest there has been incidences of drink problems emanating from the stadium - indeed MB only discovered that these deals were available due to receiving a flier, the fact that this offer has existed problem free for many months, including games where MB actually claims to have attended matches!! shows that this is not a health issue, its not a social behavioural issue its purely one person getting over egged about a trivial issue because he is so lacking in other areas. No there is nothing wrong with voicing the opinion that a happy hour offer at a venue regularly attended by families and young people is not necessarily a good thing.....thats his opinion but it should also be balanced with the fact that the price of drink during that happy hour remains at a higher price to that offered in places like Wetherspoons and other town centre bars where families are welcome for food. Why no comments condemning those establishments?? Why take it out on a venue where he has no evidence in the slightest to suggest that there are any issues raised at the stadium over these limited events...I certainly doubt he took any advice from the police who shortly after full time leave the stadium rather than hang about in fear of unruly behaviour.
Surely it would be far better that he patrol the town centre and demand action from bar owners when he sees a drunk leave a bar.
I did post before as annonymous as I was rushing out but it was only acceptable after agreement from blog owner (it never appeared!)

Anonymous said...

To all you Darlo fans trying to compare this with Greggs selling pies, since when has Greggs had a football team promoting good health?

Steve Galloway said...

I have never met you - and with all respect - had never heard of you before the issue about binge drinking hit the bulletin boards.
You are right that heavy drinking is a national issue for us Brits. It has implications for the NHS, for our law enforcement services and can lead to many personal family tragedies.
So spot on so far.
The decision of the football club to include the terminology about a “happy hour” on the poster was not too clever as we both know. Licensing committees across the country are hostile to what is now regarded as an old fashioned term with its implications of binge drinking and disorder.
If your initiative was to try to warn the club about the possibility of their license being put in jeopardy you would have been right to drop them a line.
I am at a loss to understand why you would go public on such a narrow line?
It’s the culture and legislation that’s wrong and the football club is not part of a brewery/government conspiracy.
I’ve been a LibDem Councillor in Yorkshire for 35 years. I’ve gone to Darlington Football matches regularly home and way since 1958. I reckon I’ve been to many more Darlo matches than most of your critics put together.
But they have a point. If you want to represent a community, then respect its culture and heritage and what happens at the Arena is part of that for many people in the town.
So move ahead now.
You apparently own a health food business. Please parcel up your best products and send to Pawel Abbott.
You best endeavours in this respect would be appreciated by many!

Mike Barker said...

Thanks, Steve.

Actually, we met in 1977 when I was a student at York University! It's only been 31 years since then - I'm shocked you've forgotten me already!!

Much as I would wish to do my best for him, even my top quality arnica and glucosamine supplements can't be guaranteed to get Pawel back into action any time soon!