Sporting values are about playing fair – that’s why they create headlines when they don’t

Opinion header

Sporting values are about playing fair – that’s why sport makes headlines when it doesn’t

Whilst every sector can have a negative impact on society, each also has a superpower in relation to its potential for the positive. And for me, working in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), sport is where it’s at. It brings excitement and spreads positive values within a community like no other sector. It gets to parts of a community that other sectors cannot reach.

I encourage organisations I work with – and the students I teach at AMOS Sport business school – to reflect on what they love about sport. Invariably they talk about love and passion; pride and community. Their strong emotional bonds are usually connected to strong sporting values including fairness.

Sport is intrinsically about fairness. ‘Sporting values’ imply that everyone gets a chance and that we start at the same starting line and we all have the same opportunity to arrive at the finishing line.

But that’s not the case, is it?

Conversations about the lack of diversity in sport, corruption in sport and human rights violations by regimes hosting megasporting events hit hard because they go against sporting values.

Supporters cheer player decisions to ‘take the knee.’ Fans don’t want to watch a match in a stadium impoverished ethnic minorities have died building. Sponsors don’t want to be aligned with lack of freedom of speech. And sporting bodies increasingly see their remit as the promotion of their sport to all within a community – and their relationship with their members is changing: rather than ‘setting the rules’, members are asking them to defend their interests.

And fans, sponsors and members mean money – which means sporting values have an economic value. And with the volume of conversations about diversity and transparency within sport getting louder, there are opportunities for sport to lead other sectors in creating transparent, diverse spaces and reach different parts of its local community.

We can look at this in relation to current activity around diversity in sport.

Diversity in Sport

There is a loud and broad conversation about providing opportunities (including media and participation) to a more diverse range of athletes. This is separate to the conversation about increasing diversity of employees within sporting organisations themselves. Lack of diversity in a workplace can have a direct impact on business decisions including broadcasting, funding, marketing and in effectiveness of business.

A 2015 McKinsey report on 366 public companies found that those in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean, and gender-diverse companies are 21% more likely to earn more revenue. It’s a complex relationship and I encourage readers to explore the article but quite simply, in my classes I make the point that if we are only hiring straight white middle-class men, we will only ever have the best straight white middle-class men working for the organisation.

British Cycling is just one organisation committed to making its sport more inclusive at every level, from pro-cycling to community cycling and in its workforce. Their Our Ride diversity strategy was launched in 2021 and is also a key pillar to its overall business strategy.

Likewise, Sport England hired its first director of Diversity & Inclusion in 2021 whilst the Professional Cricket Association, British Badminton, British Canoeing and the Rugby Football League have also made recent first-time senior diversity hires. Whilst their remits will differ they are all likely to focus on increasing representation in their business and in the pool of athletes. We can expect to see more diverse sporting role models in coming years.

CSR has traditionally mirrored wider societal calls-to-action and this call for diversity is happening against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement, of calls for protection of transgender rights and of calls for more women in the boardroom and in this context, it’s natural that all sectors are seeing increased calls for equality of opportunity and visibility on the pitch / court, piste, track.

If we build it, will they come? It’s been proven that women’s sports attract fans to the small screen and to stadia. Neilson’s 2018 report , The Rise of Women’s Sports provides data on this and also finds that running women’s sporting competitions at the same time as male competitions increases support. With this in mind, things look positive for this year’s UK-based Rugby League World Cup which is hosting the men’s, women’s and wheelchair at the first time which is ground-breaking – and also hopefully good for ticket sales. Playing fair here could be its superpower growing recognition of rugby league outside of its traditional northern heartland and of its supporter-base.

And then there’s the capacity for sport to celebrate diversity at a community level. Most of the sport organisations I’ve worked with including Rochdale AFC run programmes that support and celebrate diversity in their community either by being based within a specific ethnic community or by running gender-specific or physically inclusive community teams.

The future

It’s clear that many sporting organisations recognise that they are key to their whole community – and that their values and actions should reflect this.

I encourage all organisations to reflect on how they are living their values – and how they are reflecting the values that attract more fans to them, more backroom staff to them, more players to them.

I expect to see organisations continuing to invest in the ‘social’ side of their CSR and ESG programmes. Investment in diversity and inclusion programmes in sport is in its infancy and we have lots to learn as to what works best.

What I also see is a movement of sporting organisations and national sporting bodies committed to measuring and showcasing the positive social impact of sport. When these learnings are shared with the wider sporting community, we’ll see a further increase in activity.

Won’t that be amazing?

National day alert

Opinion header

We recently celebrated Transgender Day of Visibility. Done badly, national days are but a Twitter flutter and an excuse to greenwash 364 days of (in)activity, but done well, they’re powerful, focus the mind and become hooks to hang activity on: March brings International Women’s Day; October recognises cancer awareness activity.

This year I celebrated Transgender Day of Visibility by sharing it on my social channels with a targeted call to action for my cycling contacts to engage with British Cycling’ consultation on its transgender and non-binary policy documents.

Cycling is a big circle I move in: my contacts include many ride and event leaders as well as marketing professionals and political players. All quite clued into demographics. And I am a member of British Cycling’s Diversity and Inclusion external advisory board.

I also shared it with the Tour de Manc team, a sportive I work with as the diversity lead and included it as an agenda point at our next meeting.  I asked the team to consider the ways transgender and non-binary awareness impacts our event including registrations, toilets and signage and challenged them to consider where else it impacts our event. I also asked that they share the British Cycling post, so it’s not just me as diversity lead that shows we are serious about inclusivity.

What’s most important is what we are doing in the long-term. I had vetted our rider communications when I joined the organisation, but this threw up a new lens, so we are doing it again. One of the team asked for us to respond to the British Cycling consultation as a team and I like this – more conversation – and our discussion will inform our own policy and practices.

I received training in inclusive engagement and terminology from the Proud Trust a decade ago and I revisited their guidance and that of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Best practice is to offer an open field option and this has led to a conversation with our ticketing platform.

Although we are not a race, we collect gender information – gender, not sex. But we’re not a race and we’re open to everyone. The the reason we record gender used to be because of habit and toilets. (We’ve gone unisex with toilets containing sanitary bins marked). Now, it is so that we can benchmark and improve our gender diversity. Should we do it?

But the Proud Trust challenges us as to why we measure one protected characteristic and not another. Interesting challenge. We’re used to answering questions about gender and may fear any other questions may sound nosy and ‘not relevant’. But for our purposes, characteristics including race, disability, sexual orientation are just as relevant and not capturing the data leaves a data gap. The sportive is not a publicly funded body so does not have to promote itself across all protected characteristics. It’s something we want to do. Thoughts please?

I recently read the Social Mobility Commission’s 72 page report The Long Shadow of Deprivation which is an interesting read but I battled with for its reliance solely on data from males. It rankled. Being excluded rankles.

So my conversation isn’t over – I wanted to share my work and my thoughts because I have interesting people in my circle who can help me with my thinking and the day I know it all is the day I sit alone and not on boards!

Please share your thoughts and your guidance.

The value of communication in a global world

Kellie Noon from Onno Consulting shares insights. “Communicating globally is something we can develop. It’s a beautiful gift and tool and one we need to value.”

Opinion header

Thank you to Kellie Noon of Onno Consulting for sharing her insights here!

The value of communication

Communication is our connection to others. That has been seen more clearly than ever through 2020: we’ve developed new ways to stay in contact with our nearest and dearest, and formed new ways to socially engage and stay connected with others.

Communication is at the core of who we are, be that in written or spoken form. We are all, to a greater or lesser extent, social creatures.

Being able to communicate easily and clearly is often something we take for granted, something we do easily without even thinking with those in our close network.

What happens then when communication becomes more complicated, affected by external elements like other languages or cultural differences?

Are we universally united?

When we meet new people, we generally smile and wave to communicate a greeting, and this holds true for most of the world. But what else can we do that transcends global borders?

Body language is something we rely on heavily when we lack the necessary language skills.

Hand gestures can generally help us, but even then we need to take care not to offend.

  • Making a circle with your thumb and index to indicate agreement is fine in the UK, but highly offensive in Brazil.
  • Giving a thumbs up is a positive sign in the UK but in the Middle East and West Africa is highly offensive.
  • In Spain it’s common to indicate you want two of a drink or order to a barman using the V shape of your index and middle fingers, showing them the back of the hand. Holding your fingers up this way in the UK is an insult.

What about nodding your head in agreement? In Bulgaria and Albania nodding your head indicates disagreement, and to agree you should shake the head from side to side (tricky to do when it’s something that comes so naturally!).

Even when we know different languages and can use them well, we need to understand cultural implications to really understand them.

Quite often people in China will say ‘yes’ when in fact they mean ‘no’. Knowing how to differentiate the different nuances of ‘yes’, including how and when it’s said, if it’s accompanied by any other gestures or body language and who is communicating can make a huge difference and can help avoid potentially critical misunderstandings.

We need to know more than just words: we need to know how to use them and in which contexts if we are to effectively communicate globally. Developing this skill can have a huge impact on so many aspects of both our working and private lives, including aspects such as:

  • our ability to effectively build business relationships
  • engagement with the local culture
  • our ability to effectively negotiate
  • getting to know people for work or pleasure
  • our understanding of the people we’re communicating with
  • our understanding of the places we’re visiting or engaging with

So, what can we do?

  1. Take your time to learn about who you’re communicating with. Embrace different communication styles and keep your eyes and ears open to new ways of doing things.
  2. Pay attention to the language used and learn some basics before you talk to people from other areas of the world or with other mother tongues. Don’t get caught out and grab the opportunity to learn something new with both hands!

Communication is key to everything. We learn to communicate in many ways from a very young age, but we need to remember that we’ll never stop learning. Communicating globally is a new facet we can add to a skill we already have, something we can develop and hone over time. It’s a beautiful gift and tool and one we need to really value. 

If you want to know more about global differences or want help navigating the cultural implications of your work with international clients, book in a discovery call with Kellie at Onno to see how she can help you:

Social value: an SME edge

I had an interesting conversation this week about procurement portals. Yes, you heard that right.

James, an engineer, wasn’t registered on a particular portal as he’d been advised some time ago that SMEs weren’t welcome. They are now. Local Authorities have worked hard to split opportunities into smaller chunks to enable SMEs and local firms to win LA contracts.

I talked to James about his own procurement – which in turn supports local businesses. He also invests in his apprentices and supports local charitable causes and we’re talking more about what he can do to increase and measure his social value impact.

And this is why Local Authorities recognise the social value of SMEs and shopping locally.

James is now a member of Star Procurement’s portal, The Chest where you can find contracts for Rochdale, Stockport, Tameside and Trafford Councils, as well as NHS Tameside & Glossop, and NHS Trafford CCGs.

Over just a two year period, these councils increased local spend by 30%.

I know larger private sector firms are having these conversations about their own procurement channels, and for some time – I was having them in BiTC forums many years’ ago, but sustainability is a key differentiator for SMEs and it’s important to recognise and talk about the value they bring.

I love helping companies to realise and tell these stories.

The value of social value

This week I presented to a networking group about These Four Words.

I started the same as I always do. Hi, I’m Sarah Galligan from marketing agemcy These Four Words… because every story starts with once upon a time. I help companies tell the story of the value and the social value they bring.

And then I talked about what I meant by value – and then social value. The group have known me for so long that I assumed they may be sick of me talking about social value but they were really enthused. And they were surprised about the business opportunities of good business.

The UK ethical consumer market is worth over £800 billion and that’s where I have spent most of my career in corporate social value (CSR). Other sectors have come later to the CSR or social value party and without consumer interest to drive them, it’s been driven by legislation.

The Social Value Act of 2012 has changed the property and construction industry. Social value accounts for up to 20% of the weighting of procurement decisions by Local Authorities. One of my peers this week asked me if there was a guide for them and I think this is a useful one. And whilst weightings vary and measurements can be subjective, TOMS gives us a common reference and weighting percentages mean that we have an easy way to guage the importance of social value to a Local Authority.

I was proud that my input into a client’s social value commitment was the difference in it winning a Local Authority contract recently. It’s a client that is committed to social value and it’s heart-warming that this has been recognised.

I have to say that my presentation went well this week. And two attendees asked for a meeting. I do value new businesses – I get excited about good business being good for business.

So I’ll keep posting on the value of social value in Manchester and beyond!

Diversity in cycling

The lack of diversity in cycling is an opening can of worms, which is a good thing.

But it’s also an odd thing, because cycling is broad and spans exercise, transport, sport and play. This blog focuses on cycling as play – sports clubs. But it’s true that the sport of cycling lacks diversity in sport and in those using bikes to commute.

Director Sarah Galligan is a woman’s advocate for bike brand Trek and diversity lead for cycling sportive Tour de Manc. She was the only female in her sub-team of 12 which was part of a peloton of 140 with less than 30 women who completed the Cycle to MIPIM in 2019. She’s noticed the lack of ethnic diversity in bike clubs – including the group she manages – Trek Women Manchester Piccadilly, a group which has a good representation of LGBT+ members and good range of cycling abilities, but is very white in a city which isn’t.

Sarah’s working to change the perception of cycling, advising clients on their marketing. We need to show diversity in bike types: you can ride on a 35 year old banger as long as it’s safe. You can ride on a road bike, a mountain bike, a hybrid, a tandem, a trike, using a trailer, a child seat, a basket, maybe with panniers. Riders don’t have to wear lycra, sportswear or helmets. And you need to show diversity in people: kids, adults, adults with grey hair, no hair, black skin, white skin, brown skin, skinny riders, curvy riders, muscular riders, women and men.

And she’s working to increase diversity in participation, promoting cycling opportunities for women in national cycling forums and supporting LGBT+ and new cycling clubs, particularly those focusing on new and diverse riders.

She created and drives a diversity plan for the Tour de Manc sportive which is being implemented by the whole organising team and after one-month has raised the profile of women participants in the sportive, of female professionals attached to the sportive and has promoted the event inclusively. There has been a change in language used from macho to supporting riders in the challenge and all marketing talks of inclusivity and she has identified BAME advocates for the sportive. Small steps. More planned.

When groups can’t show current ethnic diversity they need to showcase this commitment to inclusivity, a point made in British Cycling’s (BC) recent report Diversity in Cycling. Group leaders should raise their own racial awareness – to be aware of the potential aversion for Muslim riders to wear Lycra or of prayer times, for example. There are too many rules in cyling any way! As British Cycling’s report recommends, we need to demystify the customs of cycling – clothes, etiquette, terminology. And white ride leaders and group leaders like Sarah, need to speak to BAME cyclists and have uncomfortable conversations.

Adina Crawford Sarah Galligan
Adina Crawford from Black Girls Do Bikes and Sarah Galligan from These Four Words

Sarah is interviewing Adina Crawford (pictured with Sarah on a Zoom call) of US group Black Girls Do Bikes, Richard Hearne of Pride Out and Steve Scott from Dwarf Sports for a webinar on Diversity in Cycling on 15 October 2020 as part of a series of webinars for Trek Bikes. Join them.

Size of social media posts

It’s important to check because they change so when people ask me what banner sizes to use I guide them to sites that do their homework and keep things current.

So let’s start with a B2B basic: LinkedIn. Different rules depending on whether you are a person or a company.

If you are an individual: your profile picture should be 400 x 400 and should look like you – like you look today when you go to work – a little formal. Your background header image should be 1584 x 396 and should be fairly clean – you don’t want it to detract from your face. A banner bearing your logo or tagline works a treat.

If you are a company you should use your logo as your profile picture 300 x 300 and use a plain company cover image 1536 x 768. As Brandwatch points out, it’s odd as it will be mostly covered so keep it plain and don’t think about it for too long.

Posting on LinkedIn: 1200 x 1200 posts; videos min 256 x 144 px – 4096 x 2304 px max. Videos can be ten minutes but I recommend 2 1/2 minutes unless you are Madonna, Bill Gates or Meghan Markle.

On to Twitter: again profile picture 400 x 400 px. Use your LinkedIn profile if you use both for business for continuity. Your profile photo can be bland or give it some contrast and should be 1500 x 500 px.

Twitter posts demand an image: your post gets 150% more attention if you use an image. It’s not worth not adding one. 1024 x 512 px. Any videos should be SHORT. Twitter allows for 140 seconds but who watches a video for longer than 2 minutes? Keep it to 30 seconds and subtitle it. Size-wise pixel-wise use 720 x 720 (square), 1280 x 720 (landscape), 720 x 1280 (portrait).

I’ve started exploring Tik Tok. The best thing about working in communication is you’re always down with the kids. Profile picture 200 x 200; video size 1080 x 1920 px and keep your videos to 15 seconds. You can include links in your posts.

If you’re promoting an event, you’re likely to be using Eventbrite. Your event image will need to be 2160 x 1080 px JPEG, BMP, PNG or GIF no larger than 10 MB.

Facebook used to have different rules for business pages but not anymore. This means profile image 180 x 180 px, cover photo 820 x 312 630 px. I’m use FB events and run Facebook Lives and find I tend to have everything they want. I’ve been using standard high res photos for my event covers though official guidelines say 1920 x 1080 px. I’m loving video content – you can have up to 250 minutes – 240! Subtitle your videos if you can: every home and café is now a workspace:) Full guidelines from Facebook are here.

My sources: thanks to Brandwatch,, Facebook and Eventbrite on 28 July 2020!

Build Back Better

Preparing for the next Build Back Better webinar from Greater Manchester LEP on Thursday 4 June gives us an opportunity to reflect on the emerging steps to rebuild the economy in Greater Manchester.

How can we rebuild an economy where people come first? Not just any people, but all of Manchester’s people.

What do we need? Food. Housing. Sense of Purpose. Community. Security.

Mark Hughes MBE from the Growth Company joins Greater Manchester’s Mayor Andy Burnham and Lou Cordwell, Co-Chair of Greater Manchester LEP to discuss emerging thinking on Building Back Better, business engagement to date, how businesses can prepare and how we can build more socially aware businesses.

With the recession we are more careful in how we invest our time and our money. Supporting local businesses has been a theme of C19 for the people of Greater Manchester. They have rallied around local businesses to keep them afloat.

Greater Manchester boroughs had already committed to giving significant weighting to a company’s commitment to social value before awarding a contract. Now is the time for this resolve to be strengthened even further.

Join us at the webinar.



  hours  minutes  seconds


Build Back Better

Success! You're on the list.

How do you keep people cycling?

It’s no secret that I love cycling. I’ve used it for my daily commute in most places I’ve lived: growing up in my home village, Burtonwood, then in Manchester, Missouri, Cardiff, St Albans and Vancouver.

My London life was pre-cycle superhighway (and also perhaps a little fun-filled) for a safe bike commute so I took a break there, likewise in Australia where my love of the bus and a working ozone layer meant I didn’t brave a two-wheeled commute. Otherwise I suppose I’ve been pretty committed.

My bike doesn’t have a curfew. It’s taken me to gigs, black-tie dos and to weddings. (Bonus – it’s easier to cycle in heels than to walk in them.) Oh, and at weekends I dress in lycra and cycle some more.

I’m constantly told how brave I am for cycling. I don’t feel brave but as so many people tell me I am, I figure I must be.

But as Chris Boardman said, ‘You shouldn’t have to be brave to ride a bike or cross a road.’ And that’s why I’ve been vocal in the active travel movement for some time. People don’t always see cycling or walking as desirable ways to commute. There’s loads we can do to change this.

It starts with listening and understanding what people want in their lives and their commutes and once we’ve understood what the different desires and reservations are, we can respond to them, motivate them.

People need the capability, motivation and opportunity to change their behaviour and a good engagement program will address these factors. I’m fortunate to be an ambassador for Trek Bikes who are committed to getting more women on two-wheels. This means I get the opportunity to reach more women. At the moment we have a lot of new cyclists. Our aim is to keep them cycling in the long-term.

By listening to new riders and walkers about what they want to see more of in their neighbourhood, we’ll motivate them in the short-term. And by responding to their words, we’ll keep them motivated in the long-term.

The Government has passed legislation enabling local authorities to make emergency changes in infrastructure. This is the opportunity.

If you need advice on communicating the short-term and long-term benefits of active travel to your community – you should ring my bell!

Success! You're on the list.

Zoom Cycle Café – it whizzed by!

bicycles outside a café

Running on-line events take as much effort as physical ones. They may not need catering, but they do demand careful structuring, scripting, preparation of speakers and confident hosting. And they need to be bloody interesting. And that means knowing your audience, and promoting your event appropriately. And then afterwards, everyone needs to be thanked.

Great crowd!

Ellen Holmes, Cycling UK

It can be trickier to read the room, but there are ways to manage this -just like at a physical event. Shorter presentations and more time for Q&A lets attendees ‘choose their own adventure’ and guide the conversation – just like a real café. When you’ve taken the time to get clever speakers, it’s great to let them lose. Online you may need to wait a little longer for people to take themselves off mute and ask their question – and they may need to be put at ease by the host asking a few first.

There was lots of interaction at Trek Manchester’s first Zoom Cycle Cafe in May 2020. Lots. Sarah Galligan, founder of These Four Words and Trek Advocate welcomed Beth Barrett, from British Cycling, Ellen Holmes from Cycling UK and Mildred Locke, from Trek Bristol to discuss active travel infrastructure, national and local campaigns and bike maintenance.

Beth talked about British Cycling’s remit – and whilst they are not busy running their normal events during the coronavirus lockdown, they have launched a national campaign, Let’s Ride Local and have initiatives to support key workers and have a Places to Ride funding pot welcoming applications for infrastructure and equipment right now!

Similarly, Ellen Holmes talked about their national campaign to improve cycling infrastructure in the UK as well as their community-focused initiatives supporting key workers who may wish to start cycling – and community groups more widely through their Big Bike Revival campaign.

Ellen also talked about mountain biking in Greater Manchester and beyond – there was a real ripple of interest in the 800 mile Great North Trail.

But what’s the use of a bike if it doesn’t work? Thankfully, Mildred Locke from Trek Bristol was on hand to answer key questions. What can you safely sort yourself? What tools should you invest in? What should you leave to a pro?

Mildred is a volunteer at Bristol Bike Project which is a member-led co-operative repairing and rehoming bicycles, often the kind of bikes you’ve had in your shed for 10 years – got any of those?

It whizzed by!

Judi G, road cyclist and attendee

You can probably understand why the event went over-time – people had so many questions for the three speakers, and due to lockdown, no-one had a long-commute home.