House of Commons
In recess until 1 September
Off the ball
Written by Tom Gillingham, associate partner
Edited by Harriet Moll, creative director
20 August 2020
This week marked a minor but sad milestone in the trudge towards my mid-30s. After four and a half years, the five-a-side team I played for in London disbanded with only the smallest of WhatsApp whimpers.
Hamstrung by injuries and the recurring issue of losing players to lucrative overseas opportunities, the one-time Vauxhall Powerleague Tuesday night division three champions are no more.
I’m sure anyone who’s had the privilege of playing organised sport of any kind, at any level, will evangelise about the benefits of getting together with a bunch of mates, in my case, to chase a ball around.
With a Covid-19 update from the first minister due later today, Scottish five-a-side players will be eyeballing the government’s current pencilled date of 24 August for the return of organised outdoor contact sport.
When we talk about Covid-19 recovery, it feels like championing sport must be part of the broader response to the mental and physical health challenges that are being felt across the whole population in the wake of lockdown.
A 2018 UEFA study found that football participation in Scotland is a major contributor to preventative healthcare savings. It concluded that the grassroots game contributes around £40m of savings on mental health, calculated at around 5,000 cases prevented. On top of this, there were almost £25m of savings in cardiovascular disease prevention and £10m in type-2 diabetes.
Men of my age can be particularly bad at talking about their mental health, and while it feels like there has been positive change on this front even in the last four years, there is still – clearly – a long way to go .
Five-a-side somehow allowed us to talk about the things that really matter. The 23-0 demolition of Mighty Morphin’ Flower Power, the big lad with a murder-y vibe playing up front for Insar Milan, the epic save-with-the-face that kept us in the game… and tough breakups, the sudden loss of a job, bereavements, the complex realities of keeping the black dog at bay.
Without the unique spaces that team sport creates, some of these incidental “you doing ok?” moments are being lost at a time of unprecedented uncertainty and pressure for so many.
A weekly fixture can be a reassuring constant, even if everything else seems to be falling apart. While no-one can claim sport is a catch-all cure, I’m sure grown men and women around the country are sorely missing the ability to, for forty-odd minutes at least, escape reality and imagine they’re turning out for their childhood team.
So, please, Nicola, Gregor and Jason, can we have our ball back?
Teenagers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will receive their GCSE results this morning, but after a last-minute intervention by exam board Pearson, BTec students will have to wait longer.
Speaking from a conference centre in Delaware, California senator Kamala Harris made US history on Wednesday night as she became the first black woman and first Asian American to formally accept a major party’s vice-presidential nomination.
According to new research, nearly three-quarters of Covid-19 patients who are admitted to hospital are still suffering ongoing symptoms three months later. This is despite the majority reporting improvements in the initial symptoms of fever, and most had no evidence of lung scarring or reductions in lung function.
Business and economy
Research by Bain & Co found the Asia-Pacific region is leading the retail world’s transition to e-commerce as physical stores struggle to recover amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The proportion of retail sales transactions made online in the region grew faster than anywhere else in the world. (£)
Mike Ashley’s retail group Frasers says it will spend £100 million investing in its online business after digital revenues soared in lockdown. In its delayed annual results (chairman David Daly bought £11,000 of shares “in error” just two days before results, despite the company being in a close period), pre-tax profits fell to £143.5 million in the year to April 26, down from £179.2 million. Revenues rose to £3.96 billion from £3.7 billion at the group, which includes the House of Fraser, Evans Cycles, Game and Jack Wills brands.
Gold Is set to extend its record-setting upswing on weak currency performances and expectations of further government stimulus – potentially hitting $2,200, according to analysis by SkyBridge Capital.
Columns of note
Writing in the Guardian, Martin Kettle suggests that Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings are not facing the expected levels of scrutiny given the various missteps he suggests have been made by the government. He fears that some existing checks and balances have been eroded.
In The Times, David Aaronovich asks whether we will ever learn to love crowds again after the Covid-19 pandemic. He questions the need for crowds to act as ‘social proof’ and gives several examples of unexpected events that have moved entirely online as evidence that things may have changed forever. (£)
What happened yesterday?
The FTSE 100 finished in positive territory at the end of the day, despite growing tensions between the US and China. Investors also had an unexpected jump in UK inflation – to 1.8% in July from 1.4% in June – to contend with, but the FTSE 100 ended the session up 0.58% at 6,111.98, while the FTSE 250 was down 0.22% at 17,583.39.
The US saw stocks finish the day in the red, with the Dow Jones finishing 0.3% lower, while the S&P 500 fell by 0.4%. This was in part due to the federal reserve’s July meeting minutes reminding the market that the recovery remains fragile and that its future path will depend on the effectiveness of virus mitigation.
In currency markets, sterling fell 0.57% against the dollar to $1.32, and it also lost 0.14% on the euro to hit €1.11.
In company news:
Capita rose sharply by 10.06%, just a day after suffering heavy losses in the wake of its first-half results. The positive move seems to have been fuelled by speculation there has been some interest in the company’s education software business. Elsewhere, Morrisons was up by 1.17% and Primark owner Associated British Foods increased by 1.88%.
What’s happening today?
Ventus Vct 2
UK. economic announcements
(10:00) CBI industrial trends surveys
Int. economic announcements
(07:00) GFK Consumer Confidence (GER)
(07:00) Producer Price Index (GER)
(13:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)
(13:30) Continuing Claims (US)
(13:30) Philadelphia Fed Index (US)
When Sweden play against Denmark, the scoreboard usually says SWE – DEN. The remaining letters spell DENMARK.
House of Commons
In recess until 1 September
House of Lords
In recess until 2 September 2020.
Scottish Parliament Portfolio questions: Transport, infrastructure and connectivity, justice and the law officers, and constitution, Europe and external affairs.