There was a day, and I’m old enough to remember it, when English football clubs routinely picked up the European Cup. The high tempo English style and never-say-die attitude for 90 minutes, as well as tactical nous in defending away from home in some depth usually delivered the results.
Things changed. The slower, more skilful, continental style of play, started to be more effective. If you can’t get the ball, then you can’t play high tempo. Our boys were left chasing shadows.
Thanks to the power of Sky money, The Premier League was able to import lock, stock and barrel, the best European players to play for the English clubs. Hey presto, the Champions League was won by Manchester United, albeit with hardly an Englishman on the team sheet. Likewise Chelsea and Arsenal turned into mini United Nations outfits and started to enjoy success.
Anyone who knows me well, knows I’m well up for a football diversion in conversation, but the serious point here is that this week I finally feel the UK meetings industry has promoted itself up a level in terms of smart thinking and lobbying.
Where industry associations MPI, ICCA and EFAPCO, in particular, had shown the way previously in explaining to government and politicians what the meetings industry is and what value it can bring our economies, the UK’s industry leaders are now breaking through into the corridors of Westminster.
Tomorrow night, the new Business and Events report will be presented by the Business Visits and Events Partnership to 50 MPs and a whole host of the industry’s great and the good, right at the heart of political power, in the House of Commons.
The value of the UK meetings industry has today been estimated in that new report at £36.1bn, a big increase on previous estimates. Plenty of food for thought for our politicians, then, when they are scratching around in search of dynamic sectors to back in order to pull the economy forward.
The German Messes have long since been integrated with regional political power structures and healthy subvention funds exist in many cities of the world, designed to help their key venues and destinations bid for the big, juicy association conferences that can deliver big bucks to the host economies.
In China, Russia and the Gulf, new, big centres and hotels with meetings space are rising fast. Their politicians are scenting the smell of business tourism money (and influence).
In the US, when the Obama administration looked at business travel and hospitality to scapegoat for the sins of corporate excess, the meetings industry rallied and found its voice to bring perspective to the debate.
It’s time for UK plc to join the meetings industry Premier League. Let’s hope our MPs get the message tomorrow.