Goal­posts have cer­tainly moved for women’s foot­ball

Belfast Telegraph - - COMMENT -

Women’s soc­cer has come a long way in the past few decades, even if it is still the very poor re­la­tion of the men’s bil­lion­aire ver­sion of the sport. But if the ladies who play to a very good stan­dard to­day are jeal­ous of their male coun­ter­parts they should thank their lucky stars they were not born years ago. Our story on how for­mer North­ern Ire­land player Pa­tri­cia Ro­hdich has just re­ceived her in­ter­na­tional cap 36 years af­ter the event show what a shoe­string game it was in those years.

The fe­male stars of to­day are ap­plauded for their skill and can even make the game their pro­fes­sion. That is a feather in their caps...

Boom! That’s the first thing I thought when I saw the new logo to pro­mote Belfast, com­mis­sioned by the city coun­cil to the tune of ap­prox­i­mately £50,000. It looks a bit like an ex­plo­sion, you see, with the word ‘Belfast’ em­bla­zoned in the mid­dle of a chunky red splat.

Un­for­tu­nate, re­ally, given our in­cen­di­ary his­tory.

The good news is that I was en­tirely wrong. This is not a blast from the past at all. No, the brand new iden­tity is ap­par­ently in­tended to sig­nify “Belfast, en­ergy un­leashed”, and is “based around a star­burst shape, in­spired by the ge­o­graph­i­cal shape of Belfast”. So are we all clear now? Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m still not feel­ing the en­ergy, apart from the re­gret­table py­rotech­nic kind. It’s hard to get that as­so­ci­a­tion out of your head, once it’s gone in.

But tourism and mar­ket­ing types are in ec­stasies about the new brand. “For me as a per­son, it’s dy­namic, it’s edgy, it’s authen­tic, it’s the map of the city, it’s very mod­ern, it creates that en­ergy we are talk­ing about,” gushed Gerry Lennon, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Visit Belfast. Hmmm. Re­ally, Gerry? On the BBC Nolan show — which re­ceived a leaked copy of the logo from some­body within the coun­cil who con­sid­ers it “ap­palling” — an ad­ver­tis­ing ex­ec­u­tive opined that the im­age looked “op­ti­mistic”, evok­ing “arms in the air, a flash of lights, fire­works”. Now there’s some­one with a very fer­tile imag­i­na­tion.

But most on-mes­sage of all was Katy Best, com­mer­cial di­rec­tor of Ge­orge Best Belfast City Air­port, who couched her thoughts in lugubri­ous mar­ket­ing-speak.

“For any city that wants to be a global player and wants to be com­pet­i­tive, hav­ing a po­si­tion­ing, and hav­ing a nar­ra­tive, and hav­ing a plat­form that helps peo­ple right across the city ex­press what makes it spe­cial is re­ally im­por­tant,” she said, in de­fence of the new­brand. Ye wha’? Po­si­tion­ing, plat­form: what does any of that ac­tu­ally mean, in the real world that the rest of us oc­cupy? Best seemed to have a lit­tle trou­ble ex­plain­ing the ex­act na­ture of the “nar­ra­tive” she was re­fer­ring to, but fell back on “un­der­ly­ing themes around vi­tal­ity and en­ergy”.

Then she had another go. “We’re want­ing to en­sure that peo­ple want to live in Belfast, want to in­vest in Belfast, want to visit Belfast … so en­sur­ing that we have some­thing that pro­vides com­mon­al­ity in how we com­mu­ni­cate is im­por­tant.”

Sorry, I’m still not buy­ing it. How will any of this make our cap­i­tal city a more at­trac­tive, dy­namic and invit­ing place to live, work, or in­vest? How will it help us ex­press what makes it spe­cial?

Here’s the thing: I think peo­ple are sick of be­ing pa­tro­n­ised by very well­paid ‘ex­perts’ who tell them that their ex­pe­ri­ences as a cit­i­zen are de­fined by a crude shape with the word ‘Belfast’ writ­ten in the mid­dle of it. The only com­mon­al­ity is that, as ratepay­ers, this woe­ful waste of money is be­ing en­acted in our name.

Be­cause we’re shelling out a great deal for a fairly flimsy re­turn, what­ever the mar­ke­teers say. To my mind, the logo is bor­ing, generic, an­o­dyne, unin­spir­ing: in fact, the ex­act op­po­site of what makes Belfast such a fas­ci­nat­ing place to be.

It re­minds me of some of the costly, lumpen pieces of pub­lic art tak­ing up space around the city, which were sold to us with sim­i­larly mean­ing­less and overblown words. The Bea­con of Hope, aka Nuala with the Hula, is sup­posed to ex­press “the univer­sal phi­los­o­phy of peace, harmony and thanks­giv­ing”. The Balls on the Falls — of­fi­cially en­ti­tled RISE — is “a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of a new sun ris­ing to cel­e­brate a new chap­ter in the his­tory of Belfast”.

Feel­ing in­spired yet? Thought not. When you get down to it, it’s just a big pair of balls.

If you’re get­ting a ground­hog day vibe about all this, as if we’ve def­i­nitely been here be­fore, you’re not wrong. Back in 2008, £180,000 was spent on the cre­ation of a new brand for Belfast, a heart-shaped let­ter ‘B’, as well as a fur­ther £250,000 on ad­ver­tis­ing, launch events and showcase pro­mo­tions. Then it emerged that the logo — which was sup­posed to rep­re­sent the city’s dis­tinc­tive “en­ergy and warmth, wit, de­ter­mi­na­tion, so­cia­bil­ity, vi­brancy and bold­ness” — was very sim­i­lar to oth­ers al­ready in use in places that also be­gan with B, like Black­burn and Bar­row in Eng­land.

Not so dis­tinc­tive af­ter all then. At least this time the cho­sen logo is cheaper. But it’s still an aw­ful lot of money to spend on a big red splat.

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