26 January 2018

Leave sports logos to the professionals

Yielding to highly negative backlash from fans and observers, less than 48 hours after historic English football side Leeds United launched their new club badge they scrapped it.

The irony here is that Leeds United actually claims to have consulted 10,000 people in developing the new badge. I don't doubt it for a moment and there is a valuable lesson here -  something as important as the club badge should be left to professionals and not crowd-sourced!

Having a bit of a sports logo fetish, I have seen this play out many times - where clubs leave badge ideas to their fans and ultimately end-up with a total disaster or if lucky something fairly average.

One of the worst examples of logos-gone-wild unfortunately happened to the club that I support - Aston Villa. In the late 2000's they developed their new badge based on a fan survey and the logo turned out to be a total mess. For example they asked something like if supporters preferred "Aston Villa", "Aston Villa FC", "Aston Villa Football Club" or "AVFC" on the club badge. The majority preferred some version of the unique club name but the vote was split three ways among the non-acronym options and AVFC ended up with the highest vote percentage at a mere 30% or so. Thus AVFC made its way onto the badge, an absolute tragedy as one of the most special characteristic of the club is its non traditional name. There are many United's and FC's, but only one Villa! is a popular cry among the club's faithful.

The acronym AVFC was just one of many defects of the crowd-sourced logo. Ask any competent graphic designer and they could identify another dozen flaws with the crest. It's one reason I have refused to purchase a Villa kit for nearly a decade.
The new Villa badge and the recently updated version (right)

A few years later Aston Villa spent GBP 80,000 to alter the faulty badge. It's still pretty poor. Hopefully the club management will do a proper update soon.

On the other hand, despite early criticism from traditionalists, sports organizations like Juventus and Big Ten Conference developed new identities that were masterpieces through collaborations with leading design and branding firms Interbrand and Pentagram respectfully. Amazing the results you can achieve when you hire competence.

13 January 2018

Don't expect EPL T20 clone in football

Crowd at EPL finals at TU Ground. Photo courtesy of Udipt Singh Chhetry
By all accounts the Everest Premier League T20 tournament was a grand success. It saw good crowds, a strong stable of sponsors and formidable media interest. Moreover it had buzz. My Facebook timeline would be filled with posts from friends and acquaintances discussing the tournament. Even my buddies, who well know I am not a cricket aficionado, were texting me about the the ongoing action including  the peripheral "cricketainment", as event organizer Aamir Akhtar puts it, around the event.

For sports enthusiasts like myself, the EPL T20  showed that there is the capacity in Nepal to run a well marketed and fan friendly sports event. Hats off to the organizers.

So could we expect something similar in football perhaps?

At the local level tournaments such as the Aaha Gold Cup in Pokhara and the recent Khaptad Gold Cup in Dhangadhi do bring excitement to their localities, but the entertainment quotient is not quite up to par and these competitions lack national appeal. The onus to create something similar to the EPL T20 in football thus lies either with ANFA, the governing body of football in Nepal, or an entrepreneurial person or two from the private sector.

ANFA has failed to organize a top level league for the past 3 years, so certainly there is little hope in expecting them to do anything anytime soon. That then leaves the private sector.

Unfortunately, unlike its cricket brethren Cricket Association Nepal (CAN) that is dysfunctional, toothless, and currently suspended, ANFA is only dysfunctional. Toothless and suspended it is not and there lies the challenge.

Through its former president Ganesh Thapa, who essentially governs the national body by proxy and through family members embedded in the organization, ANFA maintains strong political links domestically which it continues to exploit to implement its nefarious modus operandi. For the past 25 years ANFA's M-O has essentially been to negatively disrupt any football initiatives that are not directly organized by itself. It is a case of "afoo pani nagarni, aroo lai pani garna nadini" (Not doing it yourself and not letting anyone else do it either).

A few of the bright spots in local football such as the proliferation of futsal courts is due its rapid rise blindsiding the football authorities or else futsal's growth may have also been derailed.

Ultimately, one can expect that any attempt to hire a ground, secure sponsors and develop media partnerships for an EPL T20 style football league being sabotaged by ANFA and its nexus, thus is the sad reality of football in Nepal. 

25 December 2017

Everest climbing feature in NYT

Though we are at the tail end of 2017, I came across possibly my favorite article of the year just this week. It was a terrific feature by the New York Times, with some incredible multimedia, on the attempt to recover the bodies of Indian climbers that had perished on Mt. Everest a little more than a year ago.

Pokhara, Nepal, Museum
International Mountain Museum
I actually went on a bit of a Himalayan/Everest/mountaineering splurge after reading the article, including watching several great videos on YouTube on the subjects and listening to the Into Thin Air audio-book, the gripping personal account of the 1996 Everest disaster written by Jon Krakauer. Obviously, Nepal's connection to these topics make it that the more intriguing and salient.

Just a few weeks ago, as a relative novice on all things "mountain", I had visited the International Mountain Museum in Pokhara - a fairly impressive exhibition that sits on a 5 hector compound. With my new insights the next visit there should be even more enriching.

17 December 2017

Aviation Museum Nepal

I know from experience that just donating footballs to kids can be such a challenge in Nepal. There are so many things one needs to deal with including customs clearance, political interests and social pressures. Imagine purchasing and transporting an airplane and then building an aviation museum. Lots of respect to Mr. Bed Upreti for doing just that, not only once, but twice!

13 August 2017

Lack of consistency the one constant in Asian sports

The start of the European football season is always a good reminder of one of the major difference between sports in Europe (and North America for that matter) and  Asia - CONSISTENCY.

Ask the average sports fan that follows a European or North American league and most could easily tell you when the competition will start, the number of participating teams, how many teams make the Champions League or Playoffs and the number of clubs that will be relegated.

Pose the same questions about the majority of Asian leagues and tournaments and even hardcore supporters will struggle to answer. From the high end Asian Football Confederation and Japanese J-League tournaments to aspiring leagues of Southeast and South Asia lack of consistency is the one constant in Asian sports.

Business markets love stability and hate uncertainty. It is not much different when it comes to sports. Certainly, the unpredictability of what happens on the field of play is what makes sports exciting, but off of it sports stakeholders want a stable and consistent product. It is this stability that has fans, sponsors, broadcasters and investors flocking to the European and North American sports markets.

So to Asian sports leaders either contemplating a meditation retreat or hiring overpriced consultants to provide a silver bullet solution that will fix your ailing competitions, I give you my simple and free advice: consistency is the key!