Critical Review of Thomas Giddens’ documentary: “Does Deaf Football have a Future?”

I have been eagerly anticipating the release of a new documentary “Does Deaf Football Have a Future?” because it is the first time in a while that a programme about Deaf sport was being made in the UK where I had no involvement or insight. I wanted to compare this documentary with my analysis and perspective of the way in which media promotes the Deaflympic Movement and Deaf sport.

 

The documentary has been made at BSL Zone who support the next generation of d/Deaf filmmakers through their Zoom 2014 scheme aimed at d/Deaf scriptwriters and directors who have some experience but have never had their work broadcast on television. This is Thomas Giddens first ever attempt at documentary filmmaking where he explores ideas about the future of Deaf football. The film is now available online.

 

There are an infinite number of ways to analyse a subject and in Same Spirit Different Team I highlight the important of how the media representation of sport shapes and informs public attitudes to disability sport. Journalists have the power to inform or not to inform and they construct reality from their particular perspectives. I was looking forward to finding out how far Giddens would take his responsibility of wielding power to inform us about the future of Deaf football.

 

Without giving too much away; I recommend that you watch this enjoyable and well-made documentary as I think it gives people a broad perspective of Giddens potential as a documentary maker. This debuting director was limited to 15 minutes of airtime and I think he did well to;

  • Use old newsreels and contemporary footage, to give us an historical perspective from the experience of the current GB manager Philip Gardiner.
  • Advocate the current politics and philosophies about deaf football
  • Briefly explore the importance of role models and inclusive football
  • Give us all a hint into what the senior management at GB Deaf Football believes needs to be done in the future

 

Exposure to mass media plays a significant role in reinforcing existing norms and attitudes that might serve to change public attitudes. Family and peer opinions can be strong, but these too are mass media influenced. Journalists have the power to inform or not inform and they construct reality form their particular perspectives.

 

I hope this experience has inspired Giddens to continue making sports documentaries because the more coverage we have of the Deaflympics and Deaf sport, the more information we have to share with the public and society to increase exposure and encourage debate and discussion.

 

Whatever coverage is realised, it does influence attitudes towards the Deaflympics brand; and so it is important that national federations like UK Deaf Sport and their IOC representative the International Committee of Sport for the deaf (ICSD) interacts with the media as much as it possibly can; to present a positive and attractive brand to future athletes, target audiences, corporate supporters and others who are essential to the sustainability of Deaf sport.

 

The Zoom film scheme is designed to support the next generation of d/Deaf filmmakers. Included five days training, mentorship, script development, production and communication support. Find out more by logging into the BSL Zone.

ICSD Audiogram Cheating is a Disgrace

Deaf sports men and women and their public supporters have been contacting Two Big Ears to demonstrate their anger and concern at the news that International Committee of Sport for the Deaf (ICSD) employs staff who have been found guilty of falsifying audiograms. They have responded to the declaration from Deaflympic cyclist Tom Smith who has led the call for the Executive Board of ICSD to investigate and make changes to the ICSD leadership otherwise he will be boycotting the 2017 Summer Deaflympics.

Thousands of people around the globe have been following the story since it broke on the 23rd December here on Two Big Ears. Amongst these readers is Deaflympic swimmer Emily Noden who believes that the situation is “a disgrace because it strips deaf athletes of their reputations as honest sportsmen and women.” She has come out in support of the need for Deaf sport to come under the control of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) in order that doping and audiogram regulations can be controlled at events like the European Deaf Swimming Championships where she competed recently “ the fact that there was no doping control meant I was at an unfair advantage knowing anyone there could have taken performance enhancing drugs and got away with it, making the sport potentially dishonest.”

A former Deaflympic swimmer, who remains anonymous suggests that it would be difficult to integrate deaf events into the Paralympics but does agree that the ICSD should be working closer in parallel with the IPC “to get back to better managed again.” With doping and audiogram control under independent bodies to oversee this work. The swimmer went on to say “It’s unfortunate that the ICSD Delegate voters went for Russian to be president of ICSD in 2013 who has now caused controversies to date. We in deaf sport will need to learn from mistakes and choose a proper and right people to sit on ICSD and a new president to manage, led and change where Craig Crowley have left off as he had done so much of the rebuilding work…” and that the ‘ill-advised’ delegates who voted not to re-elect Crowley in 2013 are “banging their head on the wall with their mistake.”

Verity Joyce who competed in the Deaf World Games (Deaflympics) in 1993 aged 12 can “certainly see advantages for being part of the para movement – funding being a big one, along with status and integrity.” Able to speak from previous experience of being part of a former Paralympic swimming set up “communication is key and no other athlete was isolated to the same level as I was in terms of information and inclusion. If we are to become a part of the para movement, it will be a huge culture shock to them, the media and so on. Also we need to fight for communication inclusion on a whole new level, which in some ways will be a shame as it will detract from the sport.”

In reply to Joyce, Emily Nolan said “The IPC, with their millions of pounds of funding they have received in recent years would certainly not have any problems in funding interpreters”.

Members of the Deaf community, like David Jackson (married to the Deaf Culture and Sign Language advocate Eva Feilding-Jackson) who supports and enjoys watching Deaf sport are coming round to the idea of deaf people competing in the Paralympics and argues that Deaf sport should accept the fact that logistics and IOC regulations will mean that deaf athletes will be subject to the limitation of athlete numbers as it is for all disability classifications because “It is the Deaf Awareness aspect that will definitely arise from seeing Deaf athletes on TV and in newspapers. That can certainly be a good thing for us. We need to force the ICSD do accede to this- it seems to me that some of the ICSD members are from countries where there is a clout to stop us being part of the Para’s movement. If that is the case, it is a very negative attitude that we will suffer for years to come.”

The ICSD (International Committee of Sport for the Deaf) have not commented publicly on the issue of audiogram cheating but reliable sources have informed us at Two Big Ears that the Executive has “taken notice” of the story being released.

3,000 viewers in 59 countries are paying attention to this story and expect to hear some answers from ICSD.

The Russian-led ICSD who control regulations for the Summer and Winter Deaflympics and oversee regional federations around the globe will be holding their next (45th) Congress at the end of March during the 15th Winter Deaflympics taking place in the winter sports city of Khanty-Mansiysk – in one of the most isolated and little known regions of Russia. Congress information packages have ben sent out to national delegates and ICSD president Rukhledev said ‘The more of you are able to come, then the more we are able to discuss the many pending items on the agenda that requires approval.”

Guy Finney of the UK deaf athletics team wants the 45th Congress delegates to challenge ICSD on taking remedial action over false audiograms – Two Big Ears wants to know who will be brave enough to make the long trek to Khanty-Mansiysk to stand up and challenge the Russian Bear?

 

For an in depth study of the Deaflympics you can order a copy of the latest book

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Deaf lose up to seven years of life.

The BBC News website today has reported that obese people are at risk of losing up to eight years of life. Many would not find that surprising, even non-scientist could tell you that being obese is a serious health risk and potentially people could shorten their life-spans. You can read more on this report at the end of this post.

What I think people will find more surprising is that people aged 20-40 years old today have a 50% likelihood of losing seven years of life because they will develop a significant hearing loss in the remainder of their lifetimes and that untreated hearing loss will put them at risk to depression, anxiety, social isolation, chronic health conditions (diabetes, acute kidney disease and chronic heart disease) and mental health leading to a loss of seven years of life.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) study Global Burden on Disease (2000) calculated that adult-onset hearing loss was, at the time, the world’s second leading cause of Years Lost to Disability.

17% of the adult population in the US, 30% of 60-70 year olds and 50% of those over age of 75, have a significant hearing loss. Between 9% and 22% of this group also have a dual sensory disability of severe sight and hearing loss. It is the worlds third most prevalent chronic health condition facing older adults and in the UK, it is expected to be in the top ten disease burdens, above cataracts and diabetes, by 2031.

Western nations are facing an ageing population in 2010-2030 as the baby boomers reach the age of 65. Currently, only 20% of Americans with a hearing loss and 1 in 3 in the UK seek help, leaving a total of 32.8 million people with no support to manage life with their hearing loss.

You can read more about this impending epidemic and find out what the Deaflympic Movement and Deaf sport should do to alleviate this impending health and economic crisis in Same Spirit Different Team.

“Obese lose up to eight years of life”, James Gallagher, Health Editor, BBC News website.

A Tribute to Professor Margaret Talbot OBE PhD, FRSA

Today at 7:55am, Deaf sport lost one of its greatest supporters, Professor Margaret Talbot.

Margaret Talbot

I am greatly indebted to Margaret, as I, like countless others, can count her as one of my loyal friends and a great professional mentor. She never wanted anything in return, always happy to share her thoughts and offer insight when things were going well or falling apart. I treated her counsel with care because her time and support was something special and valuable, not to be abused.

I first met Margaret when I was 19 years old, working at Friends for Young Deaf people in the early 1980s, she took a great interest in our sport and development work with young deaf and hearing people – at that time, we were pioneering Deaf people’s involvement in the CCPR Community Sports Leaders Award and it was through her inspiration as CEO of the Association of Physical Education UK that contributed towards my decision to get into PE teaching.

Later, when she was CEO at the Central Council for Physical Recreation, she encouraged me to speak publicly at meetings and conferences about Deaf sport and challenge her peers and political decision makers to think about how National Governing Bodies of sport and education could be more inclusive and equitable.

When I came to write “Same Spirit Different Team – The Politicisation of the Deaflympics. Margaret was there to offer guidance, even offering the time to read drafts and suggest changes. It did not matter that she held high office in the world of sport and acted as consultant to the United Nations, she never forgot those of us at the chalk-face, in the classrooms, on the sports fields; we were her equals, no matter what.

I hold a deep sense of gratitude to Professor Talbot and cherish every word she wrote in her Foreword for my book. Those of us, who had the privilege to know her, will remember her as someone who knew how to challenge ignorance and bigotry in a way that allowed people not to lose face, a rare talent indeed.

Happy Travels my Friend.

A lot, too late ? 4 quick tips for promoting the Deaflympics from now onwards.

I have been very impressed with the marketing branding of the 15th Winter Deaflympics. The medal designs are stunning. The mascot is a cuddly woolly mammoth, nice stuff very eye catching indeed.

15th Winter medals

There is even a two page spread inside in-flight magazines on Russian airlines.

infligh magazine

I just cannot helped feeling frustrated that this is all a little bit too late in the day.

So, what do we learn from this ?

1)  Information must be promoted aggressively and continuously as soon as the games have been confirmed. ( I did my part to help as soon as I could on the 17th January ) I could have done more with ICSD help (See 3, below)

wide angle of 15 deaflympics stand

2)   Do not limit the promotion to the host country only, everything has been limited to internal promotion within Russia. They have set up some excellent activities, that have included the non-deaf community etc. This is essential but it is not going to help change the international mindset about the Deaflympics which are a global event. 15 winter mascot

3)   ICSD -should be supporting the hosts of its games by preparing promotional packs that are sent to each of the National Deaf Sports Federations around the globe so that they can help raise the profile of the event in each of the 100+ nations who are members of the Deaflympic movement. It also helps teams with their own sponsorship efforts of they can show something tangible.

model of winter deaflympics

4) Do not start messing about with the name, the Russians keep calling it the Surdolympics – there is no such thing…..

Now, what is the mascot for Summer Deaflympics 2017, in Turkey….

An Independent Scotland and Deaf sport

Scottish athletes like Lauren Peffers have a choice - will it be "Yes" or "No" ?

Scottish athletes like Lauren Peffers have a choice – will it be Team GB or Team Scotland ?

I have been asked a few times now to comment on what could happen to Deaf sport in Scotland after the Referendum next week.

This is how I understand the situation.

If Scotland votes No – things will remain as they are.

If Scotland votes Yes – then the White paper  says that:

  • Scotland will have its own Olympic and Paralympic teams.
  • Individual athletes like Lauren Peffers above will have the choice to compete in the Olympic/Paralympics for team GB or Scotland as long as they meet the citizenship criteria.

Lauren lives, works and trains in the North East of England, so she will not be voting on 18th September.

But what does this all mean for Deaflympic sports if people vote Yes ?

If the IOC accepts Scotland as a member of the IOC, then ICSD is likely to follow and give Scotland ICSD membership. History shows that the CISS and ICSD have followed decisions made by the IOC in respect of the Olympics and Deaflympics.

But will the Scottish government recognise a Scottish Deaflympic team on par with a Paralympic team?

This question has not yet been asked. From experience, for the past three Deaflympics (2005, 2009, 2013) Scottish politicians have showed their support to Scottish athletes within the GB Deaflympic team, but this does not necessarily mean they will provide equal support to the Deaflympic and Paralympic teams.

The Working Group on Scottish Sport (made up of prominent Scottish residents) recognises that they will have to budget for sport very carefully if the country chooses to go independent. They recommend that the Scottish government should seek a transfer of funding form UK Sport to sportscotland to meet the needs of Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

So far, UK Sport has declined to respond to questions from the Working Group on Scottish Sport.

Judging by the way things are at the moment in Ireland where athletes from Northern Ireland have the choice to either compete for GB or Ireland. There are no arrangements for UK sport funds to follow athletes who want to leave GB and compete for Ireland.

Funding for UK sport comes from the National Lottery. According to the Yes campaign, Scots will still be able to play National Lottery games and they will see a fair share of tickets sales to support good causes. But the Better Together says the opposite. Meanwhile Camelot, the company who operates the Lottery is remaining neutral in the debate so far.

An independent Scotland will need a new infrastructure to govern Scottish Olympic (NOC), Paralympic (NPC), Commonwealth Games teams for Scotland and the working party believes that Scotland has three options:

  1. Replicating the current UK system within Scotland by establishing separate and new bodies for NOC and NPC.
  2. Merging the NOC and NPC arrangements into one Scottish body
  3. Merging NOC, NPC and Commonwealth Games arrangements into one Scottish body.

The Working Group have reccommended option 3 because it is expected that there will only be approx. 300-400 elite Scottish athletes to support.

Again UK Sport has not responded to the Working Group.

Who knows what an independent Scottish government will do, perhaps it will embrace Deafness more than the UK government has done, perhaps they will listen AND respond effectively to the needs of Deaf people who live in Scotland. But it will not happen automatically, Deaf people in Scotland will have to campaign hard.

Scotland – It is up to you. Use your vote wisely. Good Luck.

Why researching Deaf sport is necessary.

The other day I was intrigued to learn via the BBC that Dr Michael Kearney from the University of Melbourne has discovered why Koala bears hug trees.

They do this to regulate their body temperature and thermal imaging cameras have demonstrated that in hotter weather the Koalas moved to the lower, cooler parts of trees – and the closer they hug trees, the cooler they get. fascinating stuff.

Now, what on earth does this have to do with Deaf sport?

Photo by : Stephen K Johnson

Photo by : Stephen K Johnson

Up until this morning, everytime I have seen pictures of Koalas, they are seen climbing trees, because that’s what they do, it’s their habitat. For most people, it’s nothing remarkable to note.

But from now on, until my dying day, my perspective on these animals will be altered. Everytime I see a Koala hugging his tree I will understand. I will have greater empathy for them and will also perhaps be more concerned about deforestation and its impact on other tree dwellers etc

My perspective has changed because of some interesting research.

Deaf sport and the Deaflympics require in depth research in order for society to accept that for too long now it has misunderstood deafness in relation to sport.

Photo by: Sam Perkins

Photo by: Sam Perkins

When you see pictures of Deaflympic athletes in action – nothing is remarkable, nothing grabs your attention. But once research demonstrates the impact of deafness on sports performance, there will be greater empathy and a willingness to act and ensure that sport no longer excludes deaf people and keeps them on the margins.

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You can read more about how deafness affects sports performance in my new book, Same Spirit Different Team – educating one new reader at a time.

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