I come from a boxing family. Dad was a good amateur boxer who occasionally fought for money to put food on the table during the Depression on Tyneside. His career was curtailed by the war and he lost most of his medals during the Blitz on Bootle. In his later life he became a trainer for a boxing club in Leicester. It was here where I learned the rudiments of the fight game, not always with much success.
Some of my earliest memories are of being woken by Dad in the middle of the night to hear the latest fight from America on an old wireless. I heard live the first Ali verses Liston fight when the young boxer from Louisville shocked the world by defeating the ageing Liston to become the undisputed Heavyweight Champion. As I Listened to the recent Joshua fight I was thinking of that night with Dad.
As he grew older Dad became disillusioned with boxing. He thought that the proliferation of titles for commercial gain diluted the quality of champions. It became almost impossible to name one as there were often so many. In Dad’s view many of the champions were not worthy of the title. Where once he could name the fighter who dominated his division, like Ali in the 1960s, Marciano in the 1950s, Louis in the 1930s and 1940s, each weight had so many champions, he could no longer do so. Very few became household names. Today Anthony Joshua is being called a unified champion but as far as I can tell he holds 2 or maybe 3 of the many heavyweight belts. Do you know who holds the others?
Before the fight I was involved in a twitter exchange on housing award ceremonies. Some people feel that there are too many. Some are angry at the amount of money spent on them when more of our tenants and would be tenants are struggling under the impact of Austerity Britain. The counter argument is that we should celebrate success and that awards recognise learning and development and provide an opportunity to share good practice.
In the past the organisations I have worked for have won a number of awards and they have sponsored them. I recognise that they have a value, especially for those involved. I will never forget one ceremony where we won an award for our extra care work. Afterwards a scheme manager, who was a strong trade unionist, told me that it was one the best moments in her life.
However, I believe that it is time to consider whether there are now too many award ceremonies in the housing sector. They fuel the argument that housing associations are profligate with tenants’ money. As in boxing there are now so many awards that they have become meaningless to all but a few inside the housing bubble. I won’t comment if the sheer number has also led to a reduction in quality. As in boxing they have increased for mainly commercial reasons. Bums on seats at the award ceremony table just as at ringside is the name of the game.
Maybe it is time for all the award giving bodies to come together and agree to hold just one national housing award ceremony per year. A unified housing award would really be something to strive for. At the same time the more extravagant trappings could be removed. Do we really need an expensive dinner and black tie to recognise outstanding achievement or even to encourage learning? If we adopted this idea the name of each annual award winner would be known to everyone in the sector and even beyond. Just like the unified heavyweight crown an annual award would be worth winning. And perhaps in future years people might even remember that you had won it.