Vicki Braithwaite is the Director of industry-leading play specialists Pennine Playgrounds in West Yorkshire and an Executive Member of the FSPA play trade association – the Association of Play Industries (API).
We first joined the API in April 2005 and any scepticism I might have had about how much it would benefit our family-owned company quickly disappeared. The association is vital in raising industry standards, providing tailored benefits and, of course, customers know that if they hire an API member they’re getting a professional company they can trust.
What I didn’t immediately realise though was that, whilst we are first and foremost members of the API with all the customised benefits and support that provides, we also get automatic membership of the FSPA which offers a broader range of services and lobbying activity.
The FSPA represents the UK sports and play industry at the highest levels and their work, undoubtedly crucial for the sector, goes on largely unseen. Post-Brexit, for instance, there is a huge advantage gained from uniting 12 associations and over 500 members under this one umbrella, strengthening their hand when they’re negotiating on our behalf.
I know that we, like many other businesses in the industry, have major concerns about how things might change leaving the EU. Will we be able to retain the single market and customs union and will we be able to harmonise our standards and regulations with our European neighbours? Because the FSPA represents such a large sector, the voice of the sports and play industry is stronger when dealing with government.
The Federation means that our concerns and points of view will be communicated where and when they need to be. Many of our issues going forward as regards Brexit will be highly specific to our industry, and without the FSPA there’s a danger that we’d be overlooked.
They also provide a wide range of exclusive benefits and business advantages free to members of their associations. These include an excellent business advice line offering support on issues like H&S and employment law, a recruitment service and training and seminars – and they’re always developing their benefits based on what members say they need.
Would I recommend the FSPA? OK – maybe not initially! But now I know how crucial their work is, I definitely would. What’s more, what they do – promoting, supporting and representing the sports and play trade and lobbying on our behalf – looks set to become an increasingly vital role and one that we’ll all be grateful for.
As the UK moves forward into unknown territory, who else will speak out and represent the interests of UK businesses in sports and play at government level?