Marketing resources to help you win back strategic planning time

first_img 10SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,Michelle Kamke Michelle Kamke is a designer, developer and marketing project manager of CUNA Creative Hub, a one-stop subscription platform that enables credit union marketers to expedite their multi-channel campaigns using relevant … Web: Details When unexpected events or disruptions occur, it’s easy to get bogged down by execution of urgent member communications. Creating a strategy to combat this drain on precious time is crucial. There are thousands of tools and resources available to help your credit union free up time to re-focus on marketing strategy, including social media and promotional calendars, content management systems and monthly brainstorming sessions. Consider these tools and approaches to ensure smooth transitions back to “business as usual” at your credit union.Social media and promotional calendarsUsing social media or promotional calendars can help you develop and manage your marketing strategy to ensure you’re engaging with your target audience regularly. You’ll also develop the habit of being proactive instead of reactive, especially on social media. Rather than searching for last-minute trends to create buzz for your credit union, you can plan content in advance, including more involved campaigns for holidays or special offerings. It’s not uncommon to use marketing calendars to plan a year ahead while still staying organized because you can easily track scheduled content. You’ll also be able to more easily refine your marketing strategy because you’ll be able to quickly confirm if you have enough content or whether your campaign, from graphics to messaging, is consistent across marketing channels.Content Management SystemsThere are many benefits to using content management systems (CMS) and the options are varied, but the basic function of these platforms is to help simplify publishing and editing web content; think WordPress and Joomla. Using a CMS reduces the need for extensive HTML or other programming expertise because of their WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) user-friendly interface. You can easily write, create, schedule or publish content across multiple marketing channels using CMS tools. As an added bonus, you’ll win back valuable strategic planning time with pre-publishing options. Moreover, CMS can promote more efficient team collaboration because it offers a shared working space where teammates can easily make edits to each other’s content, suggest new content and adjust content schedules.Monthly Brainstorming Deadlines come fast. Setting aside monthly brainstorming sessions can provide a pipeline of ideas that you can use to amplify your content calendar. Having ideas ahead of time can help you get a head start on your promotional process — starting with developing and refining your strategy.Staying up to date on the latest digital marketing trends is challenging when the industry and the overall economic environment are evolving so quickly. It seems like every day there are new resources to help you learn how to master a new skill and leverage the latest trends. Freeing up time spent executing campaigns can open doors for your organization to pick up on emerging trends and strategic decisions. Lean on tools like CUNA Creative Hub to free up some of that time.Get a sneak peek at how CUNA Creative Hub can expedite your marketing promotions and free up time to focus on strategy – unlock access to an informational video by filling out our online form at read more

Hair Club for Men Founder, Boca Resident Sy Sperling Dies at 78

first_imgHair Club for Men founder and longtime South Florida resident Sy Sperling died Wednesday at the age of 78.Sperling, who lived in Boca Raton, found fame in the 1980s and early 90s with his commercials that featured before and after photos of his clients. He would end the spots with the statement, “I’m not only the Hair Club president, but I’m also a client” while showing a picture of his previously bald self.The commercials were spoofed on the “Tonight Show” as well as on “Saturday Night Live.”Sperling began the business in New York before taking it national. He sold it for $45 million in 2000.last_img

Wildcats play host to second stop on cross country running tour

first_imgBy The Nelson Daily Sports Mount Sentinel High School in South Slocan is the next stop on the West Kootenay High School Cross Country schedule.The race, set for Wednesday at 4 p.m., is expected to draw competitors from throughout the West Kootenay region, including teams from Salmo, L.V. Rogers in Nelson, Kaslo’s J.V. Humphries and the host Wildcats.The season opened last week in Kaslo. Following Wednesday’s race, the tour shifts to LVR next week and New Denver October 13th.The West Kootenay Championships are slated for Salmo October 20th with the Kootenay Finals set for the Busk Cross Country Ski Trails near Apex.The top runners from the Kootenay Championships qualify for the B.C. High School Cross Country Championships November 6th at Oak Bay Secondary in Victoria. [email protected]last_img read more

Mount Sentinel Wildcats edge Cougars in OT thriller

first_imgVictoria Peebles and Leanne Kabatoff each scored baskets in overtime to power the Mount Sentinel Wildcats to a thrilling 46-40 victory over rival Nakusp Cougars in the final of the Cats Senior Girl’s High School Tournament this past weekend in the South Slocan.Peebles snapped a 38-38 tie with the first basket of the extra period to power the host Wildcats to the Championship win.Kabatoff had a chance to win the game in regulation time, with two chances from the charity stripe with time expired.last_img

MTN tops South African brands list

first_img2 August 2013 Mobile phone companies lead the pack when it comes to the country’s most valuable brands. South Africa’s Top 50 Most Valuable Brands 2013 were named by Brand South Africa and Brand Finance Africa on 1 August, with MTN in pole position, followed by Vodacom. The leading brands are listed by financial valuation in South Africa; they are driving competitiveness and the nation’s reputation. Brand South Africa chief executive officer Miller Matola and Brand Finance Africa chairman Thebe Ikalafeng announced the leaders at a breakfast attended by representatives from some of the companies that make up the Top 10 Most Valuable Brands. Matola emphasized that the nominated brands had not only contributed to South Africa’s competitiveness but had also built civic pride. South Africans who believed in South Africa ensured the world believed in us, he said. “South African brands are playing a leading role in building the future while adding value for shareholders.’ Brand Finance Africa valuation director Rupert Kemp outlined the Royalty Relief methodology used in the selection, which involved estimating the likely future sales that were attributable to a brand and calculating a royalty rate that would be charged for the use of the brand. This methodology considered three pillars, he said: brand support, for example marketing and distribution; equity; and, brand performance. South Africa’s Top 10 Brands 2013, he said, were: Kemp said Mediclinic was the highest upward mover in the top 10, moving up four places. The private hospital group is the sixth largest in the world and is now the most valuable health care services brand in South Africa. Shoprite had experienced huge expansion and had a presence in 16 countries outside South Africa, he pointed out, while FNB had built a strong brand that emphasized innovation. Woolworths had built its brand on innovation as well as high standards in food and clothing, said Kemp. Nedbank had steadily been growing its brand presence and had for the second time been voted Africa’s Socially Responsible Bank of the Year at the 2013 African Banker Awards. Kemp said banks on the whole were facing a challenging market exacerbated by up-and-coming newcomers such as Capitec claiming more and more market share. With Barclays increasing its stake in Absa to 62%, the local organisation faced important decisions. Standard Bank came in at number four, top of the banks in South Africa’s Top 50 Brands 2013, after a similarly tough year. At number three was Sasol, the fuels company, which Kemp said was a sterling achievement for a large B2B player. Innovation and building on trust and reputation were its formula, he said. South Africa’s two largest cellphone operators share the top two slots, with Vodacom coming in at number two. This was exemplary for a brand which had changed its identity to reflect parent company Vodafone while at the same time holding on to its heritage. MTN, at number one, was the only South African brand to be placed in the top 500 global brands, said Kemp. The company was constantly expanding and taking on new markets and could be seen to “fly the flag for South Africa in business’. Matola congratulated the winners, saying they were playing their part in building South Africa. “They are not only building value for shareholders but for the 50 million stakeholders’ they had in South Africa. Their contribution would work towards building a great country brand. Source: Brand South Africa MTNVodacomSasolStandard BankAbsaNedbankWoolworthsFirst National Bank (FNB)ShopriteMedicliniclast_img read more

Jan. 12 Environmental Professionals event will feature Ohio State’s Lonnie Thompson

Share Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest January’s Environmental Professionals Network breakfast program has a big title for a big topic — in fact, for four very closely related topics.It’s called “Global Warming. You and Me. Energy Audits. Money in Your Pocket. Cleaner Air. More Comfortable Home. Help Is Available. Don’t Procrastinate.”It’s from 7:15 to 9:30 a.m. Jan. 12 in The Ohio State University’s Nationwide and Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center, 2201 Fred Taylor Drive in Columbus.And it features talks by four Ohio experts — led by renowned climatologist Lonnie Thompson, Distinguished University Professor in Ohio State’s School of Earth Sciences and senior research scientist with the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center — on a theme of climate and energy.There also will be a drawing for attendees to win one of five free home energy audits from Columbia Gas of Ohio, but the winners have to live within the company’s service area.Admission to the event, which includes breakfast, is open to both network members and the public. The cost is $10 by cash, check or Ohio State eRequest; $15 by credit card; and free for Ohio State students.Registration and other details are at scheduled talks and speakers are:“Climate Change: The Evidence and Our Options” by Thompson.“Energy Audit and Efficiency Measures Assistance for Homes” by Megan Melby, New Buildings program manager, Demand Side Management, Columbia Gas of Ohio.“Bowling Green Residents Take Energy Efficiency to Heart” by Neocles Leontis, Bowling Green community leader and Bowling Green State University chemistry professor.“OSU’s New Green Home Technology Center Programs” by Eric Romich, energy education field specialist with Ohio State University Extension.The network is a service of Ohio State’s School of Environment and Natural Resources, part of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. Romich’s organization, OSU Extension, is the college’s outreach arm.Columbia Gas of Ohio is the event’s sponsor. The school and two other Ohio State units — the Office of Energy and Environment and the Office of Student Life’s Energy Management and Sustainability program — are sponsoring the free student registration. read more

Passivhaus, Part 2: The Standards

first_imgPhil and I also have a talk about the PHPP, which is the energy modeling spreadsheet used to generate the values needed to verify the Passivhaus standards.By the way, did you notice that we spell it Passivhaus instead of passive house? It appears that Martin Holladay has re-committed himself to keeping the German spelling for the Passivhaus standard in order to distinguish it from “passive solar design” or a completely passive house (since some form of active system is practically a necessity with the Passivhaus standard). I’ve chosen to join him in this endeavor. From now on, it’s Passivhaus.Enjoy.OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPTPhil Kaplan: What are the standards? What are the numbers you have to hit?Chris Briley: The beautiful thing about Passivhaus certification is—unlike LEED, where there’s 69 points and you get a point for this and a point off for that…Phil: And those numbers change, so it doesn’t make sense…Chris: Right. And this thing is so German and so beautiful, there are three standards to meet and that’s it. The first thing you need to be a Passivhaus is a heating and cooling element of the design—you don’t need to performance-test it; you need the design to have this—which is 15 kWh per square meter per year. Here in the States, that’s 4,755 Btu per square foot per year.Phil: Let’s talk about what that really means.Chris: Yeah, because to you and me, that’s really low.Phil: A typical New England house, fairly new, is 70,000 to 100,000 Btu per square foot per year. And a really old one, you just keep going—130,000 or beyond. If you do a new well-built house that’s not trying to be superinsulated, you’d get 40,000 to 70,000 Btu per square foot per year. Now, a superinsulated house—R-40, R-60…Chris: Let’s be mindful of thermal bridging and some good glass—maybe 10,000 Btu, but probably 15,000 to 20,000 Btu per square foot per year.Phil: And a Passivhaus is less than half that.Chris: This is not for the timid. In one way this is very exciting, and in another, it’s very daunting. That’s part of the challenge. Now, that’s one standard—heating and cooling. The second standard is for primary source energy—it doesn’t have to be tested; it’s what the design yields. That’s 120 kWh per square meter; in the States, 11.1 kWh per square foot. Now, there are people out there who think it all ought to be about primary energy; it ought to be about the energy the house consumes. If it consumes no energy, isn’t that all you really care about? Well, the reason why it’s done this way is that the first number—the heating and cooling load—directly relates to the building envelope. It’s something that stays with the house forever. Energy use can change as technology changes—the delivery of energy changes over the years, or you change your lightbulbs. The primary source energy is not just what you’re reading off the meter.Phil: Yeah, this blows me away a little bit.Chris: It’s a very mature look at the electrons that go into the house. We’re talking about all the energy it takes to get that energy to you. For every 1 kW you burn, it took 1 or 2 kW to get that to you. I think the factor that’s used in the Passivhaus standard is based on European electrical grids, and not ours. You look at the number at first and think, “I can hit that!” But you actually have to double it—because it’s not just the electricity, but the electricity it took to get that electricity to the house.Phil: As I understand it, even if there are PV panels on the roof, the energy from those isn’t going directly into the house, but back into the grid—so Passivhaus even degrades those by 25%. Germans will not allow greenwashing.Chris: They stick to their guns about these numbers. A New England builder will say, “Oh, those are German numbers. It’s so hard. I’m doing a retrofit; don’t I get a pass? Or I’m doing infill units—can we tweak this number?” No. It is what it is. Hit it or not. This is all about energy use. It’s a standard. If you can hit it, then you deserve it. If not—well, it doesn’t mean you didn’t do a good job; it’s just not a Passivhaus.Phil: I understand they’re coming out with standards for retrofits specifically.Chris: They are also dividing the globe into six distinct zones, and each will have its own standards.Phil: The third standard is air tightness. And this one actually has to be verified.Chris: Yes, the first two are theoretical; they’re design based—but you need documentation. This one has to be tested.Phil: You’re trying to hit 0.6 ACH 50. This is another number we’re trying to become fluent with. ACH is air changes per hour at 50 Pascals. Point-six is pretty tough stuff. The typical New England house is 4 to 5 if you’re not paying attention; a good builder can get it to 2.Chris: The Passive House Planning Package—PHPP is what everyone calls it—is at once very inviting and extremely daunting; it’s an Excel spreadsheet. Piece of cake, right? If you’re good with Excel—awesome. Otherwise…it feels like 1995.Phil: The bitterest cake ever.Chris: It’s a massive Excel spreadsheet; lots of cells and lots of tabs.Phil: You enter U-values for each window—every single one.Chris: Right, you divide up your assemblies into different categories and enter U-values for each one. You’re forced to use real U-values, not just insulation R-values.Phil: Right, they separate the frame from the glass, and the center glass.Chris: There are numbers for ventilation, annual heat demand, electricity use, shading…Phil: Numbers for the ductwork, too—extreme detail.Chris: But the beauty is, when you’re done, you have a spreadsheet that everyone can open, and it summarizes your numbers, and at the end it shows the standards—and boom, you got it! It’s an energy model. Then you can start playing with it, if you want. It’s not just a tool; it’s what you submit to prove yours is a Passivhaus.Phil: PHPP has proven to be the most accurate energy model out there. It makes me think we should use it, or strive to use it, even if we’re not trying to build a Passivhaus.Stay tuned—if you’re feeling brave—for more Passivhaus to come. RELATED MULTIMEDIA Are Passivhaus Requirements Logical or Necessary?A Passivhaus Rebuttal: In Defense of the Standard Passivhaus Homes are Extremely Tight and Energy-EfficientPassive House: After Hours RELATED ARTICLES Phil and I would love to hear from you. If you have a great idea for an upcoming topic, want to leave general feedback, or want to share your favorite cocktail recipe, you can e-mail us at [email protected] If you’d like to complain about our tangential ramblings, fragment sentences, or our general irreverence, you can email us at [email protected]center_img PODCAST: Passivhaus, Part 1 PODCAST: Passivhaus, Part 3 You can also subscribe to the Green Architects’ Lounge on iTunes. That way, you’ll never miss a show—and it’s free.While visiting any blog here on GBA, you may see the underlined word Passivhaus (or passive house). All you have to do is hover over it, and you get a very clear and succinct definition. Go ahead, give it a try. Yet, if you are less than familiar with ACH50, annual Btu per square foot, or kWh per square foot, then you’re still asking yourself, “What does that really mean?” The short answer is that it means one very energy-efficient house. A longer answer is captured in a conversation between Phil and me as we [no-glossary]sip[/no-glossary] our cocktails and review the standards that must be met in order for a house to be a Passivhaus. The Passivhaus standard includes the following requirements:A building must have a maximum annual heating energy use of 15 kWh per square meter (or 4,755 Btu per square foot) as well as an equivalent cooling load (1.39 kWh per square foot, since you’re most likely using electricity to cool).A building must have a maximum source energy use for all purposes of 120 kWh per square meter (11.1 kWh per square foot) per year.A building must have an infiltration rate no greater than 0.60 AC/H @ 50 Pascals.That’s it. Sounds simple enough, but how do you get there? Hit that play button and we’ll talk about it.last_img read more

Lawmaker Targets DOE’s Weatherization Program

first_img RELATED ARTICLES California Increases Funding For Low-Income Weatherization U.S. House Proposes Huge Increase In Weatherization SpendingGet a Green Grip on Stimulus CashBeyond Weatherization: More Stimulus Money Coming Sorting the Nuts and Bolts of a State’s Weatherization Program Some States Customize Weatherization Plans, but Will DOE Approve?Weatherization Funding’s Hot State/Cold State BalanceMinnesota Gears Up for Weatherization Onslaught As Weatherization, SEP Funds Roll Out, Spending and Scrutiny BeginIn Some Areas, Weatherization Struggles Out of the GateFor Indiana, Weatherization Funds Are Still on HoldNevada Wrestles with Its Weatherization Plan When Spending Weatherization Money Is Harder Than Getting It Transforming Stimulus-Funded Weatherization into a National Industry Weatherization Training Center Doubles in Size, Triples in Training Capacity Still a Slow Dance for Weatherization Funding in Some StatesWeatherization in Texas Inches Along CautiouslyInspections: Crucial Links in the Weatherization ChainGauging the Stimulus Effect in Georgia, MinnesotaRattling California’s Weatherization CageOnce Again, Weatherization Cited as a Stimulus Laggard Stimulus-Funded Weatherization Begins to Find Its FootingDOE Targets Innovation in Its Weatherization Program Pondering the Evolution of Weatherization and Retrofit Snapshots from Tennessee DOE Announces Home Efficiency Scoring System and Weatherization GuidelinesIn New Jersey, Weatherization’s Bureaucratic MeltdownCalifornia’s Ongoing Weatherization OdysseyWeatherization’s Political FalloutWeatherization’s Home-Stretch Recovery Things have been so busy on Capitol Hill lately that hardly anything is getting done. After toiling to near exhaustion since October 25, the 12 members of the bipartisan deficit supercommittee this week tumbled out of the Congressional clown car without a deal. The committee’s six Democrats and six Republicans, it turns out, couldn’t quite agree on a key point or two, particularly when it came to raising revenue by increasing taxes on wealthy citizens.So, after a well-deserved Thanksgiving recess, some of the lawmakers will pack themselves back into the little car and head for a number of legislative safe houses, where they’ll try to repeal the automatic budget cuts – about half targeting military spending and half targeting domestic programs – that have been triggered by the deficit committee’s failure. No surprises here. By now, most people have grown accustomed to watching lawmakers use ideology to position themselves for reelection rather than for serving the public. Until the 2012 elections are behind us, much of what will be presented as “lawmaking” will actually be little more than grandstanding.A relatively small program with big notorietyElected officials, though, do have ways of at least trying to appear productive, much like a hamster on a hamster wheel appears to be going nowhere fast. A case in point is the Stop Green Initiative Abuse Act of 2011, introduced by Representative Chuck Fleischmann, a Republican representing the Third Congressional District in Tennessee. The purpose of the measure is to eliminate the Weatherization Assistance Program, which provides free weatherization services for low-income households.The WAP, which is administered by the Department of Energy, has historically been ignored by politicians as a cost-cutting target because its annual budget was, at a few million dollars, relatively small. But the program became a favorite piñata of conservatives after its budget ballooned dramatically – to about $5 billion over three years, under the $787 billion economic stimulus program – and program administrators struggled to synchronize and implement its regulations and rollout.Even though the WAP allotment was about 0.6% of the total stimulus budget, the program has been so successfully demonized that it ranks high on tallies compiled by YouCut, a Republican program that allows voters to vote online for the government programs they want cut. “I am also glad the American people directly had a say in this process through the YouCut program. Together we can get our fiscal house in order and get our country back on the right track,” Fleischmann said in a press release about the legislation, which was announced on November 16.A LIHEAP of faithThe congressman says the Weatherization Assistance Program is dispensable because other federal programs, such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), “are already in place.” In fact, WAP was created in 1976, five years before the launch of LIHEAP, which provides one-time funding to low-income households to help them cover their utility bills. In many states, WAP and LIHEAP services are administered by the same state agency and offered in tandem. Weatherization improvements, however, provide ongoing energy savings rather than one-time assistance with energy bills.Fleischmann points to a December 2010 review by the Tennessee Comptroller General’s office that noted that “weatherization contractors had, in nearly half of the cases studied, failed to implement critically recommended measures to properly weatherize homes” and had misused WAP funds. The press release also cites a January 2010 report by the DOE’s Inspector General that called the expanded program “poorly administered.” The main concern identified in the Inspector General’s report was the sluggish rollout of services in many states, due to confusion over wage and other implementation requirements.Other WAP snafus have emerged since then, including, in California’s case, computer-training deficiencies among support staffers. But for all its rollout delays, audit headaches, complexity, and management difficulties, the expanded WAP is finally seeing success in most states and, long term, will deliver energy savings benefits to occupants of retrofitted homes. The goal of the expanded program was to weatherize 600,000 homes; some 484,000 (just over 80% of the goal) had been retrofitted by the end of the second quarter of this year, according to DOE estimates.Unlikely bipartisan supportBut as we’ve noted, most elected officials at least try to appear responsive to their constituents, and Fleischmann’s decision to target the already vilified WAP gave him an easy, symbolic, conservative twofer, even if the amount of money the government would save by eliminating the program – $2.1 billion over the next 10 years, by Fleischmann’s estimate, or an average of $210 million annually – is relatively small.There’s no indication that the measure has any chance of becoming law, although if Rick Perry gets elected president and doesn’t forget to eliminate the Department of Energy, as he promised, it won’t matter.last_img read more

US Open: Bopanna-Qureshi in quarters

first_imgIndia’s Rohan Bopanna and his Pakistani partner Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi advanced to the men’s doubles quarterfinals of the US Open with an upset win over second seeded Canadian-Serbian pair of Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic here.Indo-Zimbabwean pair of Leander Paes and Cara Black also advanced to the last-eight stage of the tournament in the mixed doubles event.The 16th seeded Indo-Pak pair of Bopanna and Qureshi streamrolled their opponents 6-3 6-4 in a one-sided pre-quarterfinal clash at Flushing Meadows here.Both Bopanna and Qureshi were on song with their trademark aggressive serves and precision forehands as the duo demolised the Grand Slam contenders in straight sets.They will next face the daunting South African-Belgian pair of Wesley Moodie and Dick Norman, who reached the semi-finals of the French Open and Wimbledon this year.This will be the second consecutive appearance at a Grand Slam quarter-final for the Indo-Pak pair who made it to the final eight at the Wimbledon.”They are formidable opponents, but they have had a relatively easier draw, the draws have been tougher on us so we are ready, prepared and focused on the task at hand,” said a determined Bopanna.Bopanna and Qureshi had a phenomenal 2010 season, with stellar performances at Wimbledon, besides winning an ATP Tour Title, reaching the finals of three others and picking up a Challenger Series Title along the way.In the second round of the mixed doubles event, second seeded Paes and Black lived up to their billings, defeating unseeded Estonia-Swedish pair of Kaia Kanepi and Robert Lindstedt 6-1 6-4.advertisementThey will next meet Anna-Lena Groenefeld of Germany and Mark Knowles of Bahrain in the third round of the last Grand Slam event of the year.last_img read more

Russia steps up security as Confederations Cup looms

first_imgRussia has boosted security and scrambled to finish an $800-million stadium as it banks on the eight-nation Confederations Cup to gauge its readiness to host the World Cup next year.Russia will showcase four of its 12 World Cup venues, including the scandal-plagued St Petersburg Stadium, in a two-week tournament kicking off June 17 that will feature world champions Germany, the various regional champions and the host country.Russia, now a record low 63rd in FIFA world rankings, have experienced upheaval with three managers in the last two years. But the country hopes to present itself as an able host in a far-flung tournament that will test the security and logistics of its soccer infrastructure.The tournament, held in Moscow, St Petersburg, Sochi and Kazan, is also meant to ensure the 2018 World Cup in President Vladimir Putin’s Russia runs smoothly as he faces political isolation over the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.Since clashes between Russian and English fans tarnished the European championship in France last year, Putin has approved legislation that toughens punishments for violence at sporting events as part of a broader crackdown on hooliganism.The authorities say the Confederations Cup’s ticketing system, which requires ticket holders to apply for a personalised fan-ID, will ensure that fans are screened and hooligans kept away.”Citizens who have committed gross legal violations during sporting events, demonstrated racism, set off fireworks, broken furniture, tried to start fights, are under our unwinking, constant stare,” Anton Gusev, deputy head of the interior ministry department overseeing security at sports venues, told reporters on Tuesday.advertisement”This also pertains to foreign soccer hooligans.”The ministry has blacklisted 191 fans, including 54 spectators involved in a pitch invasion at the Russia Cup final in Sochi, an incident that revived concerns about the readiness of Russian soccer venues to handle crowds.A bombing in the St Petersburg metro that left 16 dead in April also sparked fears that a similar attack could hit Russia during the tournament.Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) tried to assuage concerns on Tuesday, saying terrorism did not pose a threat to Confederations Cup participants and spectators.THWARTING PROTESTSA decree signed by Putin last month sparked outrage among Kremlin critics after it imposed tighter restrictions on public gatherings and limited the use of air space and waterways over a 42-day period covering the Confederations Cup.The decree also requires that foreigners be registered with Russian authorities within one day of their arrival in the country.The limits on public gatherings, which will also be in force during the World Cup, mean that all rallies, pickets and protests unrelated to soccer in the host cities’ regions can take place only at times and locations approved by the authorities.Activists have decried the fact these restrictions will be in place during nationwide anti-corruption protests on June 12 called by opposition leader Alexei Navalny, after a first round of demonstrations in March saw thousands take to the streets.A protester holding a sign that read, “I don’t care about soccer, I picket where I want,” was detained last week outside Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium, which will host the World Cup’s opening match and final, local human rights group OVD-Info said.PITCH TROUBLESRussia could run into trouble with its venue in St Petersburg, where construction has taken a decade and been marred by delays, corruption allegations and reports of human rights violations.A new pitch had to be laid at the 68,000-seat stadium less than a month before it hosts the Confederations Cup’s opening match between Russia and New Zealand, after uprooted chunks of grass spoiled the first match at the new venue.Even before problems with the grass surfaced, issues with the stadium’s retractable pitch technology saw the playing surface vibrate and made it unfit for matches.The authorities have downplayed the lingering issues at one of Russia’s most prized venues, assuring that it would be in pristine condition for the Confederations Cup.last_img read more