People and Business: Elmwood up for the Cup

A SMALL design consultancy based in Guiseley, Leeds, has beaten off stiff competition from larger cosmopolitan rivals including Wolff Olins, McBains and Marsteller Giant, to win a juicy football contract - the preparation of the Football Association's bid for England to host the World Cup in 2006.

Perhaps one of the reasons elmwood (sic) clinched the deal was that almost all its 43 employees are football mad, says Simon Preece, director of the firm's 2006 Bid Team.

"Most of the people here support nearby teams like Huddersfield or Derby. I'm a Middlesbrough man myself," says Mr Preece.

The firm was created 10 years ago via a management buyout, led by managing director Jonathan Sands, from a Leeds advertising company called Charles Walls.

Most of elmwood's work so far has been for businesses such as Asda, ICI and 3i. The FA contract has entailed building two secure, football-themed rooms in its studios. "These will immerse the design team in the sport, act as areas of inspiration, provide a focus for creativity and ensure absolute project confidentiality," says Mr Preece.

Keeping sensitive commercial information confidential is probably the most important thing, he admits. "This is all about winning billions of pounds for the country."

BANKING CONSOLIDATION is really picking up speed. According to an invite from Tarmac, the builder, "a presentation and press conference will be held at 11am on 22 September, at HSBC Warburg's Conference Suite, 1 Finsbury Avenue, London EC2".

Obviously Neville Simms, Tarmac's chief executive and host for the event, knows something we don't. Has anyone told Warburg's Swiss owners yet? Standby for Credit Suisse NatWest ...

YOU MIGHT not think of the Save & Prosper fund management group as being at the forefront of Cool Britannia's rave culture, but you would be wrong.

S&P is holding a press party next month at the Ministry of Sound, the painfully trendy nightclub in London's Elephant & Castle.

The party is ostensibly to celebrate S&P's rebranding as a financial group selling solely through direct salesmen, while its parent, Flemings, will sell through independent financial advisers.

However, one cannot help wondering how the group's top brass will deal with the club's all-night rave "scene". Ravers will include Paul Bateman, chairman of Robert Fleming Asset Management, and Collette Bowe, former head of the Personal Investment Authority (PIA) and now executive chairman of RFAM's European arm.

I trust photographers will be allowed in.

A COLLEAGUE of mine has spotted a new aspect of travelling by rail - tomatoes on the Line.

A group of fully grown tomato plants with ripened toms on them were spotted this week growing between the tracks at Taunton station in Somerset.

A spokeswoman for Railtrack checked out the sighting but said that it came as a surprise to them. "The problems we usually have in that part of the country are with Buddleia, a shrub which is particularly attractive to butterflies," said the spokeswoman.

She added that it was unlikely that any tomato plants could have survived the weed-spraying train which passed through Taunton station on Sunday. As for what might have been fertilising the plants, it's best not to think about it...

THE INTERNATIONAL Monetary Fund has just published an IMF Working Paper entitled: "Reducing Inflation: Lessons from Albania's Early Success".

What on earth were the paper's two authors, Caryl J McNeilly and Doris Schiesser-Gachnang, referring to? Reading the summary, I think they mean the period after price reforms started in 1992, and before 1995/96 when things started to go seriously pear- shaped.

They conclude: "The positive experience from the early years of transition gives hope that following the devastating economic crisis Albania suffered in 1997, high inflation can again be quickly be reduced and the basis created for sustained growth."

I ALWAYS thought that "bean counter" was a nickname for an accountant. However, bean counters are still a vital part of the commodity business, according to Liffe, which has just introduced a new "homogeneity test" for cocoa bean counts, whatever that may be. Liffe's futures market volume for cocoa is around pounds 20bn a year - which is a lot of beans to count.