Off The Long Run / Deep End – Death Of A Gentleman / Death Of A Way Of Sport

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As I start on this journey of a piece, it has the makings of being a really long one (and now I’ve finished it, not sure it works, but here goes). It goes to the heart of me as a fan of sports around the world. Of my love for cricket, of my lost love of football, of my hopes to see a team like the baseball champions Kansas City Royals (a team unable to compete financially with the big clubs in the States, but still able to win it all) win the league in England, of my hopes of seeing a team run by faceless wealthy oligarchs get relegated. Of my watching every single sport become a vehicle to make massive amounts of money at the expense of spectators. Of a media in hock to the money-making charade. Of organisations where the only way you can postpone the possibility of jail time is to stay in charge. Of money ruling everything. Of the extinguishing of the commodity every football fan of a club outside the richest in the world possessed – hope. Hope. Sport made you hope.

When Jarrod sent me the copy of Death of a Gentleman I sat there and watched in…. well I don’t really know what my emotions were. I wasn’t surprised. Giles Clarke is an absolute pig of a man, and there would have to be a question of judgement against anyone he’d class as an ally. I wasn’t shocked that India were looking after themselves – after all, that’s what the big clubs do in football here, so why the hell are we shocked at that – and as for not widening the game, well let’s face it, it’s only a matter of scope. Club football loves the expansion of the game because similarly levelled talent of footballers from Eastern Europe and Africa (and South America if they didn’t predominantly move to Iberia) are cheaper than English counterparts. No major English club (and, by extension it seems, their fans) give a flying f*ck about the national team and developing players for it. In many cases, quite the opposite. The club sides were businesses, and the big clubs don’t feel the need for a sucessful national side to keep the home fires burning like they used to.

I wasn’t shocked that some players, like Ed Cowan, would give everything for their first cap, but the counterpart is that they might not feel so enamoured of the game when they get to, say, their 70th. Once something becomes routine, almost an entitlement, then that sheen of optimism wears off and it becomes just a job. But it’s nice to be reminded of the good side of first selections. Then there is the focus on test cricket. It doesn’t make commercial sense, so therefore, because of that it should not be played. It is not entertaining. Sport should not be played in front of empty stadia. We can’t serve up dead pitches because five day cricket is inherently boring. It is a form of the game worth saving because…. and it comes to the ultimate test of skill, technique, concentration and athleticism. However, those qualities sell better if there are more games. Shortening becomes efficiency. That’s what the people want in their busy lives…. So dead pitch test matches are bad. Very bad. They are driving people away.

That’s a line of argument gaining traction whenever we have a pitch where you might have to work really hard to get very good players out on it. I’ve been on this mortal coil now for over 45 years and people have become this way – short-term driven and wanting to tinker. Attention deficit and a generation of tinkerers. You know how it is at work. You can’t stay the same, you have to change. Change is good. If you are not open to change, you are an impediment. What happens now is administrators, managers, CEOs have to change something. There needs to be something done because there is always more to do. Innovate or die. And that’s my problem. Sport now apes business, because it has ceased being about sport, in many case, and more about business. I used to go to, and play, sport to escape business.

What is sport for? Well, actually, it isn’t for spectators, it is for the joy in playing it, isn’t it? Sport in itself is a form of enjoyment, of individual achievement, and when in a team context, of playing with your mates or forming a bond with like-minded adults or formulating friendships as kids. It’s getting the best out of yourself. Doing something that is better than work, perhaps to get away from a daily grind. So sport, at its base instinct, is about the players. When you were a kid, you played cricket until you got out. You might be stopped in street cricket when you made 50, or 100. You didn’t constrain yourself with limiting overs, field settings, who could or could not play. You didn’t care who was watching. When sport was more organised, for me it was Schools cricket and junior clubs, they would put some constraints on what you could play and then you sought to build innings, practice defence, and try to improve.

A key tenet of the debate going on now is that people aren’t developing the same love of the sport as they did when I was a kid. That cricket, obsessed with monetising the talent, is hidden behind a paywall that pays it more than a terrestrial channel. George Dobell, in his latest piece on Moeen, made the point:

At Moeen’s old school, Moseley, 80% of the kids do not have English as their first language; 40% receive free school meals. You don’t have to be a genius to work out the long-term effects of charging almost £100 for a ticket to international cricket or putting it behind a paywall on television. The game is in danger of becoming invisible to a huge section of society.

The role of TV in this piece is all-pervading, but I’m not sure if it’s the illness or the carrier. The fact is that cricket is, in some markets, an important commodity. Indian TV contracts are massive. In England, the absence of an IPL or a cricket equivalent to the football behemoth, means the contract is all about televising England’s national team. In this country it means test matches. I know how much more keenly test matches are viewed, by one look at the hit stats for the blog. ODIs capture nowhere near the attention. We’ll come to why, soon. Maybe. But it needs to start at what sport means to me. What cricket is…

When I was a kid it was all test cricket. No-one really cared about county cricket as a kid, and I didn’t go to my first County Championship game until I was a University student. Cricket was played in the streets by kids back in the 80s, because I was one of them. We played football in the same streets, despite being told not to by the council busybodies. Football is very visible, and yet I don’t see any kids playing it in the street on my council estate. There are less teams playing on Sundays over the playing fields I used to play on. Participation levels appear to be down, even informally. I lived cricket, though, because although I was never really going to go to county cricket, I followed it in the papers. I even purchased a long wave radio so I didn’t have to wait a couple of days for the scores when I was on holiday and could listen in to the snippets of cricket on the World Service.

During my formative years there was a school of thought that televising football live would kill clubs. Yes. People actually fought tooth and nail to keep the FA Cup Final as the only live club game on TV each year. It’s almost unthinkable. TV coverage was totally removed for the first half of the 1985-6 season. Nothing. Not a thing. At all. There was a running joke that West Ham’s Frank McAvennie, recently signed by them from St. Mirren and who was scoring for fun, could walk down the streets and no-one knew him. Football didn’t die. Of course not.

Now to make money, sport has to be about spectators – but it has become about TV spectators now. Players want to get paid for what they do, and they want it in increasing amounts. As those amounts get larger, the people paying them want more bang for their buck, and to try to keep the money flowing. They’ll increase ticket prices, play TV companies off against another to get in more revenue, and still they’ll increase prices, get into bidding wars with other mega-wealthy clubs to get the best players, who play less often because they are increasingly saved for matches against the best teams. Gideon Haigh summed up the role of you, the spectator, in DoaG perfectly – we are there to be monetized.

I’m a little bit of a lefty, you’ve probably guessed that, but I don’t live my life with my head in the clouds. Players want their fair share of the money going around, and that’s understandable. For the vast majority of sportspeople, especially in team sports, careers are short at the top level, and those lucrative media jobs for post-sporting careers are few and far between, while coaching and managing at the top level is both short-term and high-risk. But with money comes cynicism (I know it is not an exclusive relationship, but it’s just worse when high values are involved) both in terms of the superhuman feats a player is expected to perform because he/she is earning amazing amounts of money, and from the players, who might, or who are not able, to perform superhuman feats on cue every time they are asked to. It then means we might feel short changed when we see something that isn’t up to standard from them. That player will be crucified in the press, the braying, baying media pack who want “drama” “stories” and “soap opera” rather than sport. Your team wins some times, it loses some times. We are in the era when big clubs are not allowed to lose. Ever.

It is us, the spectators who are at fault. Most of us aren’t good enough to play at a high level, yet act like we know what it takes. I’m as guilty of that as anyone. Now your choice of football team is often seen as a reflection on you. I support my local club exclusively in England. I don’t care much for any other team. A team with a style of play I like might lose one week and I wouldn’t give the first f*ck about them. My team is Millwall. I was brought up in Deptford. My Dad was a Charlton fan, the rest of my family Millwall. My cousin got me first, and took me to the Den in 1979. I was a Millwall fan, for life.

Now, in SE London, I see people with Chelsea shirts, Arsenal shirts, Manchester United shirts, less Liverpool shirts than you used to, and for the love of all that is holy, Manchester City shirts. Their choice of team isn’t in reaction to their locality – hell support those jokers from Selhurst Park, it’s better than Arsenal – but it’s not just their choice that riles. They pat themselves on the backs as if they’ve backed a penny share that’s suddenly had a good Annual Report. Meanwhile, of the three local clubs, Palace are having a decent run, but it will only take a raid on their best players, and a downturn in form to see them back where they belong; Charlton are now a Belgian league club’s plaything; and my lot are arguably back where they belong – a tier two/tier three yo-yo club. Only diehards support lower league clubs now. We’re seen as an oddity, as if there’s something wrong with us, as if we don’t have the mental capacity to choose a big team.
So it goes for cricket.

I am a Surrey fan, for life. I chose them in the late 1970s. They were my granddad’s team, they were the nearest ground to home, and someone with the same real surname as me played for them (hello Mr Alam). They are my team for life, and believe me, it took 20 years for any glory. But I appreciated it so much more that it took so long. I am also a supporter of the following other sports teams – Miami Dolphins (Superbowls since supporting them – 1, and they lost it); Boston Red Sox (started supporting in late 1990s, when Pedro was doing his thing – they’ve become winners since then); Chicago Bulls (nearest I come to a glory hunter, but supported once I got to see Michael Jordan play on TV – before the Championship run) – and stuck with them through their slumps, which they have all suffered (Miami the 1-15 season, Red Sox bottom of AL East two years on the bounce, Bulls post the glory years).

The modern spectator has more in common with the Bulls following than anything else. They want to win, and they want to see the big stars at their team. Extrapolated to the TV audiences, it means big clubs, more often. Top stars, more often. Money makes the world go round.
In cricketing terms we all know what this means. The biggest money is in India. Therefore, the biggest stars are in India, a nation that remains proud of its own, and yet loves those from outside that embrace the culture and the fanaticism. When this is combined with cynical, money-hunting businessmen, on the prowl for more power, there’s an unstoppable nexus. Feed the fanaticism, make more money. The IPL stands alone as the T20 league to play in. The money, the fame, the adulation. Cricket on a level playing field with football. No wonder players want to play in it, and others worry themselves sick about it. India hold all the negotiating hand here, and everyone knows it.

Anyone in England who thinks this is outrageous, then look at how the Champions League is run. How the Premier league is run. The aim for all is to make sure India keep the IPL away from their turf, to keep themselves sustainable. West Indies have suffered the most. England and Australia, the least.

Again, anyone in England wondering why India want to guarantee nine matches in the 2019 Cricket World Cup, because of a shock exit in 2007, haven’t paid attention to a Champions League that spends 48 games to halve its numbers, with a lovely seeded draw to keep as many big teams apart as possible, and a draw designed to maximise revenues in the big markets by not allowing more than two games per nation on any one day, and by stretching the 2nd round out over four weeks, not two. There was nothing wrong with the old European Cup knockout model, except it didn’t make the big teams enough money. When UEFA had the gall to remove the second group stage, there were howls of derision from the bigger clubs, and many a veiled threat – but fans saw through it and it was almost too obvious in its soaking of the fans. The big club spectators want more of this exotic stuff, not less, but too much damages credibility. India are mimicking big football clubs, and yet we get howls from supporters in this country that they do so. We must be having a laugh……

India has been threatening an IPL2, have been using their international team as pawns in ageo-political money accumulation game for years now. They have the power. Without them, every country with the exception of England and Australia is sunk. Sports authorities, and those making money out of them, rarely look for long-term rewards, because within a few days your corruption might be fatal, your face might not fit, or some younger, or more innovative whipper snapper has seduced your enablers. It’s only going to get worse. I sound like an old codger, I know, but we’ve got a load of twenty-somethings come into our office in the last year or so. I like pretty much all of them personally. But they don’t see long-term. They see rapid development, an entitlement to promotion rather than it being earned in the long run of hard graft. There is impatience. There is practically no dissent to authority. It is not about common good, it is about the pursuit of your own goals. It’s the culture in which they were raised.

That sort of culture, to take an extrapolation if you might allow me to, means sports that take five days, played in empty grounds, are anathema. These are top players who could be earning more. They could be used more. The lopping off of six weeks at a time to play three matches in a desert location makes absolutely no commercial sense. Commercial sense. It isn’t about growing the game, getting more teams involved (after all, we grew it in 1999 by promoting Bangladesh to test status and they still aren’t up to it), it is about getting the best players on people’s screens, in front of lots of people. It isn’t about cricket lovers, certainly us old codgers, because we aren’t the target for advertising – that group between 18-35 is the holy grail – and advertising makes the TV money go round. A modern culture demands a modern way. Death of a Gentleman is more Death of an Attitude.

The film highlighted all it needed to. A governing  body doing what all other major board seem to do – hoard power and cash, run the sport on short-termism, pay lip service to development and monetise the best players as frequently as possible – and players moaning about workload in the one instance, but grabbing every bit as much cash as they can whent the opportunity arises (which is why I won’t listen to KP on county cricket, for instance. He made it where he is because of it, not in spite of it. He moved to this country to play it). Giles Clarke is a lovely coat-stand to hang our ills on. Maybe he is right and we should ride India’s coat-tails. Maybe the counties are right for fighting for the status quo, because, let’s face it, their existence in the form of 18 teams playing four day cricket book-ending the limited over stuff is every bit as logical as test cricket in Mohali.

Whether test cricket lives or dies isn’t up to me. The Ashes will live on, as long as we have players capable of playing long-form cricket. There is a lot mentioned about context of tests, and the refusal to have a Test Championship is mind-blowingly short-sighted, but what was the context when the West Indies were ruling the world, or Pakistan played test series against India that would feature a result once in a blue moon? These aren’t new issues. Cricket is more expensive to watch, both at grounds and via subscriptions. So is football. So are most other sports.

I’d like to finish this long ramble up with a comparison to baseball, which I mentioned at the start. You can’t go a week or two without reports that viewership on TV is down. That baseball is a dying sport. That no-one talks about it over the water-cooler. That the NFL now rules everything in the US. Baseball will still be there in decades to come. It is a slow, cerebral game, which I love. It cultivates its base by making its local TV rights, and national shows available. It has a website that was the envy of many other sports which made watching your team outside of market very cheap (£90 for every match in a season, more or less). It plays on its history, a sepia-tinged “father and son” narrative. It’s a sport embraced by the Latino community. It’s also competitive. The current richest team haven’t won a title since the 1980s (Dodgers). The perennial richest team, the Yankees, have won the championship once since 2000. Last week, the Kansas City Royals won the title having been in the finals last year. According to sources, a greater proportion of younger people watched the World Series than in recent memory. It’s food for thought.


18 thoughts on “Off The Long Run / Deep End – Death Of A Gentleman / Death Of A Way Of Sport

  1. Mark Nov 8, 2015 / 1:42 pm

    Excellent post!

    While those of us of a certain age do tend to look through rose tinted glasses I do think there should be concern at the modern model of financialising everything. The commodification of EVERYTHING. If it doesn’t make a buck then discard it.

    Everything is a commodity now. Every aspect of life reduced to a financial transaction. Sport is no different. It is just soap powder to be sold. It’s only purpose is to sell product. Which means the people who run it, and own it only judge improvement by increased profit. New super improved Premiership will only be judged a success if it brings in more money.

    I do have days when I think what is the point of following sport anymore. It is just another soap powder. We old romantics are an anathema to modern marketers. …..F*** the history and the culture, ……….” Do you want fries and a Big Mac with your ticket? And if not, why not? Do you want a silly hat and as much tat as you plastic card can manage?”

    Arsenal football club amuse me greatly. I remember just before The Premiership was created David Dien the guy in charge of Arsenal giving an interview where he called the old league system socialist…… ” why should we subsidise lower division clubs?” He snorted. He was a great supporter of the new, winner take all premiership. However, what was funny was when Roman A rocked up at Chelsea with more money than Mr Dien. Soon to be followed by some Arabs at Man City. Suddenly winner take all was not such a good thing. We needed rules. Fair play was the new buzz word. Mr Wenger started lecturing about “financial doping.” Oh the irony. Nothing funnier in modern life than capitalists complaining about bigger and richer capitalists.

    The Champions league and your description of it is the classic modern construction. A rigged system to protect the rich clubs. Everything is done to make sure the richest, and biggest clubs avoid competing against each other and knocking each other out until the very end. By which time maximum revenue has been extracted from the plebs. Exactly the same model is used by the big banks to avoid competition. While the little people are told about free markets the elites play by rigged rules to protect themselves. India being guaranteed 9 games is just another example of the protection of the elites.

    I could write a book on all this but It would be very boring. How the big clubs least favourite competition is the FA cup. Because it is straight knock out with no protection. And only glory and not money at the end. And judging by the empty seats not a model the fans of the big clubs like. They seem to enjoy being exploited. The Premeirship fan and their clubs owners rather deserve each other.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. SimonH Nov 8, 2015 / 7:45 pm

    Firstly, I bloody love cricket – I got it from my dad and was completely hooked by the 1975 WC. I follow plenty of other sports (football, rugby, tennis, golf) but nothing like cricket. I played at school and a little club cricket afterwards to no sort of standard and have long preferred umpiring, scoring or playing golf. This last week I’ve watched Yasir Shah bowling and Kane Williamson batting. If that doesn’t remind anyone why this game is so great, then it really is past the point of no return.

    I agree with many of the points LCL (and Mark) have made – but I think in drawing wider connections, there is a danger of losing some immediate concerns. Cricket is a great game with plenty of good news stories – in the grip of a disastrous, myopic, unaccountable, in some cases corrupt, small cabal of administrators. Their wretchedness goes way beyond the standard operating shittiness one expects of sport administrators. That the media watchdog has had (with few honourable exceptions) its bark stolen by media management techniques borrowed from politics and business makes the situation all the more grievous. The media handed over their bark with barely a whimper – and don’t even have the excuse that, unlike politics and business, lives are sometimes at stake. It is, in Atherton’s brilliant phrase, only sport – and if you can’t be idealistic about sport, what can you be idealistic about?

    Those who run the game want to make money. That’s not the problem. I’m a liberal (not a Marxist and I don’t inhabit grotty South London pubs – as some friends of this site believe) and the game operates in a capitalist context. However capitalism comes in many shapes and forms and needs combining with other values. No one system has a monopoly of virtue – only fundamentalists believe otherwise. The first main problem is that money has wrecked principles of equality and meritocracy in the decision-making process in cricket. Voices don’t count for the same and the best voices with the strongest arguments don’t win. Size of wallet is becoming all that counts. Dissent shuts up because it fears bankruptcy. A worst model for decision-making would be hard to design. Secondly, short term overrides long term. Capitalism is brilliant at finding short term profit – but, left to itself, lousy at long term planning. Cricket is in the grip of free market fundamentalists devoted to squeezing existing revenue streams dry while failing to develop new ones. In particular, of course, they are failing to grow the game. I’m not, I think, hopelessly naive about this. I don’t think cricket will ever match football. I think there are many cultures where it won’t ‘take’. But sports can grow outside their traditional homelands and rugby has shown the way with Argentina, Japan and the like. Cricket looks ridiculous not even to try.

    In English cricket specifically, the problem is trying to sustain an unsustainable business model. The one area where I have slight sympathy for Giles Clarke is that it’s too easy to put everything down to ‘greed’. Eighteen FT f/c counties is just unsustainable. This reinforces the chronic short-termism. ‘We have a dreadful business – and we’ve kept it going another year!’ could be the ECB’s end-of-year report since whenever. I’ve watched plenty of county cricket and have some fondness for it – but not to the extent of wrecking SL or NZ cricket to save it. We have to be tough not just on Giles Clarke but the causes of Giles Clarke. It is the county system that produced him. That is a damning indictment.

    Lastly, I wanted to write something about spectators in the ground versus TV viewers. Authorities are very good at ‘divide and rule’ and there is some of that going on here. Perhaps I feel this because I’ve never lived within an hour’s travel of a Test ground and have only been to half a dozen days of Test cricket in my life. It’s one thing for ground spectators to feel a venue is ignoring their experience at the expense of TV. Complaining about that is fair enough – as is offering insights someone at the ground might have that TV wouldn’t pick up (especially ECB-TV!). But (and I’m not getting at anything written here – more a general BTL pattern I’ve been noticing) there seems to be a creeping air of moral superiority about being at a ground. This particularly finds expression when there are low crowds and there are comments (much heard in the UAE) along the lines of – what’s the point? It seems to be perfectly sensible in the UAE to watch a Test in an air-conditioned home rather than in a sweltering ground with no public transport. Why some people feel this invalidates the experience escapes me. Many great performances were in front of small crowds – who remembers or cares that Botham at Headingley in ’81 wasn’t in front of a sell-out? The players generate the intensity and the atmosphere. What matters is how many people (whether in person, on TV or wherever) are interested and engaged in the game. People harp on about the sold-out Tests in England – but how much resonance outside the hard core is there?Large crowds do not mean a healthy game and small crowds a sick one, it is much more complex.

    I could (and probably will somewhen) expand at length on what I think lies behind this apparent growing obsession with crowd sizes. I’m worried I might be agreeing with Michael Henderson (!) that there is a narcissism in some modern crowds that is more wrapped up in itself than what it is there to witness. The great danger is this is serving our short-termist cricketing overlords. “What’s the point? Nobody’s there!” they cry BTL. “Okay – we’ll shut it down then” Uncle Giles would only be too happy to reply. I noticed a recent article on cricinfo quoted someone from the ICC on the low crowd at a SL-WI game. I’m convinced moves are afoot to strip SL of Test status and this is preparing the ground. It will be a tragedy for the wider SL cricketing public who (as I understand it) still love and follow the game in all its forms. It’ll be a tragedy for us as well as rather than watching Angelo Mathews or Rangana Herath we have another bloody series against India…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Arron Wright Nov 8, 2015 / 8:09 pm

      That really is one of the best BTL posts I have seen on here or HDWLIA.


      • Zephirine Nov 8, 2015 / 11:11 pm

        That really is one of the best BTL posts I have seen on here or HDWLIA. Seconded.


    • LordCanisLupus Nov 8, 2015 / 8:42 pm


      Many many thanks for this post. It makes writing these longer pieces quite worthwhile.

      In trying to think of what to write, I have had in my head this “modern sport is rubbish” type post. That’s incredibly simplistic, but you know what I’m getting at. It’s like discussing the Premier League with evangelists for the modern game, who’ll have you believing that 70s and 80s football was played in front of condemned stadia, with feral packs of fans, and poor quality football. In those days England made the semi-finals and two quarter-finals in the World Cup, produced world class footballers, and had competitive leagues where the likes of QPR and Watford finished second. Now there are so few decent England players it’s a joke, the sport has become a soap opera masquerading as the best league in the world, and while we’ll be patronised about Leicester this season (as we were with Southampton last year), it’s whether the Arab billionaire will win out over the US sports magnate, while the other US Sports magnate, the other US sports magnate can contend while the Russian billionaire’s team are in strife.

      I love cricket too Simon, but it’s going the same way. The lack of talent coming through is alarming, especially in the bowling department. Dale Steyn may be the last great super-fast bowler and he seems to have dropped in pace as injuries catch up with him. Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc will hit the speed guns, but they aren’t in Steyn’s league. Jimmy is an artful bowler, Broad now more a container with spells of gold, than a tyro. As the game becomes more scientific, more analytical, it is losing it’s soul. That’s why Pakistan defy everything and we enjoy them. There’s a natural feel to their play, but forged by a captain and senior pros into a decent unit. Think the West Indies of thirty years ago but with less talent. They are a throwback. They have a production line of talent, hungry to succeed, but also prone to exposure to the same old accusations. They are India without the money. The last thing I’d want to do if I was India would be to play a test match or two against them. I think they’d be belted.

      I also get your bit about being there, and this division between those inside, and those outside. I used to go to England games around the world, and the Oval every year. I was younger, single and had more disposable income. I recall my overseas tests as much for the life experiences around them than the cricket. I now think £80 for an Ashes ticket is an outrage. I won’t pay it. Does that make me less an England fan? No. Did I think that way as a Millwall fan when I went and others didn’t. Of course I did. Age gives you that perspective. What I haven’t done with cricket is to lose the love of the sport. I still relate to the players of cricket more than I can ever with footballers. I still love watching test cricket, whereas a premier league game leaves me cold. I am not sure this will ever end. I sure hope not.

      Again, so many thanks for responding to the post. There’s so much to come back to that I’ll do a follow-up, for sure.


    • Mark Nov 8, 2015 / 8:48 pm

      Great post Simon.

      But cricket is not the only sport that has terrible owners/administrators. Just look at what is going on at FIFA. The FA has been a joke for years. And today Lord Coe has had to warn about dark days in Athletics.

      It might be simplistic to level all the problems with money, but it probably is the case. FIFA have expanded the game globally but that has not all been about bettering football. By doing so it has created a huge block vote of lots of little countries who have kept Blatter in power. And with power comes wealth.

      Crickets admistrators have worked out that in their sport shrinking the game is more profitable to the insiders than expanding it. India is King, and the ECB just through in the towel and decided to align with the King. Australia went along too. The big 3 is a bit of a misnomer. It’s really India with England and Aus pretending we are all in it together. A bit like the special relationship with the USA in politics. We pretend we have a equal say.

      As for the crowd issue, it was suggested a few years ago that sport would make so much money from TV they could open the gates to supporters for free. Hasn’t happened yet.


      • SimonH Nov 8, 2015 / 9:25 pm

        Thanks Arron, LCL, Mark – means a lot coming from you.

        LCL, one difference between football and cricket (and rugby) is that the wealth factor hasn’t yet distorted the results to such an extent. SA can still top the rankings, NZ can still get to a WC final. The Big Three hosting all tournaments and allowing gross home advantage seems the imminent threat to that. However international sport can’t have quite the same transfer market issues of club sports.

        Perhaps cricket is ‘lucky’ in the sense that the two richest nations are so useless! I also have a sneaking suspicion that having all that money to spend on coaching damages a team as much as helping it – and that other teams with more self-reliant and game-intelligent players might have a perverse sort of advantage. Something similar appears to be the case in rugby where the SH teams are much poorer than France and England but the quality gap seems to be getting larger in favour of the SH.

        Finally, fast bowling across the world isn’t so bad. Starc has been brilliant at the Gabba, Riaz can clock 95 mph and Milne in NZ and Rabada in SA are hugely promising. It’s not the 1980s I’ll grant you – but it’s better than most of the 2000s!


        • LordCanisLupus Nov 8, 2015 / 9:27 pm

          I suppose I am to blame with the other two posts today, but I’d loved to have had a debate over this, rather than KP and the associates. But when one runs a cricket blog, one has to do what one has to do.

          One’s Toffo. (For those old enough).


  3. Mark Nov 8, 2015 / 10:24 pm

    This is a bit meandering and I’m not sure it’s really going anywhere but, I like you Dmitri am fascinated by these topics. Any way here goes……

    It is interesting your comment about falling participation rates of people playing many of these sports. Maybe it’s just that people have many more choices than we did 30/40/50 years ago. Way back when, before many countries got good at some of these sports, English sport was really about the posh boys from the playing fields of Eton. Chariots of Fire and all that. Then the natives started improving. So the working classes started to get more involved. Working class lads have been the backbone of English fast bowlers for decades. From Harold Larwood to the present day. But their numbers are dwindling as the facilities rot away.

    Then in the 70s a new dimension appeared. The children of the immigrants that came here in the late 50s and 60s started to play a role. We forget the racist stuff they had to go through in the 70s. I remember one particular MSM pundit regularly claiming in the 1980s that John Barnes did not have the same allegiance to England because of his WI routes. But it was in athletics they really started to achieve. The British didn’t quite know if they liked it or not. But hey, all these black people running meant that team GB got to win a lot of medals and it meant the playing of the national anthem and the flag going up the pole. We adopted a US vision. The immigrants could be useful, seeing as the 1950s Jeffrey Archers just didn’t cut in any more. We started importing other sporting immigrants. Some already fully formed. From Zola Budd, Alan Lamb, through to he who can’t be named. On the way taking in Greg Rudeski the tennis player. Winning you see, was becoming everything. Not the taking part.

    Britain has always been divided between those who play and those who watch. For decades we had the biggest tennis tournament in the world, and no players who ever made it past the first week. Never forget Fred Perry was a working class kid who became a professional and was treated like shit by the administrators . The British elites were happy to watch. Wimbledon, The lords Test, were events in their own right. Part of the summer scene. Somewhere to to be seen at rather than participate in. We have some of the best golf and Tennis clubs in the world. But a lot of the golfing talent of the last 40 years has come from the public courses. Private clubs are for the enjoyment of the fee paying members. Not to produce talent.


  4. Rohan Nov 8, 2015 / 11:01 pm

    Hey come on Dmitri, calling Palace jokers is a bit harsh😉! There my team and like your beloved Millwall are normally a yo-yo team as well. Although to be fair, we do tend to yo-yo between championship and premier league!

    Anyway a game my brother (spurs fan – oh dear) and I like to play is to imagine how good our respective teams would be, if we had/could keep all of our best players (over the past 20 years) and not sell them off!

    I really like this post, something different and shows a true love of sport. Something that is often lacking from the MSM who seem to be there, to mainly exaggerate how poor or good the respective sport they are writing about is. Great read Dmitri and don’t be afraid to praise the Eagles!


    • LordCanisLupus Nov 8, 2015 / 11:11 pm

      I love so many sports, and yet I feel that the love is being used for others to make a ton of money from me. What was once free, is now costly. What was once rationed so that it was special, is now blanket, wall-to-wall coverage.

      What I really love is competition. Well run clubs succeeding (as much as I hate the Patriots, for example, they have a genius coach) because of key personnel, not because of how much money they can spend. It also has to be available to all. It’s why I love US sport.

      I went to see the Boston Red Sox play in Pittsburgh in 2011. The ticket cost me $10. Parking was $5 about a mile away, but you had a lovely walk over the Clemente Bridge. Imagine that being a Premier League game. Oh, and at the time, that was PNC Park’s record attendance game. They know they need to get punters in, because it feeds the love. I go to minor league games over there, the love of being there cultivated further. The big teams don’t always win. It’s great.


  5. Mark Nov 8, 2015 / 11:26 pm

    “I love so many sports, and yet I feel that the love is being used for others to make a ton of money from me. ”


    “What I really love is competition.”

    Me too, but increasingly it seems a lot of sport is rigged to protect the strong. In recent years I find I like to watch more and more individual sports. Golf, Tennis for example. There are no billion £ owners. There are no all powerful guru coaches who think they win with mind games. It’s more about the sportsman. One on one. No clever dick manager who can buy a new centre forward from the other side of the world. You have what you have. Improve or fade away.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Benny Nov 9, 2015 / 1:58 pm

    I’m late again. Have to say that this thread illustrates why I value blogs, especially this one. Reckon I support every word in your post Dmitri and Simon in particular offers very perceptive comment.

    Don’t believe that having problems with the capitalism makes you lefty Dmitri. We live in a world where our TV shows appeals to help kids in Africa who are dying through lack of clean, disease free water, while billions of dollars are spent on trying to determine if there used to be water on Mars!

    Now and then. My first memory was listening on the wireless to May and Cowdrey’s monumental 411 to save us against WI in 1957. Since then, I have always enjoyed good cricket and great cricketers. I sincerely believe life was simpler way back when. For example, travelling to the Oval was easier. Hey, I still remember attending a charity match featuring Colin Cowdrey, Tony Hancock (funniest looking bowler ever) and Sid James. How old-fashioned am I?

    Now, I believe everything is stressful. Travel is overcrowded and horrible, players argue with umpires and threaten to break arms, commerce is all over everything, administrators are in the way, the Press rips into players and even those of us outside cricket, a batsman gets criticised for scoring 355 – think I’ll stop there.

    On the good side, it is still a joy to sit down in a cricket ground, share a beer and a chat with a mate, watch bowlers and batsmen in skilful combat and shut everything else out for a few hours


    • LordCanisLupus Nov 9, 2015 / 2:05 pm

      Cheers Benny, and amen to the last bit. We should do it again next season! Maybe down in Hove?


  7. Zeitkratzer Stockhausen Nov 10, 2015 / 1:37 pm

    That’s a good read. Not enough about KP in it but glory hunter you certainly ain’t !


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