Sport has been a very large factor in my life; as a Youth and a Junior I was ranked occasionally as No.1 in the UK for Long Jump...and I gained a 2nd and a 3rd at the All England Schools...hey ho. But, it was rugby that claimed me and after a trial for England Schools in 1968, I eventually played for Oxford University, the Barbarians, the Penguins & England. After retirement I covered the game for The Times, the FT, the Observer and Rugby World. I have written five books on the game, coached it at club level, been a selector and I am still a trustee at Oxford. Somewhere in between, I was a publisher and tv producer and covered all sports. In Parliament I took the most active role in supporting all sports ending up creating the Parliamentary Sports Fellowship scheme. Back in 1984-85, I formed the Women's Sports Foundation in the UK and in 1985 helped stop the British Lions tour to South Africa.
It’s Not Cricket
Examining the media it is hard to believe that the cricket season is in full flow (or that there is a General Election going on). There was a time when scoring 1000 runs in May was worth attempting but my how the game has changed though which game is even harder to detect. Indeed, in May, 1981 when there was hardly a ball bowled in county cricket because of irritants like snow and rain, Zaheer Abbas scored a thousand runs in June and The Guardian ran a headline: “Happy Days Zaheer Again”.
Once the counties conceded to the old TCCB that it should change from 3 day to 4 day county matches the dye was cast. Their sponsors were reluctant to commit to as fourth day and so the counties became more dependent on the ECB. They in turn needed more Test cricket and a five-aside version of soccer which 20:20 has become. Are there any other games in town which the public will watch in any meaningful numbers? I doubt it. In India, media owners offer sometimes 2 sometimes 3 sometimes 4 dedicated cricket channels; it is now time for the ECB to go it alone and bring forward their plans for a dedicated Cricket only multi-media offer including its own bespoke channel.
Professional Club Rugby in England continues to break new ground
I was at Bath (I was tempted to put in Spa) v Sale Sharks last Saturday and I shall be at Twickenham, for the Wasps v Bath game which may yet, if the weather holds, attract a crowd of 65,000+. In December, Quins had 76,716 for their game against Wasps which the latter took by a single point 20-21. These are huge numbers for any sport let alone the fledgling professional club game in Europe and pt many of the Premier League soccer teams to shame – indeed only Man U are consistently higher but then they own their own ground or at least the City does.
In this decade, all premier rugby clubs must own their own grounds if they are to improve their offers to their players and their communities of interests. Bath should have their won ground by 2015 when the RFU hosts the RWC though they may have to share it with their soccer counterparts but as long as they are the senior shareholder they will prosper under their new owner, Bruce Craig. But that still leaves, Saracens and London Irish without their own ground. Incidentally, Loughborough Colleges alumni will note Bruce, Nik Blofeld and Andy Robinson are all Alumni. After RWC 2011, I’d bet on Robinson coming home to Bath.
PS: Well done Fulham tonight
Derek is working with Colin Herridge on their second (Derek's third) book about Rugby World Cup 2015. They co-wrote Rugby Revolution in 2003 and tipped England to beat Oz in the final!