Lots of stuff in the media today about encouraging more people to participate in sport. A senior suit from the Royal and Ancient (R&A) golf club says the game needs to encourage more people to play, especially families. A woman from the terminally incurable F1 bore explains how the ‘sport’ needs to be developed and improved, not least increasing viewing figures. And then there’s cricket, where participation numbers are in freefall. They all have one thing in common: these sports are generally confined to pay TV in general and Sky in particular. Has this occurred to the administrators?
My mid-life crisis was golf and it turned out to be not as snobby as I expected. Oh, there is a certain amount of snobbery in some places who look down their noses at people they presumably regard as riff raff walking their fairways, but it’s not as bad as I expected. Granted, some clubs – quite a few actually – charge so much for ordinary folk to play. I’ve watched Carnoustie hold the Open this week. £200 to play a single round. Ouch.
F1 is boring beyond words. Having very few drivers with personalities doesn’t help, but having what has become a dreary procession of cars finishing largely in the order in which they started is not something your average semi-disinterested punter will bother with. We know the boring tax dodger Lewis Hamilton has by far the best car and even if he starts from 14th on the grid, he wins. Like today. Worse still (or maybe better still?), it’s now tucked away on Sky. People don’t talk about F1 these days unless they are petrol heads. Which brings me to cricket.
Your most famous England cricketers are now unknowns. A decade and more of cricket no longer being on terrestrial TV means that England’s best player and the third ranked player in the world is a complete unknown outside his sport. 15 years ago, Joe Root would have been a star, perhaps even a superstar. No more. As I have said before, Root is only recognised by serious cricket fans. More people will recognise the golden oldies like Ian Botham, David Gower and Geoffrey Boycott than the young guns because they appeared on telly.
The money Sky, or rather its subscribers, pay to cover the sports probably comes in handy in terms of toppling up their profits but I fail to see how it benefits potential participants. In fact, my bullshit detector tells me that whenever a suit tells me that all this extra money will go to benefit the sport, I reach for a rather large pinch of salt. And that’s because we were told the same thing about football. The Premier League would change everything. It did. It made rich people richer and less people played the game.
Take sport away from the people and they won’t go looking for it. No amount of bullshit and bluster from Sky will change that.