Friday, November 13, 2009

The ECB Leading The ECB

For Giles Clarke, the chairman of the ECB who's been whingeing all day that not being able to sell TV rights to the Ashes to Rupert Murdoch would destroy grassroots cricket, a parable.

Younger readers may not be aware that back in 2003 the England rugby team won the World Cup (that's right kids, there was a time when the England team was vaguely selected on merit and not entirely on the basis of who sounds cool right now and happens to play for Wasps, Quins, Bath or Leicester...) The team came back to enormous celebrations and two weeks later many of the squad were back in action in the first round of pool matches in that year's Heineken Cup.

Except that some genius had decided that, after a number of years on the BBC, that year the Heineken Cup would move to Sky. Just at the moment that live coverage of club rugby at the highest level could have paid real dividends, brought more youngsters into the game, it wasn't there. It may be the worst mistake rugby union has ever made in the professional era (and given that both the RFU and WRU exist, that's saying something...)

So Giles, when you pontificate about the dangers of grassroots cricket losing money, remember that the purpose of grassroots cricket is people. Remember that cricket, glorious and wonderful game though it is, has no God-given right to cultural recognition (and if you need proof of that, compare the celebrations in 2005 when everyone saw the matches to the celebrations in 2009 when no-one did)

And ultimately, remember how many young people might never see good quality cricket if it isn't on TV and free-to-air. Yes, the money's tempting and yes, you'll never have any trouble thinking of ways to spend it. But if the people aren't there and if you by your actions have helped that to happen, you're guilty of gross incompetence and should be dealt with accordingly.

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