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A sporting conundrum

There’s one thing I’d wish to assure regular Rusters who might be labouring under a misapprehension on the point – and that is that we don’t just sit around all day in our ‘virtual editorial offices’ actively trying to dream up new subjects upon which to begin serial debates or campaigns.

On the contrary, the truth is that almost all our “long runners” are product of straightforward observation and/or our perspectives which – given where we started from and the ‘tempus fugit’ factor – just happen to come with what we’d defend as the benefits of experience and/or wisdom.

If on occasions any of us seem to be exhibiting loony-right, quasi-Rees-Mogg tendencies  it is just as likely to be caused by the truism that – whilst evolution and ‘progress’ is constant and inevitable, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all of it is good – as it is by the fact that most Friday evenings we are most likely to be found nursing pints of ale in the Frog & Bucket public house whilst worshipping a statue of Ghengis Khan.

Most of yesterday afternoon I happened to spend – after a cracking family roast beef lunch with all the trimmings (including in my case the best part of a bottle of vintage claret) – sitting with others in my drawing-room in front of a splendid wood-burning open fire and watching both Six Nations matches on television.

I have to be honest and state that rugby union has never been one of my obsessions.

Nevertheless, it is undeniable that the Six Nation tournament generates a surrounding atmosphere and ‘energy’, both in prospect and in the actualité, that many other sports would die for – and here I’d cite golf, tennis, athletics [all ‘individual’ sports, you’ll notice] but even team games such as yes – football – and, of course, the rugby union’s poor relation (rugby league).

Football, the biggest game on the planet, out-punches rugby union perhaps thirty-fold in terms of commercial revenues and numbers of fans. But, passionate as they may be, football fans are far more tribal that their rugby counterparts.

Whenever and wherever I’ve attended a Six Nations match I have been struck by the easy camaraderie between the rival supporters and the general sense that everyone is there for the ‘craic’.

It is almost as if the game itself is a welcome incidental that can be great if it turns into a classic, but then again – should it present as a ‘dud’ on the day – that would be but a minor blip on the radar of a project that is always the excuse for a night, or even weekend, ‘on the town’.

I’m afraid to record that – after the Murrayfield match yesterday which kicked off at 4.45pm and resulted in a 6-13 victory for England over Scotland, just to get the facts out there – for me, and I suspect the tens of thousands of fans wandering the streets of Edinburgh last night into the wee hours, the beer and the partying will be the only fond memory of the contest in times to come.

To be frank, for this punter in front of the television screen, it turned out to be a dull, uninspiring bore-fest.

As anyone who watched the game – or has since seen the highlights or the newspaper match reports – will be acutely aware, the primary reason for this was the weather.

In my experience Edinburgh is always wet at this time of year but most particularly windy and bitterly cold, but yesterday was suffering on top from the effects of Storm Ciara that hit landfall in the British Isles yesterday.

The truth of the impact of Nature’s worst was confessed by England’s substitute scrum half on the day – Ben Youngs – who in his after-match on-pitch interview cheerfully admitted “We knew it was going to be the kind of game in which we’d be better off playing without the ball …”, a statement that both explained the horrendous bouts of kick-tennis to which both sides resorted far too often for my liking and also exposed the ‘deceit’ that some sports inflict upon their spectators.

Which is that – well before the game, given the weather forecast – in the interests of winning (or was it “not losing”?), both teams had adopted tactics that, whilst they have might be appropriate in the weather circumstances in terms of the leader-board as it will stand by tonight, were by definition going to provide the 65,000 paying spectators in the ground – and the watching millions at home – with an instantly forgettable and thoroughly disappointing viewing experience.

Is that obtaining pecuniary advantage via “false pretences” – or just a case of a shrug of the collective shoulders by all concerned and a sigh-accompanied “sometimes it happens …”?

As I retired to bed last night, I had the thought that this could be another Rust debate controversy to be usefully let down the slipway.

In 2020 is it not the case that all such matches should be played stadia with custom-built roofs, so that – come wind, rain, shine or pestilence – at least those attending in person and/or watching around the globe on television get to watch proper full-on contest played in ‘perfect’ conditions.

Surely in the 21st Century, with all the technological and engineering might we now have at our disposal, this would be better that e.g. potentially – depending upon what Nature is throwing at us on any given day – we might as well have been watching a bunch of overweight halfwits fooling around on one of the eighty muddy pitches marked out on Hackney Marshes in the sort of conditions that would make rhino think twice about going out, still less a man and his dog?



About Tom Hollingworth

Tom Hollingsworth is a former deputy sports editor of the Daily Express. For many years he worked in a sports agency, representing mainly football players and motor racing drivers. Tom holds a private pilot’s licence and flying is his principal recreation. More Posts