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Change is always gonna come

Reflecting upon my sports-watching over the weekend, together with reviewing other developments, it occurred to me that we are currently in an era of great and far-reaching changes right across the spectrum of elite sport and – sitting on the sidelines as most of us do – we may as well prepare for some overturning of previously-cherished shibboleths and indeed the unexpected.

NEW ENTRANTS AND THE FORCES OF CHANGE

Here I just wish to mention two – the world of E-Sport (as I think it is called) and the influences of commercial reality.

I would guess that, like me, many Rusters have watched the development of both social media and video games over the past quarter of a century with a certain detached bemusement combined with – depending upon their personal facility with and/or interest in new technologies – a degree of wonderment at the opportunities they bring.

Now here’s the thing. I began by regarding the world of video games and E-sports as nothing more than the preserve of poorly-socialised spotty adolescents spending hours tucked away in their bedrooms as some sort of rebellion against everything their parents and other oldies stood for (nothing new about that!) – that is, when they weren’t watching porn and/or sniffing dodgy substances.

Recently, however, I’ve been impressed by the sheer scale of the pastime in its widest sense.

There have been tales in the media about the rise of E-sports – are they going to be admitted to the Olympics, there are podcasts played out on Radio Five Live on the subject of video-gaming, and there was worldwide publicity of the Grand Final of the game called Fortnite a couple of weeks ago from which some Brit teenager – with a co-player from another country – walked away with about a cool £1 million in prize-money.

I read or heard somewhere about the fact that the world of video-gaming – in terms of turnover and quite possibly profit as well – has overtaken the movie industry. If true, that ought to make anyone with half a brain sit up and take notice on its own.

I also understand that several Premier League and other football clubs have signed up their own promising exponents of some ‘football manager’ game. I haven’t a clue why or what for, but you can bet your bottom dollar that it’s somehow connected with the marketing and commercial growth of their brand.

Over the weekend I alighted on a Sky Sports channel that was featuring (as far as I could tell) some sort of FIFA World Cup played on a computer by geeks who travel the world playing the particular ‘game’ for a living.

The ‘action’ consisted of cameras trained upon the ‘players’ clicking away on their video controls, combined with coverage of the moves on the pitch that their teams were making in response.

It was akin to watching a soccer international or Premier League game played in double-quick time. The passing and tackling was most realistic. It wasn’t the sort of thing I’d watch all afternoon, but I stayed with it for half an hour and – rightly or wrongly – I felt I was beginning to understand what all the fuss was about.

It brings you back to our old chestnut – “being there” or watching from home.

The Edgbaston Ashes cricket match looks pretty much sold out and so did some of the Championship football matches I took in recently.

But then, apparently, there were also north of 200 million people around the world watching both the recent Fortnite and FIFA World Cup e-game championships.

There was also a BBC News report yesterday on a UK university which has become the first to offer a degree in video-gaming.

Who knows, maybe some of this whizzo kid computer game-playing geeks may one day become the elite “Top Gun”-style fighter pilots in future E-wars fought out by nations via computer around the world (instead of the real thing)?

Separately, two other developments to register.

Firstly, Amazon is beginning a push to get into football rights. When an organisation that wealthy gets involved in something, again you can be sure the “comfortable existing world of sports TV rights’ (or anything else for that matter) is going to get severely disrupted whether it likes it or not.

Secondly, here’s a report by John Reynolds upon the phenomenon of a new sports website with megabucks behind it that is allegedly creating havoc in the world of football and other sports journalism by going round ‘buying up’ the best sports journos on the market, as appears today on the website of the – IRISH TIMES

Fortunately, due to the outstanding remuneration packages that the Rust provides for its contributors, we have yet to have anyone poached from our roster. [Message to the editor of The Athletic: I can be contacted via both my Facebook and Instagram accounts…]

As I was trying to say: stay tuned and watch this space. As sure as eggs are eggs, we ain’t seen nothing yet …

THE EDGBASTON ASHES TEST MATCH

I have thoroughly enjoyed the TV coverage of the first Ashes Test.

Not being a particular fan of one day cricket myself, I nevertheless accept that the world constantly moves on and therefore Test cricket must look to its laurels and react – or risk gradually fading away.

These past four days have provided absorbing entertainment as the fortunes of the teams have ebbed and flowed. I don’t wish to be unfair to the world of women’s sport but trying to build the recent women’s supposed Ashes series up – via the inevitable PC-required blanket TV and media coverage – to be in any way similar to its male equivalent was doing both of them an injustice: there’s just no comparison at all.

Watching the England and Australian men battling away at Edgbaston, giving no quarter and expecting none, has been compelling fare. At one and the same time it is carried on in the tradition of history and past glories – and yet, in another, it is absolutely ‘in the moment’ and thereby creating new Ashes history day-by-day.

Whatever the result transpires today – even if it be just a gusty, backs-to-the-wall, England hold out for a draw – this has been a most-welcome reboot of the rivalry over the little urn.

 

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