Old School Tie, David Conn, Guardian, 8/07/09

A useful piece by David Conn in the Guardian shows how English cricket is still rooted in the public school mentality of the past two centuries. Seven of the current English Ashes squad can boast ‘independent school status’ and the attempts of the ECB to widen the appeal of cricket are far from certain to succeed.  Conn cites Graham Able, a trustee of the cricket Foundation, who as Master of Dulwich College in South London, can boast eight full grass cricket fields which is two more than  exist for the whole borough of Southwark where only one state school can offer a grass cricket field for its students. This pattern is repeated across the country where under successive Tory and Labour Governments, schools have been allowed to sell off their playing fields in order to finance the small matter of their educational activities. Conn elaborates, ‘In 2009, cricket, the sport with deep upper class traditions which gave us separate changing rooms for amateur ‘gentlemen’ and professional ‘players’, still illustrates Britain’s monumental class divide, between the lavish fields owned by public schools and the comparative threadbare landscape in which 93% of people are educated.’


The ECB does have a grassroots cricket programme, ‘Chance To Shine’ which is amply funded by the ECB’s controversial decision to take cricket off the terrestrial stations and into the golden hands of Sky Sports. And according to Pete Ackerley, the ECB’s head of development, the numbers of youngsters playing cricket is substantially up. Ackerley argues, ‘We feel the programme is bearing fruit. It doesn’t directly depend on how the England Team performs - the biggest rise in participation we had was in 2007 when England were whitewashed. We’ve registered a 27% increase.’ The question is, with cricket now invisible to terrestrial viewers, can cricket break through the centuries of class elitism and root itself in mainstream Britain or will it remain essentially the preserve of the Public School privileged few? Of course cricket is not alone in this respect. A quick tour around London’s tennis clubs and it immediately becomes apparent that they are anything but representative of London’s ethnic and class demography. Until that changes England’s respective standing in these sports will remain less than flattering.


End JPK 8/07/09 

Last Updated ( Monday, 29 October 2012 12:25 )

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