Friday, February 26, 2010

Clear Blue Water

The Tories have come out against listing the Ashes as a protected 'free to air' sporting event.

To be honest, you'd hardly expect them to do anything else now they've kissed and made up with Rupert Murdoch. Note - the kissing was very much one way, and it wasn't simply a kiss on the lips...

But I'd question some of the figures that are being bandied around - like the ECB could lose up to 75% of their revenue if they don't get Sky's TV money. That seems to assume that no one else bids for any of the TV rights and they are given to a terrestrial channel free-of-charge, which is a ludicrous assumption. It also assumes they can't come up with some sort of deal of the kind I outlined here.

I'd guess that much of the ECB outrage is prompted by the fact that a lot of the Sky money goes to support the cushy lifestyles of their senior honchos, and having to live on reduced rations - flying economy class perhaps, might be rather a shock to the system.

Then there's the issue of what the counties actually do with the money they get given by the ECB. Steve James actually argues in favour of Sky keeping the Ashes here, but does make some excellent points about how the counties waste the money they get from the ECB -

They talk about grassroots cricket when in fact they are thinking just as much of the counties, those 18 bodies full of anachronism, self-interest and conservatism.

Too many decisions made now are downright myopic.

'You just want to be on the side that's winning...'

When The Sun switched from backing Labour to supporting Cameron and the Tories, the Conservative lead in the opinion polls was 17%. Since then it's gone down almost every month, so now it's around 5% and falling

Can we expect them to switch back to Labour just before polling day? :-)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Question Time

Want to ask Andrew Strauss a question? Here's your chance.

All rather tenuous, but a mate of mine is Advertising Manager for a publication who ran a sponsorship campaign last summer featuring the England skipper. As part of the deal, a journalist for the publication gets to interview Strauss. She knows next to nothing about the great game, and has therefore asked for help.

I've got my own ideas, but am happy to pass on any that get posted here for consideration - within reason!

So ask away.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Rebel Rebel

If you see the score 'Chiefs 72 Lions 65' what sport do you think of - College Basketball perhaps? Wrong! It was actually an extraordinary game last night in the Super 14 Rugby tournament - Waikato Chiefs and the Johannesburg Lions.

Super 14 is one of the great under appreciated delights of the rugby season. At least three live games every weekend, and a chance to watch the best players in the Southern Hemisphere week in week out. The club, or regional, aspect actually means it's better value that the Tri-Nations in my opinion.

It's quite sobering to watch a Super 14 game back-to-back with a Premiership one. Not quite two different sports, but certain one seemingly more further along the evolutionary spectrum than the other.

One illustration - on at least ten occasions in the two Six Nations games England have played, Danny Care has paused before delivering the ball back from the base of the ruck - sometimes for up to ten seconds whilst Jonny Wilkinson readies himself, ties his bootlace and checks his hair or whatever it is he does. In the four Super 14 games I've watched so far, that's happened twice - in total. Oddly, Care does it much less for Harlequins, but then his fly half is an All Black international...

Without going into any deep technical analysis, and acknowledging that I'm by no means a rugby expert, all I can say is that Super 14 is just quicker, but quicker in such a way that defensive aggression is not diluted - apart from maybe in last night's lunatic point-fest.

Danny Cipriani's decision to try his luck in the Super 14 next season, therefore, is inspired - at least from an England point of view. It deserves a better reaction from Martin Johnson than a rather sullen 'he won't get picked for England then' type of response. Then again, apart from a fleeting five minutes in Sydney in November 2003, Johnson's default setting has always been rather humourless.

Consider that Cipriani will be earning less in Melbourne than he could by staying in the Premiership - he's also deliberately removing himself from England contention in the short term, with the view to coming back in two years time as very much the finished article - tested against the best players in the world.

For someone supposedly self-centred and immature, that's an incredibly sensible and forward thinking decision.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sky Unlimited

Here's a humble suggestion -

The ECB are having kittens at the possibility of Ashes Tests being broadcast on free-to-air channels and the consequent loss of Sky's multi million pound payout.

Why don't they come to an agreement with Sky whereby they give them the test match contract for the next five years for whatever Sky are prepared to bid for it on the understanding that Sky agree to show the home Ashes Tests in 2013 via a 'free' channel - it can't be that much of a technical stretch to arrange on Freeview can it?

They can keep the highlights on the normal Sky Sports channels, and can continue to carry advertising during the live coverage. Better still, they could probably charge a premium for the advertising slots, knowing that the coverage will be seen by a larger audience than the usual million or so who currently watch Sky's test coverage.

I have to confess that I haven't totally thought this through, so there may well be an obvious glitch to the idea, but there doesn't appear to be a downside. Everyone wins -
  • Sky keep their test coverage
  • ECB still get Sky's money
  • Viewers get to watch Ashes cricket
  • Advertisers reach a bigger audience
Feel free to point out the hole in the idea if you can think of it!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Intimidation Factor

A timely juxtaposition of stories this morning: -

Amjal Shahzad tells the Grauniad that he asked Allan Donald about how to intimidate batsmen.

Brett Lee announces that his test career is most likely over.

Shazad certainly doesn't lack for self-confidence - 'I am bubbly, aggressive and I'm in your face, and I want to be able to intimidate people. I know it's hard against the world's best but how do I do that?' but you'd like to think that a young, uncapped quick bowler, given some valuable coaching time with one of the best quick bowlers ever to play the game, would have the nous to ask about something slightly more worthwhile than 'intimidation'.

All you need to do, and hopefully all that Donald told him, is bowl fast, straight, move it a bit and drop the odd one in short aimed at the batsman's throat.

That's all Brett Lee did.

Personality wise, and in terms of how he acted on the field, there was nothing particularly intimidating about Brett Lee - he seems to be generally regarded as one of the nicest men ever to play the game. If anything, you could argue that his on-field demeanour wasn't intimidating enough for some Aussie tastes.

Yet in 75 tests, he took 310 wickets. That puts him in the top 30 of all time, fourth in the list of Australian wicket takers, and above all but two Englishmen.

(Headline to follow)

Sometimes the hardest part of a blog writing is coming up with a headline.

You can have the idea in a flash, quickly type out the hundred words or so of nonsense that passes for the post - then spend inordinate amounts of time trying to come up with some witty pun or song title that, as a headline, encapsulates the article you've just written.

Maybe I should just take a leaf out of The Sun's book, and get a chimpanzee to do it for me: -

'Rootiful - Two goal Roo polishes 'em off'

'San Siroo'

'You know that you've Rooined my big night, Wayne'

'Roo two - nearly through'

All of those in today's issue.