Thursday, May 24, 2012

Smoking At The Cricket

Cricket is a very civilised game to watch, even when playing Yorkshire. Yesterday I spent the day at Liverpool watching Lancashire play Middlesex. Glorious weather and, after a shaky start, a good batting day for Lancashire. I got chatting to the chap next to me, we then got chatting to the three people in front of us. It's very sociable watching cricket and with games lasting up to four days, from 11-00am to 6-00pm, great friendships can be forged among the spectators.

During the afternoon the chap next to me set off to stretch his legs, it was just coming near to the resumption of play after the tea break. About ten minutes later he came back to the seats carrying five ice creams, one for each of us. Once again I was subject to an act of kindness from a stranger as I had been last week, which I blogged about here. I still don't know the name of my friend the ice cream man, or the other people I spent the day with, but to me the whole day  encapsulated the spirit of cricket.

But then up pops Sky to bring us back to reality. Lord's, the headquarters of cricket, has a very civilised policy which allows smoking in ten percent of the seats. A wonderful policy which treats people like grown ups, if you don't smoke don't go in the smoking areas. Much more civilised than the infantilising and oppressive smoking ban.

But a Sky cameraman  has complained that he copped a whiff of smoke while filming a cricket game. What a great big softy. He should have been taken off the cricket and stuck in a poxy, windowless TV studio filming some bizarre freak show that passes for a television programmee on Sky. Instead Sky has asked the MCC to reconsider the smoking areas at Lord's.

Here comes the next, more sinister part of this situation. Sky pays £100m into cricket each year, and he who pays the piper calls the tune. How long before the MCC tries to bribe its members into voting for a complete smoking ban for fear of losing the Sky money?

One of the reasons I gave up my season ticket for Manchester United in 2005, apart from the Glazers, was that television money had corrupted the game. I only hope that in this relatively small matter the MCC sticks two fingers up at Sky and respects the wishes of its members. Don't sell the soul of cricket the way the soul of football has been sold.

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