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Lack of facilities in England is bringing about tbe
Downfall of Sport
by FRANK BIRD
THIS lqst 12 months has told a sorry
tale for the remnants of British sport. The Wallabies started the rot. Then,
later, we had the spectacle of Bradman and his men handing out sackcloth with- out Ashes to a ragged England team. From Wimbledon to Wembley the down- ward path lengthened. And then, of etil things, the Frenchmen made yet another invasion on the English flat racing season to withdraw with the Derby again among their rich'plums. Let's look at the situation with a thought for the past and an eye for the present.
After 12 months in Britain, I am certain that the real reason for the decline of British sport can be labelled: "Facilities-or the lack of them."
Perhaps of all sports in the Old Country none has suffered such loss of face as cricket. Herein lies a strong case for the encouragement of youth in sport. With the exception of such schools as Eton and Harrow, facilities for coaching and fostering schoolboy stars are poor. The concrete wicket-that scheming eccentric that is ever ready to play tricks on the unwitting boy bats- man-is unknown in England.
How pitiful it was to stand in a middle-class area and watch a group of schoolboys in a
needle-like alley attempting to play a form of , cricket with a cardboard box as the yicket, a piece of pinewood as a bat and a tennis ball as the attack. Never did I see throughout Britain a recreation ground where the loose ball could be hit with abandon into seemingly empty grass
I will admit that rationing and war losses have been instrumental' in hastening the deterioration of British sport. But these facts have been far over-emphasised. The star of English cricket has. been waning since World War I. A glance at
One of a number of foreigners
who finished in front of the best English tennis
players at Wimbledon.
statistics reveals that, since the 1920-21 series, Australia has won 29 tests as against England's 15. We have held the Ashes since the 1934 sea-
Climatically, Australia is on the box seat. And, from the point of organised competition, Austra- lia is in advance of England. Beyond the sphere pf county cricket there are no organisa- tions to promote boy cricketers. Broadly, the professionals join their club ground staff at an early age and are coached to fill a gap in the
My Love winning the English Derby of 1948 at Epsom. This was another feather in
county side. Most of the amateurs are drawn from such universities as Oxford and Cambridge in addition to the better class schools.
An echo of their early coaching was the , marked fault of England's batsmen to take the
initiative and to step out to a ball. The tendency was. to play f>ack, steadfastly refusing to make use of the feet. Stroke play was most limited.^ Denis Compton alone showed that he could carry" off a full-blooded drive and hook in the Brad-
Even when a youngster such as the. Lancashire bowler, Hilton, showed ability to get wickets, he was held back on the grounds of his youth. The general opinion was that experience should head ability, and so an M.C.C. team has just tripped to South Africa with eleven of the selected 13 being 30 years of age and over. The folly of this must, in time, become apparent.
AT the Olympic (Austerity) Games British
athletes were never, at any stage, to be con- sidered as potential gold-medallists. Here, of course, fault can well be found with obsolete training methods. The, Americans, Swedes, Danes, Norwegians, French and Australians, who represented the most successful countries, be- lieved in hard work and plenty of it to gain their successes. I understand that the majority of the British team members were not in training until eight weeks before the Games. So many excuses were given that it became, frankly, boring.
A makeshift team which included a coloured sprinter with a tubercular leg was sent into the stadium arena. Four of the British Olympic team .were over 40 years of age. With an absence of any particular champions it would have possibly besn an improvement to have included more 18 .year-olds in the team as bolster for the Olympic Games to be held in Helsinki (Finland) in 1952.
The indoor swimming pools in Great Britain are
badly heated and hardly conducive to producing. . swimmers of world standard. Most pools were
built in the early 1900's and the only one that would have raised an American eyebrow was the Empire Pool at Wembley, where the Olympic swimming titles were decided. " *
With the Games over, this magnificent pool was soon covered with ice in initial preparation for the ice hockey season, and for later use as a skating rink. It will probably remain covered until the Olympic Games are again held in Eng- land. What a stir of public protest took place when it was announced that the pool, out of com- mission as a pool since 1939, would be again used for ice hockey! But the protests fell on deaf
An Expensive Sport
YyiMBLEDON this year could have been Koo-
yong or Long Island. Here again the old story of insufficient facilities outside the Wimble- don courts could be told. Tony Mottram, I think, survived to the quarter finals wheu he fell by the wayside. Tony, a grand sportsman, is 28 years of age so that his big-time tennis days are num- bered. Britain has not produced- a Sedgman or a Falkenburg so that, unless the freak appears* the all-England tennis champions will continue to be foreigners.
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it is certainly too expensive for young tennis players to pay such ridiculous fees for joining clubs with such poor amenities. How can the ordinary youth, fresh from school, afford £5/5/ to join a tennis club, in addition to paying 5/ each time he plays?
World's Worst Courses
yARIOUS reasons have been advanced for the
decline of English racing. The English thoroughbred is still as good is his French or American brother but it takes more than breed- ing to win races.
Truth to tell, English training methods are sub- stantially the same as when Eclipse was racing. The English trainer has little chance to bring out the best in his charge. His first enemy is the weather which is continually interrupting training schedules. But his difficulties extend further than that. Readily comes to mind a morning spent on the windswept Newmarket Downs where timing is comparative and training form of little
relevance to racing results.
English courses are probably among the worst in the world and such venues as Windsor, Good- wood and Lingfield would be a disgrace to an Australian bush meeting. With the exception of bars, public facilities are non-existent, lt is 35/ to obtain a reasonable standing position and the "tin-can" totalisator is universal. The courses on which there'is a complete view of the racing can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
One could continue to labour these obvious,
irrefutable facts, but to little effect. The bonds 1 of tradition have stifled ambitious sporting pro- jects throughout Britain and. until youth steps into the shoes of age. I cannot see Britain as the power in sport that she was some 30 years ago. The truth of the matter is that the rest of the world, has caught her in her stride and, in most cases, has passed her. And this is despite war.