Anyone for Tennis?

You can’t help to have noticed that it’s Wimbledon fortnight. Everyone is talking about it, as well as the Women’s Football World Cup of course. Interestingly the Cricket World Cup is also taking place right now, but with much less public interest. It all comes down to two great British obsessions, television and social class.

Wimbledon is on everyone’s mind because everyone can watch it. It’s available free to air on the BBC so we can all watch it in the comfort of our own homes. Same goes for the Women’s World Cup. But the Cricket World Cup is only available live to Sky Sports subscribers, hence the fact that it struggles to register in the national consciousness.

It seems that the Sky audience for some of England’s Cricket World Cup games may have been as low as 500,000. Contrast that with the estimated 10 million plus viewers who watched England’s women footballers in their semi final clash with the USA on the BBC.

The bosses of English cricket could, I would argue should, have taken a home World Cup as an opportunity to showcase the game and increase the numbers who both play and watch cricket. Instead they decided to take the big cheque offered by Sky. That decision may well swell the coffers in the short term, but in the long term it is likely to result in a whole generation of potential spectators being lost to the game.

The LTA, the governing body of UK Tennis, also deserves a kick up the backside. Despite having a role model in Andy Murray, the number of people playing tennis in this country is actually in decline.

Tennis is still struggling to move away from the traditional image of a game for wealthy people from the Home Counties. The irony is of course is the fact that the only two British males to have won a Wimbledon Singles Title in the past hundred years are Fred Perry and Andy Murray. A working class lad from Stockport and state school educated Scot who got most of his tennis tuition in Spain.

The Wimbledon establishment never really liked Perry, regarding him as not officer class. If a posh boy like Tim Henman had had Murray’s success then I suspect the LTA may have treated him differently.

As it is, Tennis in Britain is simply too expensive for many people. Contrast that with the USA where the Williams sisters were able to develop their skills by playing free in public parks of Compton, Los Angeles.

Access to play and watch sports like tennis and cricket should be available to all, not just those who have rich parents or a Sky subscription.

ends

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