March 11 2014 Latest news:
Monday, July 16, 2012
“45 mins from Newport Pagnell to circuit car park; 5hrs better than yesterday”
It was like a Mayday warning, a distress call from a colleague who had suffered in the name of journalism as he attempted to make his way from his base (bed for the night) to Silverstone, home of the British Grand Prix.
Problem was, the English weather struck again. Fans – and they descend on Silverstone in huge numbers – were stuck in the paddy fields that double for car parks at the circuit. What happens when you get a hitch at the top end of the queue is that it filters all the way down, slowing traffic at each step, so that those at the back simply don’t move.
We’ve all been on a motorway and wondered why a queue of traffic has suddenly disappeared with no discernible signs of what caused it in the first place: it can be one slow driver who, inadvertently, is causing the logjam.
At Silverstone it was the rain – and the fact that whoever organises one of the biggest dates in the British sporting calendar forgot that it does tend to rain quite a lot in this country.
That slight oversight causes untold problems and it’s usually the people who have paid for tickets and the cost of travel and maybe taken time off work who are worse off.
Telling 30,000 people who were perfectly entitled to turn up to watch the qualifying that they shouldn’t bother to turn up on Saturday is simply unacceptable. Isn’t the obvious solution not to have fields, but to make them solid surface – I hate to say it, but turn the fields into tarmac.
The circuit has made changes – road access is better than it used to be, the track has been improved along with the pits and paddock but, apparently, they still need investment to develop and improve further.
I can’t be sure, because I have never paid to have a driveway covered in tarmac, but I’d say it wouldn’t break the bank, although the cost would be nothing compared to that of losing the support of fans who might just say, “you know what? Forget the Grand Prix this year. Let’s have a holiday instead”.
Shame is, it’s not only Silverstone: music festivals wouldn’t be the same without a field of mud set aside for the TV cameras to film “avid music fans going to any lengths” etc etc.
At least Wimbledon finally succumbed to modernisation and put a roof on Centre Court. It served – pun intended – them well over the fortnight, although I’ll bet there are many who believe it tinkers with history, like putting tarmac on a Northamptonshire field or putting a microchip inside a football to solve one of the game’s most solvable problems.
Without the roof, the men’s final may have spilled over to Monday, which wouldn’t have pleased some of those fans who had turned up to watch, either inside or outside Centre Court on the correct day.
If Wimbledon can embrace something as modern and technologically advanced as a roof, then Formula One can lay a car park.
It is all about the fans and those fans must be looked after. It isn’t rocket science, but it does seem to take an awful long time for some sporting bodies to realise that without the supporters they are nothing. Take away everyone inside a football ground and the sponsors will lose interest, the money will go, the sportsmen and women won’t get paid and the sport will cease to exist.
There is competition for the money in the sport fan’s pocket. Look after the fans a little bit better and you will get your bit of it. Fail them and not only do people laugh at you, but they keep their money in the aforementioned pocket.
• IT’S NOT COMPULSORY TO SUPPORT ANDY
Not sure I have ever witnessed one man split one section of the sporting community in the way that Andy Murray does.
The arguments that flew back and forth over whether we should lend our support to a Briton or take it away from a Scotsman ranged from laughable to insulting.
Lending your support is personal: no one can tell you the support is wrong or misguided. It is about whether you like him or not.
Patriotism appeared to be at the root of the argument, although I never realised your choice had to be made on patriotic grounds. If Roger Federer had been up against Rafa Nadal, patriotism wouldn’t have played a part for many, but they would still have been entitled to pick one as their favourite.
Is it wrong not to be patriotic? I don’t feel particularly patriotic – I’d like England to win things, but I feel a little less partisan when it comes to lending my support to a Great Britain team or representative. I don’t stand for the National Anthem, but it doesn’t make me anti-Royalist. It makes me ambivalent which, the last time I looked, was not treason.
I only want GB to do well in the Olympics because it’s the next best thing to an England team – much like Murray. I’d liked to have seen him win, but it didn’t bother me too much that he didn’t. Had he been English I’d have felt differently.
However, I still reserve the right not to support an English man or woman in a sporting contest. I would prefer to be allowed to support the one I like, not the ones that I am ‘supposed’ to support. In my mind, the patriotic support is enforced. I prefer a choice.
It’s a little like the argument that you ought to support your local football team. Why? There is nothing wrong with supporting the team you prefer, rather than having one foisted on to you. Anyway, why should the people of Manchester have a monopoly on success?
Support who you like, and hope that your choice is respected.
• £80 IS A LOT OF PENNY SPENDING
I see Port Vale players have been reported to the police for having a wee in some bushes near their training ground. That’s an on-the-spot £80 fine, although that perhaps doesn’t cover the cost of the upset it can cause young families if they spot the miscreants as they walk through Hanley Central Forest Park. If a football club chooses to train in a public place they should ensure they have the correct facilities – no excuses. Unlike local league footballers, many of whom will have been caught short at the most inopportune time. I recall playing for Tydd St Giles – way out in the Fens – many moons ago. There was sometimes a rush when the ball went out of play and rolled into a particularly large drain nearby – you could jump in if it was dry, spend a penny and no one was any the wiser.
• ANOTHER MESS FOR TEAM GB
I do like the way the GB football team stumbles from one little crisis to another. Having made a shambles of David Beckham’s omission (where’s the PR machine when you need it?), manager Stuart Pearce has decided to name Ryan Giggs as his captain. The same Ryan Giggs who had a love affair with his brother’s wife. A similar effort by John Terry cost him the England team captaincy. Honestly, what was Pearce thinking of?
• MISSED CHANCE FOR GOOD CAUSE
Slightly disappointed to make a wasted trip to the Charity Lakes at Lenwade for my first fishing session of the summer. On arrival at the picturesque venue, my way was blocked by a large metal gate with a hefty padlock and chain. The sign made it clear that day tickets were no longer an option – it was now a season ticket fishery. I fish only occasionally and would probably go to the Charity Lakes once or twice a season. The minimum cost of membership for me is £185. It isn’t going to happen, which is a shame – because I’d like to do my bit for charity.