England: the mother of modern sport


1. Sport is stitched into the English social DNA

2. The organisation of sport

3. International  Sport

4. Cricket – the first modern game

5. Football – the world game

6. The amateur and the professional

7. The importance of sport

8. Why was England in the sporting  vanguard?

9. English sport is a mirror of English society

10. The political dimension

Robert Henderson

1. Sport is stitched into the English social DNA

“We [the Coca Cola Championship] are the fourth best supported division in  Europe  with  nearly  10  million  fans  last  season,   after  the Premiership  [12.88 million],  Bundesliga [11.57 million] and  La  Liga [10.92].  We are ahead of Seria A.”   Lord Mahwinny,  Chairman  of  the Football League – Daily Telegraph 28 7 2005.

The English have  a most tremendous sporting culture.  By that I do not mean that England is always winning everything at the national level  – although  they  do far better than is generally realised –  but  rather that the interest in sport is exceptionally deep and wide. As the quote from Mahwinny shows,  not only is the top division of English  football(the Premiership)  the most watched in Europe,   the second    division (the  Coca Cola Championship) attracts  more spectators than   all  but two of the top divisions  in Europe,  beating even the top division  of that supposed bastion of football Italy.

The  colossal   support   for  football in  England  is  all  the  more extraordinary  because the country has so many other  sports  seriously competing  for  spectators,   arguably more  than   any  other  country because  England  competes at a serious level in almost all  the  major international   sports  – basketball, handball, volleyball and   and  alpine  sports   are    the exceptions.  This all round sporting participation resulted in  England in the early 1990s coming within touching distance of becoming    world champions in football,  rugby and cricket. In 1990 England  lost in the semi-finals  on  penalties   to Germany in the football World  Cup;  in 1991 they lost the final of the Rugby World Cup and in 1992  they  lost in  the  final  the  Cricket World Cup.  No  other  country,  not  even Australia, could have shown as strongly in all three sports. The  intense English interest in sport at club level is carried through to  the national sides.   England’s rugby,  cricket and football  teams have  immense  support wherever they go,  whether it be  the  amazingly loyal   England  football  supporters or  cricket’s   Barmy  Army,  the special quality of their support is  recognised by foreigners:  “German fans  want to be like the English fans.  They want to be 100  per  cent for  their team,  for their land.” (German supporter at World Cup  2006 – Daily Telegraph 6 7 2006)

This wonderful English  attachment to  sport  is not so strange when it is  remembered  that  most important international sports  were  either created by the English or the English  had a large hand in establishing them as international sports.   In addition,    other important  sports are  plausibly derived from English games,  most notably  American  and Australian  Rules  football from rugby,   baseball  from  rounders  and basketball  from netball.  In fact,  all the major team games in  their modern forms  originated in Anglo-Saxon countries:  cricket,  football, rugby  union,  rugby  league,  American  football,   Australian  rules, baseball,  basketball,  ice hockey,  hockey.   Even the modern  Olympic games  were  inspired  by the Englishman   Dr  William  Penny  Brookes’ “Olympic Games” at Much Wenlock in Shropshire which he founded in 1850.

A visit to the Wenlock gave the founder of the modern Olympic movement, Baron Pierre de Coubertin,  his idea for reviving the Olympic Games  in Athens.  Brookes was a tireless advocate of such a revival  himself and only  died in 1894 shortly before  the first modern Olympic  games  was held  in  1896.   On  the 100th anniversary  of  his  death,  the  then president  of  the  International  Olympic  Committee,   Juan   Antonio Samaranch   laid a wreath on Brookes’  grave with the words “I come  to pay homage and tribute to Dr Brooks, who really was the founder of  the modern Olympic games.” (Bridgnorth Information).    It would not be too much  of  an  exaggeration  to say that  the  English  invented  modern spectator sport.

Of  the  games directly created,   to the one game which  deserves  the title of a world sport – football – the English may add  cricket, rugby (both codes),  snooker, hockey, lawn tennis, badminton,  squash,  table tennis   and  snooker,  Those who  yawn  at the likes of hockey,  table tennis  and squash should reflect on the fact  that sports vary greatly in   popularity  from  country  to  country.   Hockey  is  the   Indian Subcontinent’s second game:  squash,  badminton and table tennis are to the  fore  throughout  Asia,   while  snooker  is  rapidly  growing  in popularity in the Far East.

2. The organisation of sport

The difference between sports  before the modern era  and those  in the modern  era   is  that the pre-modern sports   were  not  organised  or standardised. In  pre-modern times sports lacked both a standard set of rules  and  governing bodies to enforce the common rules.  The  English changed all that and they began the process  very early,  most  notably in  cricket where a governing body, the MCC,  and a generally  accepted set  of  rules (known as laws) were established before the end  of  the 18th  century.   Some  of major sports  where England  had  the  first national association and  established the first generally accepted  set of  rules are:

Association  Football   –  Football Association  formed  in   1863,  FA established the laws of the game

Cricket – First published Laws 1744, MCC formed 1787

Hockey  –  1883  standard set of rules  published  by  Wimbledon  Club,

Hockey Association founded 1886

Lawn  Tennis – Wimbledon championships established 1877 with first  set of rules resembling the game as it is now

Rugby Union – 1871 The Rugby Union formed and the  first laws published

The  dominance  of  England as a creator and  organiser  of  sports  is further illustrated by  the existence of  iconic  sporting   venues such as Lords (cricket),  Wembley (football),  Twickenham (Rugby Union) and Wimbledon (tennis),  all of which have a resonance that   stretches far beyond  England.

3. International  Sport

Anyone who wonders why the four home nations  (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland),  are allowed to play as separate teams  in major sports  such  as  football  and   rugby   even  though  they  are   not independent  countries need wonder no longer.  The answer is  that  the four home nations were the four original international players in these sports.

The  Rugby Union arranged the first international rugby  match  between England  and Scotland in 1871, while the  first football  international between England and Scotland kicked off in  1872.

Further afield  cricket led the way.   The first international  cricket tour  was   in  1859 when a team of Englishmen  toured  North  America. Further tours took place to Australia in the 1860s and 1870s.  What was later  recognised  as the first cricket Test match was  played  between England an Australia in Australia 1877. The first Test match in England was played between England and Australia in 1880 at the Oval.

Of  course it was not only formal efforts which spread English  sports. Everywhere  the  English went they took their games with them.  In  the time  of  the  Empire  and  Britain’s  dominance  as  an  economic  and political power this meant almost the entire world.  Most of the  world was eager to adopt at  least some English sports.  Indeed,  of the many cultural  things  England have exported,  sports  have a good claim  to be the most eagerly received.  The games which England invented did not need to be forced upon others. The opposite was often the case.  Within the   Empire  complaints  were  not  frequently  made  by  the   native populations that they were excluded from participation in games such as football and cricket.

4. Cricket – the first modern game

Cricket  was the first team game to be a great spectator sport,  indeed one might argue that it was the first great spectator game of any  sort as  opposed to a sport such as horse-racing,  running,  boxing  or  the more  disreputable pursuits of cock and dog fighting and bear  baiting.

Cricket  might also reasonably claim  to have inaugurated the  idea  of international  sport with the first cricket tour to  North  America  in 1859 – see above.

The game is very old.  It can be dated certainly  from the 16th century, but as a pursuit it is reasonable to assume it was much older –  before the  age of printing little was recorded about any subject.  There  are some  intriguing  references  in old manuscripts  which  may  refer  to cricket,  for example, an entry in the wardrobe accounts of Edward I in 1300 which records a payment for the Kings sons playing  at “Creag”  (H S Altham p20 A History of Cricket Vol I).

The  game probably became more than simply  a rustic or boys’   pursuit towards  the end of the 17th  century. The gentry took it up  –  George III’s father,  Frederick, was a very keen player and actually died from an  abscess  caused  by being hit by a cricket ball –  and  teams  were raised  by   great  aristocrats such as the Duke of  Dorset,  Such  men effectively created the first cricketing professionals by employing the best  players  on  their estates,  ostensibly to  do  other  jobs,  but primarily  to ensure they played cricket for a particular team.  Partly because  of  this  and partly because the game grew  out  of  a   still overwhelmingly rural England with its much closer relationship  between the classes than later existed,  English  cricket was always a socially inclusive    game,   with  dukes  literally   rubbing  shoulders   with ploughmen.

The game was early organised. Sides representing counties such as Kent, Hampshire and Sussex were competing with each other by  the first  half of the 18th century.   Teams  called All-England, England or the Rest of England were also  got up to play either a strong county or,  in the second half  of the  century,  the Hambledon Club,  a club based in  a  tiny  Hampshire village.   Hambledon were surprising modern in their  thinking,  having built  the  18th  century  equivalent of the  team  coach  –   a  great pantechnicon  –  to   transport  the team and  its  followers  to  away matches.

During  its  first  century  or so as a  spectator  sport  cricket  was bedevilled by betting.  Important matches  were played  for very  large purses,  sometimes more than a thousand pounds,   a fortune in the 18th century.  Even more insidious was individual betting on results or  the performances  of  individual players within the game –  the  nature  of cricket absolutely lends itself to the latter.   But although the  game was always under suspicion of foul play, much as horse racing is today, betting must have increased interest in the game.

With  the  coming  of  the  railways  cricket  moved  into  the  modern professional  era with the formation of the All-England Eleven and  its imitators  such as the United South of England Eleven.   These  touring professional   sides   took  cricket  around   England  and  laid   the foundation  for  the modern county game.   During the same  period  the county  clubs as we know them today began to be  formally  established, with Surrey dating from 1845.   By the 1870s the work of the travelling professional sides was done and county  cricket became the mainstay  of English cricket.

H.S.Altham  entitled  a  chapter in his  History  of  Cricket  somewhat blasphemously  as the Coming of W.G.Grace.  This was not hyperbole.  In the  high  Victorian age two people were known as the  GOM  (Grand  Old Man). The first was Gladstone, the second was Grace. It is a moot point who  was  the better known.  It is no moot point who  was  the  greater celebrity: W.G. won hands down.

Grace was the first great popular games playing  hero.  His first class career lasted an amazing 43 years (1865-1908).  He made his first class debut at the age of 15.   His Test career began in 1880 with a score of 152.  He played his last Test at the age of 50 in 1899.   At the age of 47  (1995)  he scored a thousand runs in May,  the first man to  do  so (only five other men have ever managed it).

About  the  only two organisational  things seen in modern  team  sport which  cricket did not invent are  cup competitions and leagues  –  the honour for doing so rests with football,  although an unofficial county championship existed before the formation of the Football League.

5. Football – the world game

Football  is  the  nearest there is to  a world game.  There  are  easy reasons for this. At its most basic football  is a game  which requires the  most  rudimentary  of equipment,  a ball.  Its  rules  are  simple compared with those of other  games such as rugby or cricket.   But  it is  more  than  that.  Football is also the game  which  arguably  best combines  pure  athleticism  with the felicity  of  human  thought  and movement to which we give too often the bone-achingly dull  description “hand/eye coordination.”

Football  was  in a state of flux until the middle  of  the  nineteenth century.   Various  forms  existed.  Some codes allowed  kicking  only, others handling.   There were disputes over whether hacking and gouging were allowed.  In 1863 the Football Association was created and stopped the confusion. It was the first national sporting association which was purely  that.  The MCC in practice directed  English  cricket  and  was responsible for the laws of the game, but they were first and foremost, a private club,  as was the Jockey Club. The FA was  the first formally constituted   sporting body created to explicitly to direct  an  entire sport.

No sport has had such a rapid rise to popularity.  In the last  quarter of  the  nineteenth century  it went from a poorly organised  game,  to something  which  was recognisable as the game we  know  today.  Famous clubs  of  today were formed by Public School Old  Boys,  vicars,  boys clubs,  public  houses,  in the work place and  by cricket  clubs.  The first  international  game took place between England and  Scotland  in 1872.  The world’s first cup competition, the FA Cup, was born in 1872.

In  1888 the world’s first  sporting  league was formed,  the  Football League.    International matches involving countries other than England were being played well before the First World War and   football was an Olympic  sport  from  early on in the modern  Olympiad’s  history.  Not least,  football’s  world governing body, FIFA, was founded as early as 1904 (with no encouragement from England it has to be said).

By  1900 the top teams had become overwhelmingly professional and  club owners were often drawn from the ranks of local businessmen.  The  game had become  much more of a business than any other sport.

6. The amateur and the professional

Top  class   sport is now so tied to money that it may seem  quaint  to his  generation  that for all  of the nineteenth century and  much  of twentieth century the  amateur played a major  role in many of the more popular sports.  This was due to the fact that most major sports originated in England, where the spirit of amateurism was very strong, and these became spread across the globe when Britain had the only world empire worthy of the name and was also the most industrial advanced and economically powerful state in the world.  Other nations who took up the games had a natural inclination to imitate the English way in sport, because of where the games originated and because of England’s prominent position in the world.

There was also a strong class element. This was a time when class and status was still very much an issue throughout Europe and those parts of the world which were within the British Empire. Nor was the United States immune to the lure of class. As the amateur was associated with being a gentleman and a professional classed as a working man, it suited the better-off to support the distinction.  It also provided in some games, especially cricket, the means by which, in even a very socially stratified society, people of very different social status could play together.

But there was more to it than that. The English elite of the 19th century was in thrall to an idealised version of the ancient world and from this came the prime amateur ideals of doing something praiseworthy for its own sake and behaving honourably in the observance of  not only the laws but the spirit of a game.

Football,  cricket and golf  had professionals from their early days as public spectacles, but even within  games those  the amateur had a long run.  Other  major sports such as athletics,  tennis  and  rugby  union remained in  theory at least amateur until well into the latter half of the twentieth century,  although shamateurism,  the paying of  amateurs illicitly  through devices such  as inflated expenses or  salaries  for non-sporting  jobs  which were never actually performed,  tainted  most major sports.  But even though this dishonesty went on there were still many   genuine amateurs in top  class sport until quite  recent  times.

It is also true that the shamateurs were paid minute sums compared with the vast amounts many openly professional sportsmen get today. The  amateur  had  a prominent playing role partly because it  was  the upper and middle classes  who developed and ran modern sport.  Even the archetypal  working  class  game,  Association  football,  had  at  its foundations the public schools and innumerable worthies from the gentry and  mercantile  classes who founded many of the clubs  which  are  now household  names.  The true amateur was also cheap because at worst  he drew  only expenses (shamateurs were a different kettle of fish,  often being considerably more expensive to employ than an official pro).

But there was more to amateurism in top class sport  than simple  class dominance  and  cheapness.  The middle and upper classes  brought  with them a rather noble ethos.  Being an amateur  was more than just  being a person who played without being paid.  Games were seen having a moral purpose  in  the  building  of  character.  Team  sports    taught  the individual  to  subordinate  their own interests to that of the  group, while  individual competition forced a boy  to confront their  personal responsibility.  Playing for its own sake was something pure, untainted by the crudity of commercialism.

That  the amateur ethos was always battling with the vagaries of  human nature, which in many people invariably seeks to gain advantage unfairly,  is neither here nor there.  The important thing is the existence of the ideal.  Like  most  noble ideals it was followed to  some  degree   and behaviour during play   was as a general rule rather more sporting than it  is in a purely professional game.   Moreover,  even where  a  sport became  at   a fairly early stage  overwhelmingly professional  on  the playing side,  as  was the case of football,   the existence of  people with  the amateur spirit administering and controlling the  game  meant their mentality  was reflected in the way professionals behaved – a pro who did otherwise would risk the end of his career.  This was important because   the  behaviour of everyone who plays or watches  a  sport  is influenced by the behaviour of those at the top.

The true amateur was also thought to bring a spirt of adventure to  top class  sport  because he  was not weighed down by the thought  that  he must perform if his employment in the sport was to continue.  This  was one  of  the most powerful arguments cited in support  of  the  amateur captain in county cricket. It had a certain force to it.

I  regret  the virtual extinction  of the amateur in  the  popular  top level sports.  In my ideal world all sport would be amateur.   There is something constricting about all-professional sport. Players do have to consider the next contract.  They do have to consider their performance if  they wish to move to a  bigger club or take part in   international sport.   The  talented sportsman who is not a  professional  is  simply excluded.   Such a person may simply not be able to gain a professional opportunity   or he may simply not want to be a full time  professional sportsman. Either way he is lost to the top level of his sport. Cricket in    particular   has   suffered   from   the   abolition    of    the amateur/professional distinction,  with few if any players who are  not contracted  to a county club having any chance to play for the  county.

Professional  sport  has  too much of the closed shop about  it  to  be healthy. Attached  to  amateur  ideal was that of  the   “allrounder”.  For  the gentleman the ideal was the  scholar athlete,  an ideal approached most famously   by the Victorian Charles Burgess Fry,  who  won  a  classics scholarship  to Oxford,  set the world long jump record  whilst  there, obtained Blues  for cricket,  football, rugby and athletics and went on to play cricket and football for England. But there was also a professional niche as a sporting  allrounder. Many famous  footballers  played  cricket  professionally  and  many  famous cricketers,  football,  perhaps most notably Denis Comptom  who  played cricket  for  Middlesex  and England while spending  his  winters  from cricket  tours  speeding down the left wing for  Arsenal.   Sadly,  the extension  of the football season to ten months of the year has  killed the  professional  footballer/cricketer.   Phil  Neal  who  batted  for Worcestershire  and played left back for Lincoln City in the 1970s  and 1980s was the last of the breed.

7. The importance of sport

Those  who say “it’s only sport”  should stand back and reflect on  the amount of time, effort and money which is spent throughout the world on sport. Women may be generally less enthusiastic,  but sports  obviously speak to a deep seated desire within men.

Man  is  a  tribal animal.  If he were not it would matter  not  a  jot whether  one team won or another,  unless money was on the result.  But manifestly men do care and care passionately when no material advantage is  to  be  gained or lost by the result.  In  fact,  the  relationship between  a football fan and his club is probably the most  enduring  of his life, for it commonly begins in childhood and ends only with death.

The  outpouring  of joy when a goal is scored dwarfs any  other  public expression  of  positive  feeling  today.  Those  who  imagine  that  a football  club  is merely a business and that selling  football  is  no different from selling baked beans fail to understand the game and  the fan.

Team sports are war games, a war game in fact as well where men meet in a  form  of  direct  physical confrontation  which  is  a  pretty  good substitute  for  tribal war,  war fought hand to hand  with  sword  and shield  and  spear.  Sport is  war without the  weapons.  That  is  its primary  glamour, that is its excitement.

Sporting heroes are heroes in the literal sense.  Watch even a powerful man  in  the presence of his sporting hero and the  powerful  man  will almost certainly be unconsciously  deferring to the sportsman.

But  sport has much more to it than tribalism.  It is a constant  in  a changing world.  It is a source of aesthetic delight.  It speaks to the whole range of human emotions.

8. Why was England in the sporting  vanguard?

Why did England invent so many games and show such an appetite for them as players,   spectators  and administrators  that modern  sport became possible?

Industrialisation  undoubtedly  provided  the  opportunity  for  modern spectator sports by  moving England early from a predominantly rural to a predominantly  urban  society. Large agglomerations of people provide the  audience  for  sport.  The growing  wealth  of  the  country  from industrialisation provided the money to support professional sport. But that  does  not explain why it happened in England when it did  not  in occur in  other non-Anglo-Saxon industrialising nations,  which  either showed  less interest in sport  or adopted and followed English  sports rather  than  making  their own indigenous  sports  serious   spectator sports.    There had to be something special in the  English  character and society which provided the impetus to take the opportunity when  it was offered.

The  answer I suspect is that the English  have always been a  sporting people,  whether  it  be  pre-modern games  of  football  and  cricket, archery,  dog fighting and so on. The love of the chase remains to this day in  fox hunting.  Athletic pursuits were widely admired before  the modern  era,  especially by the educated Englishman brought up  on  the classics  with  their frequent descriptions of physical  prowess.  Long before the  much Wenlock “Olympic Games”,   Robert Dover of    Chipping Camden  in  Gloucestershire  held his “Cotswold Olimpick Games”  –  the games  were first held in 1612 – which included sledgehammer  throwing, horse racing and wrestling.

But the fact the English have always had an abnormal love of sport begs the question of why. It is probably simply an expression of the general English love of liberty and the practical realisation of that love in a society which until recent times has not oppressed the English man  and woman  with  much  state intrusion into  their  lives.  (Sadly,  recent governments,  most notably that of Blair,  have seriously  changed  the traditional  free nature of English society).   Over the centuries  the English became habituated to the idea that the individual counts,  that a free-born Englishman,  however humble, had a dignity and worth simply as an individual.

This  mentality is important because participation in a sport  requires freedom  from  oppressive elite who frown upon public  gatherings   and societies with  a dominant  ideology which considers the ordinary   man as  next  to  nothing at best and a threat to public  order  at  worst. English  society   has  not been free of such  qualities   but  it  has probably suffered much less severely from them than any other nation.

As  for why England has been so successful in exporting its sports,  it cannot  simply be the consequence of the British Empire and   Britain’s economic  and political dominance.  Sports are demonstrably not  easily transferrable from one society and another.  Other European nations had empires  and their colonies did not take up French sports.  The  United States  for  all  their economic and  cultural  dominance  have  failed largely  to export their two most important native sports, baseball and American  football.   Basketball  and  ice  hockey  have  enjoyed  more popularity   but  nothing  approaching  the  popularity  of   football. Australian  Rules football,  wildly popular  in Australia,  remains  an essentially domestic pursuit.  Ditto  Gaelic games such as hurling   in Ireland.  Cricket and football gained a hold abroad  and maintained  it because  they  are  inherently good and satisfying  games,  the  former immensely  technical to play yet simple in its basic idea,  the  latter the  simplest  and cheapest  game to play – two sweaters  down  on  the ground for a goal and a ball and you have a game.

9. English sport is a mirror of English society

Sport  holds up a mirror to any society.  Sadly,  much of English  sport  today shares  the ills of English society at large. Due to the actions of the British  elite  professional  team sport in England  has  been  heavily infiltrated  by   foreign players just as the country has a  whole  has been left open to de facto foreign colonisation.

Cricket  was  the  first  to fall prey to  the  disease.  In  1969  the qualification  rules  for foreign players appearing in  county  cricket were effectively thrown away.  Before 1969 any foreign player  had   to qualify by two years residence in the county:  after 1969 they could be specially registered without any qualifying period.

Since 1969 there have been various attempts to stem the number  foreign players.   Official overseas players – those not qualified to play  for England by any route  –  have been at various times  restricted to  two per   county side,  then one per side before reverting back to two  per side. As of 2012 its is back to one per side in County Championship matches.

In the past few years  the number of  foreign players in county cricket has   been greatly expanded by  a  ruling  that any EU  state  national must be allowed to play in county cricket whether  England qualified or not – this has resulted in many Australians and South Africans claiming EU  state passports of one sort or another.   The final breach  in  the sporting  emigration  wall has been  the granting of  the  same  rights possessed  by   EU state  passport holders to  people   from  countries which  have  treaties  with the EU that   allow  them  certain  trading rights.

This   loosening  of immigration rules  applies  to all  other  sports, many  of  which   are even more vulnerable  to  invasion  than  cricket because cricket is not played seriously on the continent.  Football and rugby  are  played within the EU and both games in  England  have  been substantially  colonised by continentals.  The situation with  football has  become  especially  serious  with well over  half  the  places  in Premiership  sides being filled by players not qualified  for  England.

Following England’s exit from the 2006 World Cup the ex-England manager Graham  Taylor  voiced his fears that   England might never  again  win the World Cup simply because of the lack of opportunity being given  to English players (BBC R5 Victoria Derbyshire 7 7 2006).

The  other  side  of the foreign infiltration coin  is  the  widespread employment  of  those  who are not unequivocally  English  in   English national teams. These people fall into two camps: (1) those who came to England  as adults  and  (2) ethnic minority players  either  born  and raised in England or at least largely raised here.    Their  employment by  England  has  been generally a failure,  both  in  terms  of  their individual  performances  and in the performance  of  their  respective England teams.

Take  the  two major English team sports cricket and football.  Of  the players  who played any substantial amount of cricket for England  only one  (Robin Smith) has managed a Test batting average of 40 and only two   of the bowlers (Andy Caddick and Dean Headley)has ended witgh a Test bowling average of less than 30.

As  for  football,  the only players in the  immigrant/ethnic  minority category   to show themselves to be of true international standard  are probably Paul Ince and Des Walker.  It is difficult to see the sporting justification   for  the repeated and extensive selection  of   players such  as  Mark Ramprakash (lowest every batting  average – 27 –  for  a front  line England batsman who has played my than 40 Tests)   or  John Barnes  (79  England caps and a man who rarely if ever  reproduced  his club  form  for  England).   Perhaps  the  answer  lies  in   political correctness,  a  desire on the part of selectors  to  guard  themselves against  accusations of racism or simply an ideological  commitment  to multiculturalism.   Here is Stephen Wagg writing in Catalyst, the CRE’s new   propaganda magazine funded by the taxpayer:  “…it is  important that  this  team [the England cricket side] speaks for  a  multi-ethnic England.” (Racism and the English cricket party – Catalyst June 2006).

There is also the attitude of the players  to consider. Some  of those who have  played for England have been blunt about  their attitude  towards turning out for the side.   Here  is  ex-England captain Nasser Hussain interviewed by Rob Steen:

‘If anyone asks about my nationality, I’m proud  to say ‘Indian’,  but I’ve never given any thought  to  playing  for  India.   In  cricketing terms I’m  English.’ Daily Telegraph 11 8 1989

Or  take the black Jamaican England footballer John Barnes in his autobiography:

“I    am  fortunate my England career is now  complete  so   I   don’t have to sound patriotic  any  more.” (P69)

“I     feel    more   Jamaican    than     English     because      I’m black.    A  lot  of black  people born    in    England    feel   more Jamaican  than English because  they  are   not  accepted     in    the land of  their  birth  on account of their  colour, (P 71)

Clearly such mentalities exclude any emotional commitment to doing well for  the sake of English pride.  The most they could have been  playing for was their own ambition.  As the editor of Wisden Matthew Engel  put it:

“It  cannot  be  irrelevant  to  England’s  long  term  failures   that so   many   of   their   recent  Test   players   were   either    born overseas    and/or  spent  their  formative  years  as   citizens    of other   countries.   In  the  heat  of  Test  cricket,   there   is   a difference  between  a  cohesive  team  with  a  common  goal,   and  a coalition    of   individuals   whose   major   ambitions    are    for themselves…There    is  a  vast  difference  between    wanting    to play   Test   cricket   and  wanting  to   play   Test   cricket    for England.” (Editor’s notes 1995 Wisden).

In  the  1990s an England cricket eleven was  routinely   comprised  of something  like  five white Englishmen, two Southern Africans,   a  New Zealander  and three West Indians.  The idea that their  captain  could appeal to their patriotism as a team of Englishmen is risible.  Nor  is it  clear  how  any English man or woman could have seen  it  as  their national side.

10. The political dimension

Because of their  function as lightening rods of national feeling  that the  existence of England sides are so hated and feared by  our  elite. The  erstwhile  and now deceased Labour Sports minister,   Tony  Banks, persistently  puffed  the idea of a British football  team,   something that is indubitably not wanted by any of the four home FAs or the  vastmajority of fans.

The  political  dimension  goes beyond  the  English  national   sides. Sporting  crowds  generally  and football crowds in  particular  are  a source  of concern to our  liberal elite because they provide  the  one opportunity  where large numbers of the white working class can  gather together  with any regularity without having to gain the permission  of the police.

In  these politically correct times sporting crowds in England for  the major sports are also disturbingly white for the liberal  bigot  elite. Vast amounts of time and money have been devoted to making crowds “more representative”, happily with precious little  success.

Finally,  there  is the general contempt which the British  elite  have developed for the white working class.  In English sport this  contempt tends  to be focused on the football fan.  Margaret Thatcher more  than any  other  individual  fostered  the  contempt    when  she  routinely painted  English football supporters as hooligans and  enthusiastically promoted  the  exclusion  of English football clubs  after  the  Heysel stadium  tragedy at the 1985 European Cup final between  Liverpool  and Juventus.

Sport  has  a  particular  importance to  England  at  present  because sporting sides are the only source of national focus the English  have. The  English  are  denied a parliament,  they  are  betrayed  by  their political  elite who shudder at the idea of English  nationalism,  they are constantly insulted by the national media,   but the national sides continue. These sporting institutions  permit the English to articulate their  feelings as a tribe.  Even  English men  and women  without  any interest in sport should support them for that reason if no other.

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7 Responses to England: the mother of modern sport

  1. james s says:

    I’ll let the bulk of that romanticised story-telling lie but I do have to pick up on points 5 and 6.

    Your assertion concerning the noble art of the amateur sportsman almost had me on my knees with laughter. Although I agree with you that the loss of the amateur code in most sports is regrettable, your comments like “ideals of doing something praiseworthy for its own sake and behaving honourably in the observance of not only the laws but the spirit of a game” shows how incredibly blinkered you are.

    It was this sort of idolisation of the amateur and its mythical code that the elite used to keep the lower classes OUT of sport! They knew full well that only their like could afford to participate seriously in the top levels of sport as everyone else had to work to keep themselves and their families alive. This was simple propaganda to thwart the ever-increasing numbers of lesser people attending their jollies.

    The fact that the same romanticised ideals, conceived for political reasons, are still working on the likes of this author is hilarious.

    England, the “mother” of football? Are you serious?

    Firstly, the game of kicking inflated bladders and other body parts about has existed for 1000s of years. The first to kick a spherical object for fun was almost certainly not Northern European as it was first recorded from the accounts of missionaries who frequented the far east.

    As an informal sport it first appeared in the towns of Scotland and Northern England and more formally in the public school arena. The academic institutions have a habit of claiming good ideas from the general population as their own.

    The first organised football evolved at the same time in Scotland and Northern England. The English version of football, resembled more of a rugby game than football with an end to end rush of large men protecting the “dribbler”, confronted by a wall of large men standing in front of the opposing goal trying to get the ball off of him.

    The Scottish version of the game more resembles what we see today. The passing game with the use of triangles rather than the mad end to end rush used by the southern clubs. Indeed, modern football was also at one point termed the “Scottish Combination game” by the newspapers down south who were reporting on the incredible success of Queens Park who have more claim to be the “fathers of modern football” than any other club. They achieved notoriety as they were unbeaten by any of the fledgling clubs north or south of the border for 6 years due to the use of this “Combination Game”. Naturally, if you can’t beat them, join them and the football we see to this day evolved from this type of football. It is for this reason that the home of modern football should be known as Hampden Park as that is where this club developed and played their football. The English like to claim Wembley as the home of football but I have yet to find any evidence for why.

    The reason the myth that England invented football arises is that 12 English based clubs, sick of differing regional variations of the game, decided to standardise the rules amongst their members and formed the first Football Association. Everyone in it had to have the same size pitch etc. The Scottish clubs followed suit the year after forming the SFA so they could all play on a level playing field so to speak.

    If you refer to the international results from the early years of football you’ll see it was dominated by Scottish football. Believe it or not, to this day, Scotland remains the most successful footballing nation having won by far the most international matches. England sit second, a good bit behind. This is simply a reflection of the fact the Scots were the first to adopt the combination style of play which as we now know was far superior as everyone uses it today.

    England the “mother” of fottball? Ahem……………

    • William Gruff says:

      There’s something about the way Jocks write that gives them away immediately, so much so that it’s almost impossible not to read their self-congratulatory rubbish in anything other than a mockery of an absurd Scotch accent. Perhaps it’s the immediate resort to egregious abuse and ridicule, or the verbosity and unnecessarily pompous language, or the puerile and envious derision used to describe any and all things English; whatever it is one knows, from the very first line, that one won’t have to read too far to see English achievements claimed for ‘Scortland, invariably accompanied by statements of ‘Scortish superiority’, which current affairs and recent history have rendered demonstrably insupportable.

      Get off your knees, you look like a Scotch drunk or a Scotch beggar.

      • james s says:

        Which English achievement has been claimed for Scotland? Give me one example.

        England did not invent football. Nor did Scotland. It appeared long before they even existed as entities.

        They both to varying degrees can claim to have influenced the development of the modern game; with the Scots developing the playing style we now see in modern football and the Engs claiming they were first to dot the i’s and cross the t’s with regard to the rules of the game. The game exploded in popularity on both sides of the border at the same time.

        You are exactly the reason the English brand is so unpopular around the world. Return to your hole little Eng before you have to actually back up your own words rather than living vicariously through the thoughts of Robert with the Scottish name.

  2. You are exactly the reason the English brand is so unpopular around the world. Return to your hole little Eng before you have to actually back up your own words rather than living vicariously through the thoughts of Robert with the Scottish name.’

    This is no more than one would expect from some frigid old maid living in the shires or some dusty retirement home at the seaside, were the writer English. As it is, he’s Scotch and his pathetic and effete attempt at dismissal demonstrates the limit of his intellect; it’s risible, like so much attempted by that laughably inadequate race. It’s not difficult to understand why a pleated skirt, frilly blouse and velvet jacket are the preferred dress of the Scotchman, what puzzles everyone is why he thinks himself ‘superior’ and ‘manly’ when wearing it.

    Try again, Jock, but try harder, and if you’re going to be clever make sure that you are actually clever, rather than simply waspish and effeminate, like so many o9f your sadly inadequate race.

    PS: A great many things not invented by Scots have been claimed for Scotland and the internet is littered with innumerable absurd McStigmatic statements. However I’m disinclined to waste my time indulging you in your pantomime so must disappoint you.

  3. james s says:

    Yes, don’t waste your time. Please.

    You’re a racist and a coward.

  4. uKn_Leo says:

    England, the mother (and father) of modern sport.

    Scotland, the mother of james s, and haggis.

  5. Pingback: The British success at the Rio Olympics should be no surprise | England calling

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