Sport on TV: Croft is no soft touch among those who fell through the net

It was "Gruntwatch" this week on Today at Wimbledon (BBC2, Wednesday), with a fake David Attenborough delving into the jungles of SW19 to observe the exotic creatures with their "elegant plumage and a truly distinctive cry". In the outer reaches of Court 12 Francesca Schiavone "sounds like a wounded animal", while in the rooftop "studio" the bald eagle McEnroe soared and swooped down on a clucking Henman. But one charming bird, the lesser spotted Croft, has been spotted less often than usual.

Annabel Croft, who seems to have slipped down the BBC pecking order, really was out in the wilderness, taking part in Famous, Rich and Homeless (BBC1, Wednesday and Thursday), in which five celebrities experienced the life of the homeless for 10 days.

Flying her nest in suburban Surrey, she was dumped in Soho with only a sleeping bag and no money. For someone who seemed so vulnerable – she still seems like she's at St Trinians – she coped very well. She headed off to Bond Street to sleep in the doorway of Dolce & Gabbana, where she seemed right at home.

Mercifully, and perhaps because she simply couldn't bring herself to do it, she refused to beg like the others did. This may all have been in the name of enlightenment, but the BBC making celebrities extort cash from an unwitting public seemed all too familiar.

After three nights going solo they were paired off with real homeless people. Croft went with the son of an advertising executive and a model who had been thrown out aged 14 when they split up and had drifted into two decades of drinking. It was an appropriate match; "Drax" had retained his cut-glass accent to go with his empty bottle of a life.

Drax was confronted by a WPC who wanted him to find help for his alcohol abuse. Croft leapt on the bandwagon but Drax, a long way off the wagon, was not happy at the interference and nor was John Bird, founder of 'The Big Issue' who had been responsible for sending the famous five out into the freezing alleyways.

When Bird confronted her about her missionary zeal, he contemptuously described her as "Florence Nightingale". Croft retorted "He's being irritating", whereupon Bird erupted: "You are fucking irritating!" Perhaps only then, back in the warmth, did she realise the gulf between her and those who live, or in Bird's case once lived, on the street.

Sportsmen and women are wrapped in cotton wool, but this is not least because their careers can be all too short. Form and fitness are fickle, and many end up with financial and addiction issues, while a lucky few settle back into the comfortable pundits' chairs. And tennis, immersed as it is in middle-class mores, provided an ideal backdrop for this sobering exposé.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Super BowlAfter Katy Perry madness it's back to The Independent's live coverage of Super Bowl 49!
News
See what Twitter had to say about the first half of the Super Bowl
News
people
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Recruitment Genius: External Relations Executive

£33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An External Relations Executive is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Project Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This established Digital Agency based in East ...

Day In a Page

The super-rich now live in their own Elysium - they breathe better air, and eat better food, when they're not making beans on toast for their kids

The super-rich now live in their own Elysium

They breathe better air, eat better food, take better medicine
A generation of dropouts failed by colleges

Dropout generation failed by colleges

£800m a year wasted on students who quit courses before they graduate
Entering civilian life 'can be like going into the jungle' for returning soldiers

Homeless Veterans appeal

Entering civilian life can be like going into the jungle
Sam Taylor-Johnson: Woman on top

Sam Taylor-Johnson: Woman on top

Fifty Shades of Grey director on bringing the hit to the screen
Shazam! Story of the $1bn 'what's that song?' app

Shazam: Story of the $1bn 'what's that song?' app

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch