The Rugby World Cup is shaping up as an extravaganza for posh people rather than the populist showpiece that was London 2012
Any environment where Wills and Harry look at home is worth abhorring
There is no small risk attached to opening a column with news that Ticketmaster have again cocked up. No, not because the news might send shocked readers into cardiac arrest, more because it is so utterly unsurprising that why would anyone read on? But please do.
This time it's not the Olympics or the Commonwealth Games that their coal-fired computers have been allowed anywhere near, it's the Rugby World Cup, the first 500,000 tickets for which did not in the end go on sale.
More to the point, it was only news of this comparatively minor ticketing fiasco – by their standards – that alerted this column to the fact that the first half a million tickets, which constitutes almost half the number that will be made available to British buyers, were exclusively for 100,000 members of the "rugby community".
These, you definitely will not be shocked to learn, are, according to the organisers, "grass-roots supporters", "season ticket-holders", "rugby club members" and the like. The "people who support the game week in, week out".
A noble endeavour, no doubt, but it will also mean that this tournament, like the Six Nations at Twickenham each year, and like Wimbledon too, will likely take place inside that stereotypical-fan enforced barrier that was so joyously absent from the Olympics.
You know, the gilet-wearing, Sweet Chariot-chanting, hip flask-touting, bogroll up the arse-lighting crowd who turn the commuter trains to and from Twickenham on match day into rolling, booze-fuelled public school boarding houses. Any environment where Wills, Kate and Harry look right at home every time the camera cuts to them is clearly worth abhorring.
One of many great things about the London Olympics was the Centre Court crowd screaming its lungs out at the tennis, for once not entirely made up of the middle-aged and middle-class whose tickets are the great perk of being the Ladies' Captain at a tennis club somewhere in Kent, politely clapping for whichever player they would most like to marry their daughter.
With hundreds of thousands of tickets to sell to ordinary people, and the broad attention that should be captured by a home tournament, hopefully the Rugby World Cup will broaden what seems at the moment to be the sport's narrowing appeal to what was once a much wider audience. But if it does, it'll be despite the "rugby community", not because of it.
Clash of the Hull clubs that also clashes with, er, Hull
Those who have dared to say of late that Hull City's trip to Wembley for the FA Cup final will be the biggest day out the city has ever had have been quickly put in their place. That, of course, was the 1980 Challenge Cup final, when the town's two rugby league sides, Hull FC and Hull KR, played each other at Wembley.
As is testified to by a classic Hull City chant, Hull is not primarily a football town: "My old man said, be a rugby fan/I said..." (Sadly the rest is completely unprintable.) But even so, the town's loyalties will be tested to the max. Rugby league's Magic Weekend takes place at the Etihad Stadium, all 14 Super League teams playing in the same place spread over the weekend.
So which one kicks off at 5pm – the exact same time as the FA Cup final? That's right, Hull FC v Hull KR, which apparently cannot be switched with any of the other matches having been "organised long ago".
Should there be any Hullites making a second trip to Wembley, 34 years on, they'll be hearing "Abide With Me" for a second time. The other sporting fixture that the hymn is sung before is the Challenge Cup final. "Give me strength" might be more appropriate.
California Chrome to shine again at Pimlico and beyond
Everyone knows the Kentucky Derby. Not as many people know that it forms part of US horseracing's "Triple Crown". The second of that hallowed triumvirate runs on Saturday, the Preakness Stakes at the majestic Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. (The third race is the Belmont in New York State next month.)
Winning all three has turned into something of an impossibility in recent years – no one has claimed the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978 – but it's still disappointing that only three of the Kentucky Derby field are even running. Mind you, among them is California Chrome, the Kentucky Derby winner and the best three-year-old anyone's seen in that part of the world for some time, who should win. If that happens, look out for the Belmont next month. That race is longer and a bit more of a lottery, but there could still be a little bit of history on the way.
Football's a Messi business – it's best not to rationalise it
Just as some dare to ask whether Lionel Messi is the greatest player in the world, he signs a new contract that makes sure he is at least the best paid: €20m (£16.3m) a season minimum until 2019. Yes, there's a lot of money sloshing around football, and no one can deny it's the harshest meritocracy going, so why shouldn't the players get it?
True, but it's worth remembering that, for the time being at least, these astronomical amounts are inflated and set by oily billionaires who want to set fire to their cash. In a conventional business sense, the game is broken, so such sensible arguments are essentially irrelevant.
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