The Scarlets, Great British Sport Relief Bake-Off, TV review: Sport does matter – just ask Llanelli and Victoria Pendleton
View From The Sofa: BBC 1 Wales; BBC 2
Sport doesn’t actually mean much – despite what people like Sepp Blatter at Fifa says, a few blokes in shorts running round kicking a ball is unlikely to cure the world’s ills. It’s not a slight against sport; it is just an observation on its place in the world. Just as sport isn’t the answer to world peace, you wouldn’t head down to the pub and watch the European Parliament deliberating over fishing quotas, would you?
That is not to say that sport isn’t important to people, as we saw on The Scarlets, BBC Wales’ new fly-on-the-wall series centred on a year in the life of Llanelli’s rugby team. One of the first of the many fans to feature said: “This place would be nothing without the Scarlets.”
The Beeb’s cameras had clearly been given a lot of access in a tumultuous year for the club and, of course, all of Wales. They even got a sneaky look at how the groundsman embellishes the pitch with grass clippings so as to make it look less threadbare to the paying punters and TV cameras.
The wrestling of tradition and a proud history (Llanelli famously beat the touring All Blacks back in 1972) with the modern struggles of getting bums on seats and the correlation of hospitality vacancies to results on the pitch were laid bare by the affable chief executive, Mark Davies. He was refreshingly honest about the things which keep him awake at night, as well as being realistic about how much he can change about the club without incurring the fans’ wrath.
If Assem Allam, the Hull City owner, reads The Independent (doubtful, given that it was the Indy’s Sunday sister that broke the news of him telling fans they “can die as soon as they want”) then he should watch every episode of The Scarlets to get a better idea of how to run a sports club – and a team’s place in the community.
The first episode was partly a scene-setter and the series will no doubt get far more dramatic as it wears on, once the ugly battle between the Welsh Rugby Union and the regions – which is still ongoing – rears its head. If nothing else, the first episode showed that to many, sport does matter.
On that subject, it is Sport Relief time. And as part of the fund-raising drive, a celebrity version of The Great British Bake-Off was broadcast last week.
Michael Vaughan, the former England cricket captain, prolonged the stereotype that laddish males shouldn’t be anywhere near a mixer unless there is concrete in it, while the retired cyclist Victoria Pendleton’s requests that the other contests “chill out, it’s just cooking” were revealed to be a smokescreen by her dagger eyes every time she failed to win a task.
But it was all for charity, so it would be churlish to be snarky about their japes. Jamelia, the singer, looked to have the right idea when she necked a cupful of almond liqueur that was meant for her cake, then spent most of the time giggling. Some may say she wasn’t treating the competition seriously enough. But then again, it is only sport.
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