Ignore the rules at your peril

Stephen Fay encounters restrictions in watching a match at the home of cricket
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The Independent Online
ONE OF the sounds of the English summer is Alan Curtis, the Test and County Cricket Board announcer, telling crowds what they must not do. His best-known line, not heard until 3pm yesterday, is the one about not coming on to the playing area and it is so familiar that your lips move as he says it: "Should anyone choose to ignore this reasonable request, they will be detained and proceedings taken against them."

Up to a point, old boy.

If Curtis checked with the Metropolitan Police he would find that they regard his threat of court action as pure bluff. At White Hart Lane, it would be a different matter, because crowd behaviour there is regulated by the Sports and Public Order Act. But Lord's, like other cricket grounds, is exempt. This frees the crowd to drink most of the day.

An offender might be thrown in the slammer for a couple of hours, but that is the worst that can happen, Curtis's threat is a hollow one.

But no one in the crowd ought to relax: there is still a remarkable list of rules they ignore at their peril. At the Oval last week, for example, a conch was silenced ("Horns, instruments, or devices likely to cause annoyance" are banned), and a blow-up Mr Blobby was confiscated (presumably it comes in the banned "flags or banners" category).

The mind-set of the rule makers is exposed by their language. Radios are still "radio sets" - as in wireless or crystal, (prohibited "except in conjunction with an earpiece"). Disposable glass containers are also banned, although this rule does not appear to apply to wine bottles or glasses.

Not that these rule-makers are out of touch. They now ban the use of portable telephones in any stand or public enclosure. This is controversial stuff. The Savoy Hotel has just relaxed its ban, and unlike Lord's, it is not an open-air stadium. Talking into a portable telephone here is no different from having a conversation with your neighbour.

The authorities ought to be more logical and there is a simple solution. What they must do is to get Alan Curtis to announce a total ban on conversation.

Although this would have been hard to enforce yesterday, because with Northamptonshire, having chosen to bat and losing three wickets for 39, there was plenty to talk about.