Q & A: Art of the anti-clockwise . . . and Tranmere's blue winger

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Q. Why are track events in athletics always run anti-clockwise?

A. In Western cultures the direction for a progression, as in reading these lines, is from left to right. The anti- clockwise oval track is, for the spectator, an extension of the straight track used in short-distance sprints. - Doug Marsden, Leeds

Q. With Crystal Palace, Charlton Athletic and Millwall all on course for promotion to next season's Premiership, and taking for granted that Spurs will manage to escape relegation, could anyone tell me the last time (if ever) the top division boasted nine clubs from the capital?

A. It has never had nine London clubs. In 1986, Wimbledon's arrival and Charlton's reappearance suddenly took the contingent to seven. It finally reached eight in 1989 - Arsenal, Charlton, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Millwall, QPR, Tottenham and Wimbledon. Of the 13 London league clubs, only Barnet have never been in the top division. - Michael Crick, Chipping Norton

A. Arsenal were the first London team to arrive in the top division - in 1904 - followed by Chelsea (1907) and Spurs (1909). The first season when the First Division had four London clubs was 1923-24, following West Ham's promotion. However, Chelsea's relegation at the end of that season meant there were still only two or three London clubs in the First Division until 1935-36, when Brentford took over Spurs' place. Charlton made it four clubs the following season, and four or five London clubs became the norm from 1936 until 1959. Five London clubs was the standard from 1959 until 1975, but London representation in the top division dropped to four (1975-79) and then three (1979-1982) before recent rises to five (1984-85), seven (1986-87) and eight (1989-90). - Ian Kendall, Emsworth

Q. In the recent Scotland v Wales rugby union international, Scotland appeared to score a perfectly legal but disallowed drop goal. Has any perfectly legal but disallowed score in a top-level match affected the final result of the match?

A. Dr F W G Deighton's reply (Q & A, 27 February) refers to a common phenomenon in rugby, that of a technically valid try being disallowed due to a mass of bodies obstructing the referee's view. The laws clearly state, however, that a try can only be awarded if the referee can see downward pressure put on the ball by a member of the attacking side and is certain that he has.

This leads me to the Western Samoa v Wales game in the last World Cup in which Western Samoa's 'try' knocked out Wales from the competition and forced them to have to qualify for next year's finals. Action replays showed beyond any doubt that Robert Jones, the Welsh scrum half, got his hands to the ball first. Had the referee seen this, he should have awarded a 22-metre drop out to Wales. If he was in any doubt (which he must have been) he should have awarded a five-metre scrum to the Samoans. - Matthew Lewis, Paris

Q. Are there any recorded examples of a professional footballer who has just put the ball into the net asking the referee not to award the goal because he had handled the ball before scoring?

A. Following the reply concerning Steve Kember (Q & A 27 February), the following day Kember was taken to task by a section of the press and certain members of the footballing fraternity for acting unprofessionally - because he owned up and did not, like a true professional should, 'play to the whistle'. - Dave Lawlan, Bristol

A. I remember a remarkable incident during the Reading v Rochdale fixture in, I think, 1973. Reading's opening 'goal' was scored from a direct free-kick by Tommy Youlden, an uncompromising centre-half of dubious footballing finesse. The scorching toe-punt hit the side-netting and the stanchion before nestling next to the perimeter wall. All the players quite rightly took up their positions for a goal-kick while the goalkeeper placed the ball on the edge of the six-yard box. The referee had other ideas, and bemused everyone in the ground by awarding a goal. I seem to recall that this nonsense was greeted with protestations by players from both teams] In the event, the incident did not affect the outcome of the game as Reading went on to win 3-0. Can anyone recall the name of the referee, and if he admitted his hash? - Andrew Bone, Milton Keynes

Q. Why, when the attendances at football and rugby league matches are routinely reported, are the figures for cricket and rugby union games almost never quoted?

A. Many relatively large rugby union clubs do not take gate money. Apart from Twickenham, Leicester's Welford Road ground is the largest in England, with a capacity of about 16,000. The ground is frequently filled, especially for such games as the annual match v the Barbarians. Although the match is played over Christmas, tickets are usually sold out by September. Cup ties also often attract full houses, as do Courage League games. Even when the Tigers' games clash with Leicester City's football matches at nearby Filbert Street, the rugby team often attract larger crowds. - Steven Deller, Leicester

Q. How many Oxbridge 'blues' have progressed to play: (a) professional football; (b) professional cricket; (c) top-class rugby?

A. There is one Oxford 'blue' who played more times in a Varsity match than he did in the Football League. Born in February 1919, Stanley Herbert Thomas, of Liverpool Collegiate and Keble College, Oxford, played inside-left in the Varsity matches of 1946 and 1947 and was on the losing side on both occasions. (In the Cambridge teams were Trevor Bailey and Doug Insole.)

He was signed as an amateur by Tranmere in 1948, making several appearances in the reserves. On 5 February 1949, he played inside-left for the first team against New Brighton. He had a poor game, missed a sitter and was banished to the wing for the second half, never again to appear for Rovers. Rather mysteriously, Thomas was never registered in the records of the Football League and his sole appearance has been attributed to Alex Thompson in their books. - G A Upton, Southport


Why don't women play ice hockey? - Clare Booth, Sleaford

Q. I seem to remember in the 1970s, when teams played the same opposition twice over the holiday period, that Manchester City won 6-0 on the Saturday and lost by the same score on the Monday. Does anyone have the exact details and are there any other similar examples? - Martin Steenson, London W8

Q. This season Ireland and Wales visit Twickenham, with England travelling to Edinburgh and Paris. Each season the fixtures are reversed. Are the fixtures ever altered so that, for example, England could meet Scotland at home and France away in the same season? If not, for how long has the present fixture 'system' been in place? - T White, Denton, Lancashire

Q. Is there any reason why, in long- track speed skating, the competitors do not actually race against each other, only against the clock? It surely cannot be for reasons of safety, because they race each other in short-track speed skating, which is far more dangerous. - Brian Mortimer, Horsham

Q. Why did Italy not get to keep the World Cup trophy after their third winning of it in 1982, since Brazil kept the previous trophy after their third win in 1970? - H David, Swansea

Q. Why is curling not in the Winter Olympics when aerial skiing and mogul skiing are? - Gary Johnson, Doncaster

Q. At Nottingham Forest on 19 February, Crystal Palace fielded six players with surnames which are also first names: Martyn; Humphrey; Gordon; Stewart; Rodger; and Matthew while Shaw was a substitute. In recent years they have also played Peter Nicholas, George Graham, Clive Allen and Iain Philip. Is this a record? - Mike Cunningham, Wolverhampton

If you know the answers to any of these questions, or have a sporting question of your own you would like answered, write to:

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(Photograph omitted)