Q&A: Shedding light on football . . . . . . and on banned substances

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The Independent Online
Which was the first football ground to have floodlights?

The first venue was Bramall Lane, Sheffield on Monday, 14 October 1878. Two Sheffield representative teams played to a crowd of 20,000 (with 8,000 gaining free admission due to the fact that only the pitch was floodlit). The lights reputedly had the power of over 8,000 candles.

Floodlights were then used occasionally for non-competitive matches until banned totally by the FA in 1930. This was partially lifted in 1950 by which time lights were popular on the continent. The first current league club to obtain floodlights was Headington (Oxford) United who were then non-League but played a charity match under lights on 18 December 1950. The first league club at the time to install lights were Swindon Town on 2 April 1951 and they were swiftly followed by Arsenal.

The first competitive match was on the 1 October 1951 between Southampton reserves and Tottenham reserves. The first floodlit FA Cup match was a preliminary round match between Kidderminster Harriers and Brierley Hill. The first clash between League clubs was also in the FA Cup in a first round match between Carlisle and Darlington (at Newcastle's ground) on 28 November 1955. The first floodlit league match was on 22 February 1956 between Portsmouth and Newcastle. Wembley's lights were switched on for England's match against Spain on 30 November 1955 for the last 15 minutes. They were not used for a full international match until 20 November 1963 when England played Northern Ireland.

Other illuminating points are that the League Cup was inaugurated to encourage floodlit football and the last two league clubs to install floodlights were Hartlepool in 1965 and Chesterfield in October 1967. Floodlights encouraged glossy synthetic shirts and white balls. However, there were problems with dazzle and glare from low floodlights and journalists had to cope with matches that finished after their deadlines had expired. Undoubtedly the best advantage of floodlights is that in most cases they facilitate spotting a ground for the first time. - Andrew Erskine, Woking, Surrey.

Why are steroids, where performance enhancement is marginal, banned, and pain-killers, where enhancement is significant, permitted?

The International Olympic Committee lists five categories of banned substances. The first three are: stimulants, beta blockers and diuretics.

The fourth category to which Mr Dickens referred to in the first instance is anabolic steroids and, as he rightly stated, they are banned, but the final category is called narcotic analgesics which are used by the athletes to eliminate pain. Narcotics include heroin, opium, morphine and codeine, the latter of which can be found in a number of British medicinal products which are commonly used for treating migraine, colds, flu, and upset stomachs.

All such products could trigger a positive IOC drugs test. Not only are pain-killers banned because they could be mis-used so to give one athlete an unfair physical advantage over another, but also because it could be harmful to the individual if they continued to train under the influence of such narcotics whilst injured. Therefore, Mr Dickens' question is not entirely accurate. - Matthew Try, Thetford, Norfolk.

If the rules of rugby union apply wherever the game is played, why is there so much talk about differing interpretations by southern and northern hemisphere referees?

The laws of rugby (not rules) total almost 30 with hundreds of sub-clauses and notes. Furthermore, many of them operate simultaneously and involve between one and 30 players.

The result of all this is that laws are being broken constantly and simultaneously by players of both teams. A slow motion film of line-outs, rucks and mauls for example, will show players of each side tweaking a whole range of laws within a matter of seconds.

This means that in order to get a game of rugby moving, many infractions by both teams have to be ignored by the referee. It is not a question of opting out. The referee is only applying an accepted legal maxim 'The law ignores trivialities'.

The problem arises when there are differing perceptions of what amounts to 'trivialities'. Often this perception depends on which areas of the game are regarded as important and these will vary in different parts of the world. For example, rucking is given greater emphasis in the southern hemisphere than in the northern - so referees apply rucking laws more strictly in New Zealand and Australia. Conversely, the scrummage has a greater priority in the northern hemisphere, so the scrummage laws are applied more strictly here. Furthermore, certain unions will instruct their referees to purge a particular problem area, thereby creating further inconsistencies.

The different interpretations that are talked about, therefore, arise from differing perceptions of what laws are important and these are often decided geographically. - Corris Thomas, Cardiff.

What is the origin of the five-rings Olympic symbol?

During the Congress of the International Olympic Committee in 1913, the president, Baron de Coubertin, introduced a sketch of the well-known symbol, explaining that the interlocking rings represented the unity of sportsmen from the five continents.

The six colours used, including the white background, were all found in the national flags of the countries (13 at that time) with national Olympic Committees. The suggestion sometimes put forward that each colour represents one continent (Africa green, America red, Asia yellow etc) is not true.

The Congress of 1913 unanimously accepted de Coubertin's suggested design and the original flag was duly made. It was sewn to the order of the Greek delegate, Mr Yolanakis, but he was unable to deliver it to the Baron until after the end of the First World War. - Thanos Koutsikopoulos, Kifissia, Greece.

Why are golfers only allowed to carry 14 clubs?

Golf is more than just a game. It is a ritual and as such there are certain rules which must be followed. The most important of these is that the player must enter the clubhouse under his own steam and anyone obtaining assistance to cross this finish can can be disqualified from the Tartan Trouser Club.

As anyone who has ever walked a golf-course with even the regulation number of clubs knows - these things are heavy] Therefore in order to avoid exhaustion or terminal 'golfers-back syndrome' the number of clubs which can be carried by any one golfer is limited. This also neatly avoids the dangers to following players of having to duck to avoid low flying clubs being flung from the bags of frustrated golfers and is the reason that the old golfing term 'fore and aft' has been corrupted to simply 'fore'. - J R Berrie (Tartan Trouser Club), Braintree, Essex.

Do snooker players ever suffer back problems?

Despite the fact that the posture of snooker players could well be described as unnatural and that the stance appears to be conducive to back trouble, the converse could be true. The height of an average snooker table means the emphasis on flexion or bending is shifted away from the lumber spine (lower back) and towards the hips. The movement required is well within the range available in a healthy hip, and this means the lumber spine still has the facility to be extended (the position adopted when the stomach is pushed forward and the lower back arched).

The mechanics of the lower back mean that this is a very good position to adopt to ward off the threat of a slipped disc, or muscle strains. A fair number of players assume this arch, and in that respect are doing themselves more good than harm.

Having said that, it would be rash to suggest that back complaints in snooker players are always unrelated to their sport. However, there is a paucity of documented evidence of this particular activity placing its participants in a high-risk group.

Were this to be so a more likely cause of back ailments in this group could be attributed to the vast amounts of money carried away by winners of major tournaments. - Trevor Lewis MCSP SRP, Liverpool.

What is the origin of the tiddlywinks term 'nurdling'?

Nurdling has nothing to do with minor sports such as tiddlywinks, snooker or cricket. As even exiled Kentish men know, nurdling is the principal painful hazard in the ancient game of Drats. Michael Bentine brought this sport to a wider public in A Square World on television and gave an account of a match played at Swindleby on 23 July 1963 in his Book of Square Games (Woolfe Publishing, London, 1966). Mind you, exactly what afflicts a contestant who nurdles remains to this day a secret. But only the great champion Fred Hump could proudly claim, 'I never not nurdled no how.' And who would challenge that? - Edwin Crundwell, Emsworth, Hants.

Why do some Pakistani cricketers wear dark green caps, and others light green caps?

Pakistan cricketers have always come in two varieties: tall, clean-shaven toffs who go to charity balls, and short, moustachioed streetfighters who argue with umpires. The team outfitter, belatedly recognising this, has issued light green caps to the toffs, and dark ones to the rest. - T J Hughes, London W2.

Those who wear light green caps are substitute fielders who are continually in the sunlight. Those who wear dark green caps are the fast bowlers who seem to be continually on the pavilion resting. - Harry Brussalis, Newport, Gwent.

Simple: some of them have hung on to their World Cup caps. Bryan March, London W2.


Which is the cheapest sport to take up? And which the most expensive? -

Simon White, Bath.

Why do cricketers wear long trousers to play a summer sport, while footballers wear shorts to play in winter? - Gary Elflett, Stockport.

What is the origin of the expression, 'It's not cricket'? - R S Hanspall, Wimbledon.

Who scored the first four-point try in first-class rugby in the British Isles? - Joseph Wall, Bristol.

Looked at simply as pieces of metal, how much are gold, silver and bronze medals worth? - Jill Way, London E1.

What is the longest recorded hole-in- one? - James Whittle, Preston?

How much time does a 100 metres freestyle swimmer save by shaving off all his body hair? - Carol Baker, Lewes.

Other than John Major, have any British Prime Ministers been noted for their interest in sport? - Norman Souter, Kidderminster.

Where can I buy a baggy green Australian cricket cap? - Colin Frewin, Sleaford.

40 City Road

London EC1Y 2DB

(Photograph omitted)