Sports Letters

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The Independent Online
Not a drought

Sir: In your piece "Jubilation at last for England" (11 August) Derek Pringle referred to the end of a "12-year drought at Test level". It is certainly the first five match series win but England have achieved six three match Test series in that time (home and away).


Director of Corporate Affairs

Lord's Cricket Ground

Sir: My wife and I have been avid TV watchers of the Test matches and it was with a growing irritation that I tried not to see Cornhill Insurance blazoned across the field at either end of the pitch. Sponsors are doubtless not thick on the ground, and we are grateful for them. But on the other hand, it is a privilege to sponsor an event of such magnitude. And I think it is an abuse of that privilege to exploit the circumstance so commercially. The logo was even drawn to look as though standing vertically, screaming its message to the millions of viewers.

To deface the field with even a small logo would still represent the ultimate in bad taste, but the one we have had to suffer was obtrusive in the extreme, detracting very much from the match. Sponsors should make up their minds what it is they are promoting, a cultural event or their own aggrandisement. If it is the latter, I don't think we want them.



Kyle of Lochalsh

Mine's a pint

Sir: The sting in the tail of Tim Glover's piece ("Global recruits signed by Best", 12 August), suggested that Dick Best held the view that "Assessors of referees... who hid in the corner with half a pint of bitter... ruin rugby in this country". But assessors are no more. They are advisors. Or should I say that we are advisors and have been for a number of years. Our job is to observe, review and advise referees how to improve their game for the benefit of all who play or watch - players, coaches, spectators and, of course, the referees - report to the RFU.

We so called "ruinous half-pinters" seek, through our advice to referees, to offer players space in which to play, and structures and passages of play in which effort and skill can flourish and can be rewarded: all within the laws of the game. Would that coaches and players sought the same outcome. More often than not the current philosophy of "aggressive defence" spills over into offside. More often than not the stray hand or body at breakdown frustrates effort and skill. And both have the potency to generate violence. Something about stones and glass houses. And by the way, mine's a pint - Guinness of course.


Panel of Advisors,

South West Group

Rotten banana?

Sir: The build-up to this season's football Premiership was saturated with articles from football pundits pondering one topic. "How are the crowds going to ridicule Beckham ?" "How will Beckham react ?"

Every football player will tell you that they have received verbal abuse from crowds. In certain cases, it is after all a compliment - a sign that the crowd are worried about that player.

I say "in certain cases" as we should not forget that many black players have been subjected to racial abuse from fans and players for many years. It was only 10 years ago that John Barnes, while in his first season at Liverpool, had bananas thrown to him from the crowd.

Thankfully, racism is being stamped out of the game. But I ask myself, what is worse, a campaign to "show Beckham a red card" or having a banana thrown at you ? Surely, our perspective is badly skewed when we debate Beckham at length and leave that banana to rot.


St Catherine's College


Sir: Is it not heartening to know that soccer patriots draw the line somewhere? (Magazine, 15 August). They may engage foreign policemen in drunken battles, beat up each other, hang effigies of Beckham, send hate mail, abuse his parents and chant brutish obscenities about his girlfriend. But kick someone who fouled them on a football pitch? Never in a million years, mate! And pigs might fly.



Sir: In your article "Hoddle puts profit before honour" (13 August)

you raise many questions which would involve many pages of correspondence to defend or argue against. But one - "Hoddle has for a price betrayed Gascoigne" - deserves comment. Gascoigne has betrayed every English man, woman and child (especially the children) by his petulant, childish, ill- disciplined behaviour at home and abroad, all resulting in some form of financial gain or notoriety.

Any other man being omitted from the World Cup squad for being too slow, overweight and unfit would have said his piece, left gracefully (if possible), kept his own counsel and resolved to gain the status - which he (Gascoigne) has never wholly achieved in football - and respect in the eyes of those within and outside of football (which Hoddle certainly has).

Finally, if the price of betrayal of Gascoigne is finally to hear the other side of the story, and therefore rid us of this distraction - Gascoigne - which has encumbered the selection and developing of other more honourable, dedicated and professional players for the national team, then let's all pay up and look big. It will all be worth it in Euro 2000.