Taking slides in the great roof debate

The loud clanging noise to be heard coming from Wimbledon last week did not originate in the mechanism of a play-saving sliding roof but from the committee room where they were busy explaining why they didn't have one. Putting the lid on the place is a concept that many of us would eagerly embrace but the cover being hotly discussed was of the retractable variety to be used only in the case of rain; in other words, semi-permanently.

This is the seasonal equivalent of the summer soccer debate that we'll be having when we're up to our necks in snow and ice next January, but it is fascinating, none the less. Even those who take only a passing interest in tennis have felt bound to ask why the All England Club didn't bother to slip in a sliding ceiling when they were building the new No 1 Court at a cost of pounds 20m. There's one at Melbourne Park, home of the Australian Open, that works very well and they are starting to mushroom in Germany following the success of a retractable perspex roof that can slide over Halle's 12,000-seater court in 90 seconds.

It would be wrong to accuse the All England of being oblivious to this particular manifestation of the modern age. One of the committee who decided against a roof insisted, "A huge amount of thinking went into our decision", thereby confirming that a distressing number of our sporting leaders continue to judge the quality of their thinking by the amount of time they spend doing it.

We are also told that the debate went all the way up to the club chairman, John Curry - which is roof level, sure enough - and that it was considered from all angles, not least the interests of the players. It wouldn't be fair, they say, to those players whose matches could not be accommodated under cover.

It is impossible to resist the temptation to comment that if it's a fairer world they seek there may be more appropriate places to start than this palace of the overpaid but let's not dwell on a subject that is not going to be resolved until BSkyB eventually get hold of the Wimbledon television contract whereupon roofs will be sliding from every direction at the first sign of a black cloud. Our satellite and pay-per-view friends won't be content to squander prime time on games from the archives.

But there were more than just a mean bunch of rain clouds rumbling around the sporting heavens last week. Celestial agitation of a far more serious and portentous nature was darkening the skies and you wonder if there has ever been a midsummer that carried so heavy a threat of our main sports being drenched in discord against which there is no defensive roof.

Rugby union is just one example. It is a paradox that in South Africa our rugby players should have acquitted themselves in so dashing and delightful a manner while, at home, many of the game's administrators are engaged in squalid struggles for power. The sundering of the Rugby Football Union involves squabbles so bitter and complicated only the Daily Telegraph seem to understand them; but I doubt if their readers do.

All may become clear at the RFU's AGM next month when the warring factions have to step into the open and should be a little easier to scrutinise. You'd have to go to the High Court to keep a check on the machinations that have soured Welsh rugby. The only discernible progress being made is that registered by the needle on the lawyers' meters. With the season seven weeks away, Cardiff and Ebbw Vale have both been involved in legal actions against the WRU.

Rugby league hasn't reached that stage yet but following the recent series of matches against Australian clubs - shortly to be renamed the World Pummelling Championships - the game is not in encouraging shape and, with the league's chief executive Maurice Lindsay still being forecast as the future chairman of the Tote, is perilously close to upheaval.

With even Manchester United managing to buy a player at last, football would seem to be in the heartiest and most stable state of all our top games. On Thursday, however, the first intimation of trouble ahead came when the Premiership indicated that they will be seeking to reduce from three to two the number of clubs featuring in promotion and relegation with the First Division of the Football League.

The League clubs have reacted in alarm to what is obviously the first sign that those safe on board the luxury Premiership are intent on pulling up the rope-ladder. Now that the stock market is heavily involved, the top clubs are anxious to avoid the instability that three down, or even two down, will inflict on their share prices. When this proposal hardens up it could split the game even wider.

Cricket's critical moment will come much sooner. On 5 August, the England and Wales Cricket Board, under the chairmanship of Lord MacLaurin of Tesco fame, will announce their blueprint for the future of domestic cricket which is certain to include a radical change to the County Championship format. Opinions have already been sought from county players and umpires and 7,000 questionnaires are being distributed to county and club members to involve the grass-roots in the decision.

We were denied a glimpse of cricket's likely future when last week's deluge also swamped Surrey's attempt to stage the first official day-night match in Britain. Traditionalists would have breathed a prayer of thanks towards the dark heavens. Surrey Lions v Nottingham Outlaws under floodlights, each batsman played to the crease with his own signature tune, with a lion's roar to greet every Nottingham wicket that falls ... you get the picture.

There may well be room for a jazzed-up version of the game in the calendar but I trust the ECB realise that there are less extreme ways to entice spectators and that there is a rich market to be tapped among the older, less gimmick-demanding part of the population. The cricket crowd of the future doesn't have to be packed with young men chanting "Barmy Army" for five hours at a stretch.

Even allowing for the rain, it is hard to recall a summer so replete with exciting sporting action. But behind the scenes there is a worrying absence of a firm and reliable hand on the rudders.

ANTE-POST betting is a familiar part of racing but my colleagues on the Independent racing desk last week revealed that ante-natal betting is now with us. Coral bookmakers are offering their clients a 150-1 chance to become expectant punters by placing their cash on a horse that won't be born until next year.

It's the mother and father of a brave bet. But the mother concerned is Flakey Dove, who won the 1994 Champion Hurdle, and the sire who has put her in the family way is Alderbrook who won the same hurdling classic the following year. You can't get better breeding than that and Corals have had plenty of interest in the bet even though it could be seven years before the offspring gets to the starting line.

Meanwhile, there's all that pacing up and down outside the delivery room, years of worrying about coughs and strains .... I think I'd want more than 150-1 to endure that sort of parenthood. Still, as they say, a foal and his money are soon parted.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
British musician Mark Ronson arrives for the UK premiere of the film 'Mortdecai'
music
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
people
News
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us