How will the ‘crown jewels’ change English cricket?

November 18, 2009


The ECB are worried what effect the 'crown jewel' list will have on grassroots cricket

David Davies has listed all home Ashes cricket series as a ‘crown jewel’ event from 2017, much to the dismay of the ECB.

Davies’ decision to block Sky from showing the matches on its flagship channels means the Ashes will return to free-to-air television for the first time since the famous 2005 series.

The ECB has derided this decision, claiming the decision will “kill” grassroots cricket, as the majority of funding the ECB give to the lower forms of the game comes from the Sky TV deal.

But will the drop in revenue be as great as Giles Clarke, chairman of the ECB, is making out? He says TV revenue will drop from £66m to £25m, according to the Guardian.

It is only the Ashes series that will be placed on the ‘crown jewels’ list. This still means they can sell all the other series as a whole. And if Davies’ plan does work it will increase interest in this package, thus raising its worth.


Plus the Ashes series is an attractive event on its own and will surely raise interest from BBC, Channel 4, Channel 5 and ITV, as well as Sky. Possibly sparking a bidding war amongst them.

As the ECB are worried about grassroots cricket, as they should be, they could reduce the amount of money given to counties. This would stop the counties paying expensive overseas players and give young English talent a chance, as brilliantly illustrated by Scyld Berry in the Sunday Telegraph.

All it would mean for the ECB is that they would have to tighten the purse strings and rearrange their budget.

Just because the Ashes have to be shown on free-to-air channels, Sky can still bid for the games along with the other broadcasters.

This is due to the 2012 compulsory switch over which means all televisions have to be digitally enabled, with no more terrestrial channels being broadcast.

Advantages for Sky

As a result, all televisions across the country will at least have Freeview channels, with Sky already broadcasting Sky Three, Sky News and Sky Sports News on this format.

This would allow Sky to show the series on these channels for free, as they have done with the Free-weekend Pass promotion. There are also other advantages for Sky in using this system.

This is the perfect platform to showcase the excellent coverage they provide on the England cricket team. This could inspire customers to upgrade to their sports channels in order to watch the other cricket series.

Also the money Sky may lose from customers not paying to watch the games can be retrieved through the increase in advertising revenue as more people will watch their channels. Sky may even buy the series at a cheaper rate.

David Davies’ plan will allow more people to watch Ashes cricket and to inspire the next generation of future cricketers. If it works it will do more than any grassroots programme the ECB have in place.

This is important for Giles Clarke to understand.

By Jack Atchinson


Poor Aneurysm Awareness puts men’s lives at risk

November 8, 2009

Thousands of men are failing to benefit from a life-saving screening programme, which aims to detect a potentially fatal condition known as an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA).

The NHS Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening Programme was first introduced in spring 2009, and is gradually being rolled out across the UK.

Under the scheme, men aged 65 are invited by their GP to attend a screening appointment – yet many are failing to do so.

Silent Killer

The aorta is the major blood vessel supplying the body. With age, the wall of the vessel may weaken and stretch, forming what is known as an ‘aneurysm’.

While the majority of abdominal aortic aneurysms are not dangerous, larger aneurysms can burst suddenly – a situation which is usually fatal.

The condition – which kills 7,000 people each year – is six times more common in men than in women, and the incidence rises with age. Other risk factors include smoking, high blood pressure and having a family member with an aneurysm.

Quick and painless

Wandsworth – one of the first regions to benefit from the Programme – has seen poor levels of attendance all summer. In September, less than four in ten men came to their appointment.

blog pics 005

St George's Hospital

Mr Ian Loftus, consultant vascular surgeon at St George’s Hospital, Tooting, said: ‘Men who are suffering from this condition will not generally notice any symptoms, which is why screening is so important. The test at St George’s is simple, pain-free and usually takes less than ten minutes.’

During the appointment a small scanner is placed on the stomach – similar to that used in pregnancy. Unlike many other screening tests, the results are available immediately.


If no aneurysm is detected, men will not require screening again. In those where a small aneurysm is found, a repeat scan is recommended to monitor its growth.

Rarely, men will be referred straight to a surgeon for treatment, which is a relatively simple procedure known as ‘endovascular repair‘.


Uptake of cervical screening by women has risen in the past year – probably due to increased public awareness following the death of Jade Goody.

blog pics 002

St Thomas' Hospital

Mr Matt Waltham, consultant surgeon at St Thomas’ Hospital – which has also seen poor attendance rates – blames the current situation on men’s ignorance:

‘The problem we’re encountering is that the majority of people aren’t coming to their appointments. This is probably because they don’t know about the condition and that it has no symptoms, but that decision is potentially putting their lives at risk’.

Student Anger as Fundraising blocked

November 7, 2009

Three students have criticised London Underground staff for blocking their attempts to raise money.

The fundraisers – all medical students at Imperial University – were taking part in ‘Charity Week‘, an annual event arranged by Islamic Societies across London.

Imperial students - Charity Week

Students dress up to draw attention

‘When we started this morning it was going really well’, said Khaled Tawfik, who was collecting money in Victoria station, ‘then a member of staff came up and told us off for shaking our buckets; we were told it was inappropriate to shake the buckets we collect money in and warned not to approach commuters directly.  All we can do is stand here.  Since then, far fewer people have donated.  It will probably make a difference to how much we raise’.

Nearby, students from the London School of Pharmacy experienced similar difficulties in Pimlico station: ‘it’s very hard to get commuters to donate.  We’ve struggled a bit this morning – they tend to just walk by without looking at you,’ said one.

A good cause

London School of Pharmacy - Charity Week

Pimlico commuters fail to notice 'Tigger'

During Charity Week hundreds of students attempt to engage the public’s interest by dressing up in costumes and collecting money in various locations, including underground stations.

The annual fundraising event was first organised in 2004 by Wajid Ahktar – a medical student at St George’s, University of London.  Since then, students from across the UK have raised over £900,000.

Money raised during Charity Week is used to help orphans in the third world through a variety of projects – including the building of orphanages and schools.

Public frustration

Some commuters however fail to be impressed.  ‘We’re in the middle of a recession,’ pointed out a passer-by, ‘I don’t have time to stop on my way to work and have them tell me all about kids in Africa’.

Most stations insist that fundraisers apply for a permit before collecting money.  Students who break the conditions of their permit may be asked to leave the premises.

Tawfik remains defensive: ‘it’s hard to be accused of harassing commuters and described as ‘beggars’ when we’re actually doing this for a really good cause’.

Fabio Capello to unveil Sir Alf Ramsey sculpture at Wembley

November 6, 2009

Statue of Sir Alf Ramsey outside Portman Road (Courtesy of Paul Forsdick)

The England manager, Fabio Capello, will today unveil a commemorative sculpture of former England and Ipswich manager Sir Alf Ramsey at Wembley Stadium.

Sir Geoff Hurst, Sir Bobby Charlton and George Cohen played in Ramsey’s World Cup winning side and will all be present at the ceremony, along with Booby Moore’s widow Stefanie.

The sculpture was created by artist Philip Jackson, the man who crafted the iconic figure of Bobby Moore which already stands outside Wembley.

Jackson is also responsible for the Manchester United ‘Trinity’ of Charlton, Denis Law and George Best outside Old Trafford.

England Manager

Sir Ramsey’s greatest success was when he guided England as manager to World Cup glory in 1966.

He became manager in 1963, made a young Bobby Moore England’s captain and announced England would win the World Cup.

The Essex man is known as ‘England’s first proper manager’ after demanding total control on all football matters, particularly decisions on team selections which had since been made by the board.

He also led England to third place in the 1968 European Championships in Italy.

He was knighted in 1967 for his services to the game, but was sacked as manager in 1973 after failing to make the 1974 World Cup Finals.

Sir Ramsey Way

Sir Ramsey retired from playing the game in 1955 and became Ipswich Town’s manager.

He spent 8 years at Portman road, taking the Suffolk club up from the Third Division South into the First Division.

He guided Ipswich to the Second Division title in 1960/61 season, to take the club into the top flight for the first time in their history.

The following season saw them win the First Division Championship in their debut season, finishing above Harry Potts’ Burnley by 3 points.

In August 2000, the Ipswich Town Supporters Club unveiled a statue of Sir Ramsey down at Portman Road, with the road running behind the North Stand being renamed Sir Ramsey Way.


The statue will be positioned in the tunnel area at Wembley, and Sir Ramsey’s widow Lady Victoria – speaking to Sky News from her home in Ipswich – feels its a fitting tribute.

“The sculpture of Alfred looks outstanding and the unveiling at Wembley is very appropriate.”

Geroge Cohen, who will be representing Lady Victoria today, also told Sky News:

“It’s a tremendous sculpture and it’s like he’s actually in the room with you.

“When you were in the presence of Sir Alf there was a definite sense of “Gentleman, we’re here to do business” and the sculpture really captures that feeling.”

More Call-Ups As England Injury Woe Continues

November 5, 2009

Andrew Sheridan

Many people blame the size of players, like Andrew Sheridan, for the recent injury crisis. Picture: Paul Gilham

The RFU have announced the call up of Nick Kennedy, the London Irish back-row forward, as England’s injury list continues to grow.


The latest big name player to withdraw from the Autumn internationals is Gloucester centre Mike Tindall. The world-cup winner suffered a hamstring injury against Sale at the weekend.

England’s injury list already includes six first-team players, such as Delon Armitage and Andrew Sheridan, and has caused a third of the original squad to pull out.

Former England international Chris Sheasby, speaking on talkSPORT, claims the causes of the injury woes are players being too physically big for their skill level, and players are playing too much rugby.

Premiership managers have blamed the fixture list before. They have seen their top players play three domestic competitions, Autumn internationals and Six Nations, whilst in the summer the players have international tours, World Cups or Lions tours.


George Morgan, a sports bio-medic and nutritionist, claimed, “It’s not just the physique of rugby that has changed it’s the mentality.” He explained, “Coaches now use words like collisions instead of tackle or break down. Bigger players mean bigger collisions.”

Managers also blame the lack of squad size as the salary cap prohibits clubs possessing large numbers to act as cover.

Morgan explained, “ The higher playing demands reduce recovery times. A tired player will have weak muscles and poor technique.”

Speaking to the Sunday Times, New Zealand legend Sean Fitzpatrick blamed the confrontational style of the Premiership for the injury problems. He added, “In New Zealand, if a player gets a knock on their calf, they don’t play next week.”

Jeremy Guscott, speaking to the same paper, offered a cynical view. He said, “If they haven’t got the brains to play smarter rugby then expect to get hit harder.”

England will however welcome back long-term injury victims Jonny Wilkinson and Lewis Moody for the upcoming Autumn internationals. The internationals kick off this Saturday against Australia, with the RFU expecting a full house at Twickenham.

By Jack Atchinson

There Is Life After A Mental Disease

November 1, 2009

“I started to Love myself”, explained Marian Moore in describing how she recovered from schizophrenia and bi-polar disease.

This could surprise many people, who believe that mental health diseases are taboo, due to its link with violence, and medication being the only cure.

SHIFT, a charity who offers help to mental illness sufferers, hope to change this stigma. Laura Deeley, on behalf of SHIFT, said, “We aim to reduce discrimination to people with mental health difficulties”.

Marian was diagnosed in 1989, after suffering from excessive stress due to her job as a teacher and from the high-profile suicide of her father.


For twelve years, her husband and two children suffered along with her, as there was little support at the time for carers. “My husband would have had a nervous breakdown if I hadn’t recovered”, Marian ironically claimed.

Nowadays, there is more help for the carers of mentally ill patients. SHIFT use Department of Health funding to offer support and hope that Mental Health Week will provide awareness of the diseases.

There are three types of initial care, according to Marian, for patients: audio, visual and ‘smells’. But she believes that oral therapy “should be the first line of attack”.

When Marian was on the road to recovery she joined a health magazine as editor, where they “laughed themselves better”, she mused.

Marian has now recovered, and speaks to the public to remove the taboo approach to mental health issues. She said, “I talk about my experiences to offer hope that there is life after an illness and to remove this stigma of violence to others”.

By Jack Atchinson

Statistics on Mental Illness issues.

34% of the public think people with a mental health problem are likely to be violent- in fact it is as unlikely as being struck by lightning.


Less than 1% of homicides a year are random attacks by someone with a mental illness.

One in six people (about 10 million people) in the UK, are affected by a mental Health Problem at any one time.

Source: SHIFT

Guardian Columnist Failed Westminster Degree

October 29, 2009

Charlie Brooker at Waterstone's.

Guardian columnist Charlie Brooker described his disastrous experience as a student at the University of Westminster, at a book signing event last night. 

Brooker studied Media Studies at Westminster between 1989 and 1992, but failed his BA because the subject of his dissertation was unacceptable.

‘I flunked it. I failed my degree because I wrote my dissertation about computer games without checking it with my teachers’, he told an audience at Waterstone’s, Piccadilly.

The columnist joked that computer games are now probably a standard part of the course.

Sonic the Hedgehog

‘They’re probably teaching whole modules on Sonic the fxxxing Hedgehog now’, he exclaimed.

But he also admitted that he had not been the most dedicated student.

‘I spent the whole time getting stoned’, he said of his time at Westminster.

Brooker does not remember much that he learned at Uni.

‘I probably learned a lot at the time, but I forgot it all in a couple of months’.

The writer and broadcaster was speaking at a book signing event to promote his latest collection of journalism, The Hell of It All.


Brooker is well-known for the scathing tone of much of his work, but he said last night that he regrets some of the nasty things he has written about people.

He told the audience at Waterstone’s that he pulled a column from The Hell of It All because he thought it was ‘a bit unfair’.  The offensive column suggested that a family taking part in a reality TV show should be called  ‘The Sxxxs’.

Brooker also said he feels ‘really bad’ about a column he wrote about the philosopher Alain de Button.

Brooker said that he only wrote the column so that he could joke at the end of it: ‘if you feel bad about slagging him [de Button] off, don’t worry. He’d be philosophical about it’.