The Reader: Put top sport on free TV and more of us will play

I’m in complete agreement with Matthew Mann [“Make cricket free to watch on TV”, June 14] on the decline in cricket participation numbers due to subscription television’s dominance of the sport — but I suggest that this extends far beyond just cricket.

With three separate TV providers for football next year there’s no way I can afford to keep up. As for boxing, as a child I knew all the big names because it was free to watch but if I asked my children to name any three current boxers they wouldn’t have a clue, as we can’t afford to see it.

Anthony Joshua was recently at a charity boxing event in Lambeth to help bring sport to the masses. Can I suggest a better way would be to have his fights on terrestrial TV, rather than milking the public through subscription TV and pay-per-view? As less and less sport becomes regularly available to everyone then participation by everyone will decline.
Trevor Tibbenham


Dear Trevor

I agree — making sport visible encourages more people to play. Cricket is the go-to case study for sport’s relationship with TV. The last time England’s men played on free-to-air was 2005, when Channel 4 broadcast the Ashes. At times, eight million people tuned in. Since then, though, Sky has poured money into the game — last month, CEO of the England and Wales Cricket Board Tom Harrison called Sky “cricket’s best friend”. It deserves credit.

The trouble is, in those 14 years cricket has become a wealthy but hidden sport. Last week, 6.1 million watched England play Scotland at the women’s World Cup in football, while an average of 550,000 have watched our men’s cricketers in their World Cup — which is at home, and they are favourites to win.

A middle ground was needed in 2005, where some cricket remained free to view, like rugby union still is with the Six Nations. Next year the BBC will broadcast 11 matches in the ECB’s new competition, The Hundred. Cricket lovers will hope it’s not too little, too late.

Will Macpherson, Cricket Correspondent

Make every day Clean Air Day

Some 9,500 people die each year in London because of air pollution. With Clean Air Day tomorrow, we call on the Government to address this public health scandal. Poor air quality disproportionately impacts more deprived areas, and a King’s College study showed that children in Tower Hamlets have up to 10 per cent less lung capacity than normal.

The Mayor of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone is welcome. We can all play our part by walking and cycling where possible — our Breathe Clean campaign promotes this to residents. Tower Hamlets is also closing some roads to traffic by creating school streets and play streets.

However, we need the Government to take bold action too, by bringing forward the ban on diesel cars and investing in a national scrappage scheme to help our residents with the cost of converting to cleaner vehicles.
John Biggs
Mayor of Tower Hamlets
Rachel Blake
Deputy mayor of Tower Hamlets and cabinet member for air quality

No need for most to drive in London

Unlike Phil Loader [“London traffic has never been worse”, June 17], I have never once driven in London in the past 30 years — and I have never had even the slightest desire to do so either.

Sure, some vehicular movements may be necessary for trade and for deliveries but I don’t see why the convenience of the motorist should be paramount.

Nor am I convinced that each and every vehicle clogging up the main roads (or noisily, impatiently and perilously rat-running through residential side streets), often containing only one or two people, really needs to be there.
Gordon Thompson

Blame MPs for the Brexit mess

Contrary to James McGrory, I think it’s Parliament which has lost the plot on Brexit [“Tories are losing the plot on Brexit”, June 17]. Although a vast majority of MPs voted to accept the will of the people and 498 voted to trigger Article 50, since that date I believe Remain-backing MPs have tried every trick in the book to thwart the people’s will.

Mr McGrory further states that in the referendum only a very narrow majority voted for us to leave the European Union. But a difference of 52 per cent to 48 per cent is still about 1.25 million votes.
Wayne Boothroyd