“Assured of fantastic support”


There is a remarkable quote from Paul “due diligence” Downton in the ECB press release announcing the tour dates for England’s 2015/16 tour of South Africa.

“We can be assured of fantastic support in South Africa from the thousands of loyal supporters who always follow us around the country – particularly at the Boxing Day Test in Durban and the New Year Test at Newlands in Cape Town.”

My, my. If they awarded a Nobel Prize for arrogance, Downton would be nailed on for the trip to Stockholm.

Just where does he get off, coming out with stuff like this? Is he deliberately taking the rise? Or does he derive some weird kick from taunting us?

Just pan your eyes across the landscape of English cricket. Public morale has never been lower. A great many of us – not all, admittedly – are still seething with anger at the Pietersen affair. Such is the sense of betrayal that a significant number spent 2014 wanting England to lose. That people who’d spent most of their lives following England not only withdrew their support but hoped the opposition would win is extraordinary and unprecedented.

But even if you don’t care about Pietersen, or the way it was handled, or were even glad go see him go, how good do you feel about English cricket right now? Does your heart swell with patriotic fervour at the sight of bosses’ placeman Alastair Cook leading the eleven Waitrose-branded ECB representatives on to the field of play?

You don’t need to observe the game closely to realise the ECB treat us like muck. This has been true for years, but never so brazenly or grotesquely as 2014, the year of Outside Cricket. As Dmitri Old put it, this was English cricket’s Ratner Moment.

In a year when we surrendered the Ashes in catastrophic fashion, were defeated by Holland, and lost three out of the four home series (including for the very first time, the Spring tests), how did the ECB respond? By trying to sell us Buxton Water.

Never apologising and never explaining, the Lord’s bosses have only emerged from hiding when they want to insult us or sell something.

They answer no questions. They refuse to investigate what went wrong in Australia. They kept the culprits in place and expected us to get excited by the reappointment of a coach who was sacked for being useless the first time he had a go. Their answer to disquiet over Pietersen is to ring up Paul Newman and plant a story about looking out of the window.

Meanwhile, their wartime propaganda machine attempts to portray an insipid captain as the joint reincarnation of Winston Churchill and Mother Theresa. Keep Cook And Carry On.

As far as their relationship with the public goes, the ECB resemble a different combination – Kim il-sung and Del Boy. When they’re not stamping out sedition, they’re hawking Alastair Cook’s cookery videos out the back of a Robin Reliant. And that’s before we even talk about £85 tickets and Sky subscriptions.

John Etheridge once argued on our comments board that the majority of English cricket fans care less about the political minutiae than we do, as bloggers and BTlers. This is probably true. But the swathes of empty seats at test grounds this summer speak for themselves. If we’ve exaggerated the acrimony, few could deny the apathy.

And after all of this, Downton believes that “we can be assured of fantastic support…from the thousands of loyal supporters”.

What on earth makes him so confident? Why is he taking this loyalty for granted? Why does Downton say “assured” of support rather than “hoping” for support?

Perhaps he’s deploying a psychological trick. The phrase is an instruction dressed up as an expectation. By stating a hope as a fact, he’s trying to brainwash you by subliminal means. YOU WILL SUPPORT US. YOU WILL BE LOYAL. DO AS WE SAY AND NO ONE WILL GET HURT.

Or is Downton’s phrase actually aimed at Waitrose? “Sorry about all the cock-ups, dreadful publicity and empty seats. But don’t worry. The faithful will still flock to South Africa and see your logo on the shirts”.

Let’s spin this around. What if the ECB are genuinely worried about public dissatisfaction? Could they feel uneasy and regretful about their conduct towards England followers? Are they now aware that support has ebbed away and loyalty must be earned? By going out of his way to big-up the spectators – 41 words out of a 147-word press release – is Downton offering a peculiar kind of olive branch?

Just fancy that

Alastair Cook, 1st April 2014

“I can’t actually answer that question [sacking of Pietersen] totally at this precise moment in time, which is incredibly frustrating for me. Everyone will say I’m sitting on the fence but there are a number of reasons which will become clearer soon.

“You have to respect the decision, the position I’m in at this precise moment. Everyone is going to keep asking that question until we give the answers but at the moment we just can’t.

“It is frustrating. If anyone thinks the decision was taken lightly and without a lot of consideration and a lot of thought…a lot of things went into the decision. It was a tough decision and the decisions will be made clearer in due course, and you just have to respect that at the moment. It is frustrating but that is the position I’m in at the moment and that is what it is”.

Alastair Cook, 14th November 2014

“We have had a couple of weeks together and we haven’t felt the need to talk about it [Pietersen] at all. I think we’ve moved on. All the fallout has happened.

“I felt in the summer we were moving on as a team but we had this publication date hanging over us and everyone was talking about what was going to happen. Now it’s all out from his side, no more can come out”.

I don’t think it was my proudest moment

Thanks to SimonH for flagging up the interview with Andrew Strauss in the Daily Mail. The Pietersen book? Regrettable, tarnishes memories – the same ploys as before. The evidence presented about the misconduct of the ECB? A “crazy circus”.  Going to Sri Lanka as preparation for a World Cup in Australia? “Perfect”. Cook’s greatest asset? A “huge iron rod”.

Alas, I don’t have the opportunity at the moment to give the piece a proper fisking myself, but all your thoughts are very welcome indeed.


  • They will be assured of fantastic support in Cape Town. It’s the greatest city I’ve been to, the most gorgeous ground and a brilliant event. Also, the money goes to South Africans. If I were single, liquid and inclined, I’d be there like a shot. Hashim Amla, AB DeVilliers, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, and an Iron Rod.

    Downton is a cretin. Look at what he says about the four core values for the England team – pride, humility, courage and excellence – and you see what we are dealing with.

  • “We can be assured of fantastic support in South Africa from the thousands of loyal supporters who always follow us around the country”

    But he doesn’t actually say where these supporters come from does he? He doesn’t say “follow us around THAT country.”

    He says “follow us around THE country.”

    He could be talking about Expats living in South Africa. Or even South Africans with English links. And seeing as he was one of the many people who now lives at the top of English cricket who went off to their beloved South Africa to make their fortunes when they were supposed to be playing for England, we all know their deep affections for South Africa.

    As for the English based supporters who travel, as long as they buy their ECB package through an ECB appointed travel agent I’m sure Downton will be delighted. And if they take bottles of Buxton water and Waitrose Xmas hampers with them everybody who matters will be kept happy.

    • Pssst. It’s a Harrogate Spring Rehydration Break. Buxton Spring were dumped like a Pietersen…..

      • You can only marvel at the marketing teams’ irrepressibility. Who in the real world, exactly, goes for a hydration break, rather than a glass of water?

  • I hope to be attending the full five days at Centurion.

    Tests that don’t feature Australia usually see me as a neutral spectator enjoying the game without the emotional involvement.

    On this occasion however I will be (if Cook is still the captain of England) giving my full throated support to South Africa.

    If it is not to presumptuous I will consider myself a representative of you my English friends who have been disenfranchised by the ECB.

    And if any one wants to join me I reckon I can find a spare bed or two.

  • ‘Whenever I feel afraid
    I hold my head erect
    And whistle a happy tune…’

    (from the well-known musical, The Cook and I)

  • I have to say I was pleased to see our team arriving in Sri Lanka without the sponsor’s name stamped across their foreheads or on the back of their suits.

    Seeing it on the white ‘interview’ caps and in the aeroplane was cringe making. A little less money and a little more dignity would have been preferable.

    Another great post Maxie.

  • Downton’s other bit of wibble before he was pushed back in the cupboard:

    “Any tour of South Africa is special and as the Proteas currently set the benchmark in Test and ODI cricket it will be a real challenge which our emerging team will relish”.

    “Special”? Perhaps partly because it doesn’t happen too often. Arron has already posted England’s test opposition in recent years on the previous thread so here are our ODI opponents in the last five years:
    A 26
    I 21
    SL 12
    SA 10
    P 9
    NZ 7
    B 7
    WI 6
    Others 6
    (45% of ODIs against ‘the Big Two’)

    Thanks for the mention on Strauss at the DM and hope you do get time to give it a fisking. My thoughts on it are over at Dmitri’s. The last third in particular is a treasure trove of unintentional comedy gold.

    • Thanks, Simon. The word ’emerging’ is interesting. It translates as ‘not very good’. Nice to see he’s getting his excuses in early.

      Re Strauss, it’s disappointing that a clever and relatively youthful man has become such an unindependent-minded young fogey.

  • Can I just point out that Paul Downton DID NOT go on the South African rebel tours. I had seen it written here before, and assumed it was correct. But it has been pointed out to me this is not the case.

    I apologise for my mistake. And it teaches me to look up my own facts in future.

    Of course there are others at the top of English cricket who did go on those tours, but Downton was not one of them.

    • It must be worth asking what Andy Flower thought of Graham Gooch for his decision to take the Rand when it was offered to him.

      • Not really , as any ex Zim/ Rhodie will tell you those mercenaries who went to SA for the big RAND were considered ” good okes” (marvellous people) and much as many dislike Andy Flower I do not think that he would be so two faced as to say anything different just to be politically expedient.

  • I would be amazed & astonished if the KP “issue” effects the Barmy Army’s take up for this tour.
    They’ve been waiting a long time to go back to South Africa, numbers will be high.
    Downton’s comment may seem arrogant, but he’ll be proved correct.

    • I’m sorry – but I’m really struggling to be at all offended by the comment. If Roy Hodgson had said something similar about football fans no one would have batted an eyelid. But because it’s Downton talking about cricket fans, it’s the height of arrogance? Give over. It’s a statement of the obvious and a standard tribute to the Barmy Army – unless you’re absolutely determined to be angry whenever Downton opens his mouth.
      You’ve got enough substantive things to take the ECB to task about without getting worked up about this.

      • I stand by it. What sticks in my craw is his use of the words ‘assured’ and ‘fantastic support’. It’s presumptuous, patronising, and complacent.

        If he’d said “Cape Town is a wonderful place and the tickets are cheaper than England, so we hope British tourists will come and watch as part of a holiday”, it would be different.

  • Unfortunately I tend to agree Neil. A very small portion of spectators may think twice about going, but South Africa is a beautiful country, that isn’t too expensive (apparently) and people will go for the wine / scenery / safari as much as the cricket … which is basically just an excuse to have a booze up and a bit of a laugh in the sun anyway. They won’t have astronomical ticket prices to put them off either ;-)

    • The tickets work out to £4.90 a day for the most expensive (covered seating behind the bowler) half that for the grass embankments.

      A very good bottle of wine is about £2.50 and a 1kg Sirloin steak (aged) at the super market is about £4.00.

      • Bloody Hell! You’re making it very appealing Ian :) I must admit I’ve been put off by some horror stories about Joburg – but Cape Town looks magnificent. A CT/Durban double header sounds like a great idea.

        • Joburg’s not too bad as long as you are careful. Stay in the Northern Suburbs and find yourself a reliable Taxi driver to get you about and Centurion is a great ground.

    • I think we’re in a situation where anything Downton says will be picked on by those who are against him.
      I’m with BigKev 100%

      I may be wrong (I often am) but I think that the KP issue has already blown over. Just look at his very poor book sales, it won’t put anyone of the Ashes, and it certainly won’t put anyone of South Africa, People have probably had that trip for a very long time.

      The test will come in 2016 when we have not so glamorous tourists, and we may be on the back of World cup humiliation, An Ashes reverse, Defeat in the desert and tired and young team getting a bashing in South Africa.
      Then the ECB may be coming for a lot of flak!

      • Depends on results over the next 12 months. If England have a poor World Cup and then lose the Ashes I can’t see how Cook can stay as captain. And that in turn will reflect badly on Downton.

        While I agree the KP issue is over ( although it’s amazing how often the ECB/media keeps saying KP is finished ,yet keeps going on about him. See both Newman and Brenkley in the last 2 days) bashing KP seems more important to them that picking a decent. ODI captain.

        The price of cricket tickets keeps going up, and there is no cricket on terrestrial tv. By 2016 all the parties will probably have all left their posts, having been extremely well paid and having left English cricket in the shit. But by then then Cook and Downton and Clarke and Flower can all laugh their way to the bank.

        Any flack the ECB gets then will be to little, to late.

  • Well I live in Limpopo next to the Kruger National Park as I type this I’m looking at a giraffe browsing on the trees outside my office window. (I work from home).

    So the closest venues for me are In Jozi and Pretoria, 500km away.
    Cape Town is a little far, 2200km away although I do enjoy watching games at Newlands.

    Cape Town is closer to Jozi than Durban but if you’re flying it doesn’t really make a difference.

    If anyone does want to come down let me know and I will try to arrange a Safari for you if you would like. And at the very least we can sit round the fire have a braai drink booze and talk cricket at my place.


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