Mike Atherton, Death of a Gentleman Win SJA Awards

I like Mike Atherton. Apparently I’m not alone. Yesterday Athers won the SJA (Sports Journalists’ Association) cricket writing award for his work at The Times. I can’t really comment on his recent work as it’s stuck behind a pay wall (how apt for English cricket), but I do know he’s a very able and I respect his views immensely. He’s welcome to write for TFT anytime – as long as he appreciates that I’d be doing him a favour and not vice versa. Ahem.

The SJA also had good news for the The Telegraph’s cricket coverage, which took some criticism from rivals during the Pietersen controversy. The SJA judges, who are fellow professionals from the industry (editors, fellow journalists etc), usually name a winner and two ‘highly commended’ writers. In the cricket category the two commended journos were Nick Hoult and Jonathan Liew. I read these two guys quite a lot and I’m pleased their work has been recognised.

You might be interested to know that The Telegraph’s Paul Hayward won the overall Sports Writer of the Year – an award that transcends the individual categories. Well done him. David Walsh, a name familiar to many, won Sports Feature Writer and The Daily Mail won best sports newspaper. Although the latter award surprised me a little, they’ve got some good writers working for them these days. Lawrence Booth obviously springs to mind. You can read the full list of winners here.

However, the big news as far as I’m concerned is that Death of A Gentleman – the film that laid bare the problems facing world cricket – won the Television Sport Documentary Award. The film beat operations with far bigger budgets, including BBC Panorama and documentaries made by moneybags organisations like BT Sport. I’d like to congratulate friend of the site Jarrod Kimber, who we spoke to about Death of a Gentleman last year, and his colleague Sam Collins. You guys have done brilliantly. Let’s hope the ICC implements the reforms most fair-minded people want to see.

In other news there were three awards for Sky’s cricket team. They won both the Live Sports Broadcast and Multi-media award. Somewhat surprisingly Ian Ward won best sports presenter too. I like Wardy, and find him quite entertaining, but I’ve never really seen him as a star. Having said that he’s quite often the glue that makes Sky’s telecasts hang together. The big names like Nasser Hussain obviously get most of the attention (and quite rightly so) but I guess Ward certainly plays his part. Congrats to him.

Long time readers of the site will know that I’m deeply concerned about Sky’s monopoly of live cricket in the UK. I think putting some live cricket coverage on free-to-air television is a must – the loss of some money from Sky might be offset by the more lucrative sponsorship deals cricket might attract if more people watched the sport – but this is in no way a comment on Sky’s product. I think Sky to an excellent job. Their coverage is top-notch and those who can afford their subscription enjoy extensive, in-depth analysis that simply wasn’t available in the past. It’s just a shame so few people can watch it.

Finally – last but far from least – there was great news for The Full Toss. We were highly commended in the ‘best haircut’ category. I’d like to thank Advanced Hair Hats for all their support over the years. I hope your détente with the Marsupial Protection League is going well. Goochie sends his love.

James Morgan


  • I agree Sky do an excellent job. I’m old enough to remember when cricket was on ‘free to air’ BBC. The Test Match would start on BBC1, stop for the News, switch to BBC2, stop for kids TV, switch back to BBC1 then stop for the News again. And that was just weekdays. On Saturdays it took a back seat to football and motor racing et al within Grandstand. And that was for the home Tests only. For away ones, we had a 30 mins highlights show. At midnight. C4 and C5 have more recently presented good highlights programmes, but they don’t want to show cricket all day and all night. Sky’s cricket coverage is so extensive they often dedicate a whole channel to it, we get round the clock coverage and lots of related documentaries and interviews. I’m not rich by any means but I don’t begrudge a penny of my subscription and I for one hope cricket remains on Sky.

    • Rather large sin of omission there. Channel 4 had *live* cricket for seven summers between 1999 and 2005. Can you tell us what was wrong with their coverage and why Sky justifies a marginal cost increase of over £40 per month?

    • Most of what you’ve written is a comparison between TV 15-20 years ago and now rather than a comparison between FTA coverage and Sky’s coverage.

  • Previously 100% of the population had access to 90% of the cricket. Now 10% of the population have access to 100% of the cricket.

    If you think that situation represents an improvement, you’re either incredibly stupid or incredibly selfish.

      • Just a general comment to no-one in particular….
        It upsets me when I talk to cricket mad kids about the international game and they’re not even aware there are England vs South Africa games going on. It should upset anyone who cares about the game. An entire generation is missing out on the joy of a cricket loving childhood that we all experienced! How can that make you anything other than furious?

        • Understood mate. I agree entirely. It’s a really sad state of affairs. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next round of TV negotiations. BT sport have already snatched games involving the Australian national side from (I think). next year. The next Ashes series will therefore be on BT Sport, not Sky. I believe that Premiership rugby attendances and viewing figures have gone up slightly since it moved from Sky to BT, but obviously they would be far higher if on FTA television. International rugby is also available on FTA obviously too, which must help.

          • I think if the 6 nations went to Sky, rugby in this country would be on its knees within a decade.

            The 15 aside game would probably die out altogether as the only format that got any exposure was the 7s in the Olympics!

    • Paul Hayward has now won the award 3 times so he’s obviously doing something right. Journalists do tend to polarise opinion though. Much like cricket blogs sometimes!

  • I am glad Ian Ward got noticed. As a keen player myself, I always get the impression he is actually thinking about the people watching who play the game and how the professional game translates. His master class pieces on sky sports are always very enjoyable and I find him easy to listen.

    Good on him.

    Just came across this blog by the way, absolutely love it. Keep up the great work.

    • Thanks Robbie. That’s really kind of you. Keep tuning in. And tell your friends about us!

  • I suppose you’ve all seen the comical way the Guardian distorted the subject-matter of DOAG in its brief report on the SJA awards. Having ignored the Big Three Stitch-Up from the very beginning (not even bothering to report that it was under review the other day — the Mankad in the U19 world cup was so much more important), it has now resorted to misrepresenting it.

    • Never mind Mankad. At least he was a cricketer.

      Mervyn King was more important at the time, according to the Guardian cricket page!

    • I’ve not read the Guardian for a while so if true that’s very disappointing. I remember when Mike Selvey turned up for an edition of Cricket Writers on TV (in which they were due to discuss DOAG and related issues). He hadn’t even bothered to see the film! It struck me as quite odd. I wonder why the Guardian seem determined to ignore the biggest issues facing our game?

        • He was far less critical than Lawrence Booth (then of the Guardian) regarding the Stanford affair in 2009.

          He went to Clarke’s 60th birthday party in 2013 and loved it. Other guests included Jonathan (“not my job to hold the ECB to account”) Agnew and Andy Flower. But not George Dobell.

          He never criticised the ECB one jot after the Ashes debacle of 2013/14. In fact the only criticism I have seen from him in four years came when the ECB was very high-handed about a Donald Macrae article on Michael Carberry. So that would be because they pissed off a journalist, rather than supporters.

          He stood right behind them at every turn over Pietersen, and even promoted Moores for the coach’s job (to general astonishment) two months before the announcement was made.

          He stated in January 2014 that the Guardian had the ICC position paper before Cricinfo but chose not to run it. He then produced an infamously pusillanimous and complacent article after the stitch-up story broke.

          He gave Guardian readers only the Clarke perspective on the change of leadership at the ECB in early 2015.

          He has written not a dickybird about DOAG. Not only had he not seen it before appearing on CWOTV, but as recently as December either Collins or Kimber was offering to send him a DVD because he still hadn’t got round to it.

          The Guardian ran not even one single report on Manohar’s statement. The only piece it published was a light-hearted Spin article by Andy Bull, which treated the whole ICC story as if it were an amusingly bombastic soap opera (a tone, to my knowledge, never previously adopted for any other serious subject in that long-running cricket column).

          So really, the evidence is purely circumstantial.


          • Thanks for that devastating summary of Selvey’s conduct, Aaron. I had kind of lost track with the whole saga over recent months because of pressures of work. It doesn’t surprise me that Selfie hasn’t watched the film; he didn’t read Pietersen’s book either. For fairness, I should add there was one other issue on which he parted with the ECB — he consistently advocated that ***k should play only test matches and that 50-overs cricket was ruining his test match technique. But that doesn’t make up for his general slavishness to the ECB line or his insufferable arrogance towards anyone who challenges him.

            • Point taken. I would point out, however, that his argument was always based on what would be good for Cook the Test batsman, as if the captain’s individual welfare was completely indivisible from that of the team. I never saw the slightest concern that Bell, Ali, Taylor and Hales were either dropped or shifted just to accommodate a failing Cook in the ODI side during late 2014.

              For instance, these are the first two articles that come up after a Google search for “Selvey Cook ODIs”:



              You will find one sentence covering the impact on anyone else (“mutterings in the camp”, in the later article). Typical of this writer, to be honest. The fact that he was broadly right about the effect on his Test form doesn’t change my opinion on his motives. Cook is to be elevated above all others regardless – for instance the 43 that was “worth a hundred” in the same match Root made 130, or loose strokes being put down to tiredness on the part of the most mentally strong individual ever to represent England (contrast his account of Rashid’s dismissal in the UAE). Sure, it was worse – much, much worse – in 2014, but it still grinds my gears.

            • Could also have added that he regarded Downton as an “excellent move”, never criticised him directly and even gave us this unmitigated garbage in the end:


              Lizzy Ammon summed that up best:

              “It’s not journalism. It’s a polemic. My mate Downton is nice. KP bad. End of. Weird.”

              This was Colin Graves’s first public pronouncement after taking over from Giles Clarke. His second was to call a mediocre Test side a mediocre Test side…



              • Oh, the subsequent tweets also include the mind-blowing revelation that Selvey doesn’t take much notice of rankings.

                Must have been someone else who couldn’t shut up about Flower’s side being no.1 in all formats.

              • Arron, thanks for the link to the Graves/|ECB/KP piece – I clicked on it only to find the last comment was one of mine and it was still there, despite it not fitting Selfry’s agenda lol. Thought I’d paste it here now.

                TheSlogfather 4 Mar 2015 18:26

                Undermining the inept
                Sublime it seems as under carpets are swept
                All the inadequacies of the past year or so
                From leaderless leadership to a ship sunken before sail
                A script already written, yet hidden in bidden press
                Ripped outside from inside silence forbidden, less
                The truth becomes reality at last
                No longer censure, just sense, your words cast
                Internal politix, external bo!!ocks it is
                Now show us the truth of what we all know is to be
                The failure of the mainstream press and ECB?

  • Apparently in Aus we are not going to get to see the T20 WC at all as no-one is prepared to pay what Star Sports are charging – Terrestrial TV gets first go, but after they declined so did the pay TV operator.

    I thought this was particularly interesting.

    “In addition to the price being sought by Star for the Australian rights for the World Twenty20 it is believed the successful bidder would be compelled to pay an additional fee, equivalent to about 30 per cent of the purchase price, to cover the tax component of the deal in Dubai, where the ICC is based.”

    Cricket fans in Australia face a blackout for next month’s World Twenty20 because all local TV networks have passed on the opportunity to buy the broadcast rights for the tournament.

    The tournament begins in India on March 16 and runs until April 6. The Australian Twenty20 squad is about to depart for South Africa for a three-match preparatory series there, before travelling to India for a tournament they have yet to win in five attempts.

    The presence of the tournament on Australia’s anti-siphoning list, which prioritises free-to-air coverage of major events, has been of no consequence, because those rules don’t compel commercial broadcasters to buy the rights.

    Rather than Australian networks not being interested in cricket, which attracted bumper ratings this summer for both international matches and the Big Bash League, it is believed the main stumbling block is the price being sought by the host broadcaster, India TV giant Star Sports.

    It is believed New Zealand, where Australia is currently touring, is also facing a blackout due to an impasse in negotiations.

    In the past two World Twenty20 tournaments, in 2012 and 2014, Nine Network has fulfilled the anti-siphoning rule specifying all matches involving Australia and also the final be shown live on their primary channel. It also broadcast matches in the inaugural tournament, in 2007.

    Nine has confirmed it does not have the rights for this year’s tournament. Its commercial rivals Seven and Ten, the latter boasting Twenty20 credibility because of its BBL coverage, have also confirmed they will not be showing the World Twenty20.

    The anti-siphoning rules specify that if TV rights for an event are unsold within 12 weeks of the event then pay-TV broadcasters can secure the exclusive rights. But Fox Sports has also passed on the rights, despite having shown all five preceding tournaments.

    Nine and Fox had a contract to share coverage of all major ICC tournaments, including the World Twenty20, but that expired with last year’s 50-over World Cup in Australia.

    In addition to the price being sought by Star for the Australian rights for the World Twenty20 it is believed the successful bidder would be compelled to pay an additional fee, equivalent to about 30 per cent of the purchase price, to cover the tax component of the deal in Dubai, where the ICC is based.

    The World Twenty20 was added to the anti-siphoning list in 2012 by then communications minister Stephen Conroy.

    Under current legislation, if any of Nine, Seven or Ten decided to make a late pitch for the World Twenty20 rights they would have to show the matches on their primary channel, rather than on one of their additional channels. That requirement would likely make them reluctant to purchase, because it would require changing their first-choice programming.

    In addition to the issue of there not yet being an Australian TV broadcaster for the tournament, tickets have not yet gone on sale. The Board of Control for Cricket in India, which is running the tournament, announced late on Tuesday that the first batch of tickets were about to go on sale – but only for matches at five of the eight venues. There is still uncertainty as to whether one of the remaining venues, Delhi, will host matches, due to legal wrangling.

    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/sport/cricket/icc-world-t20-tv-blackout-for-aussie-cricket-fans-as-networks-shun-rights-20160224-gn2368.html#ixzz413ISJXEj

    • Oh dear. Sounds like a bit of a soap opera. Surely Star will take a lower figure rather than nothing. Sounds like a bit of brinkmanship from both sides. Would be a tragedy if Australians can’t watch.

      • Well you would hope so, the afternoon games are a good time for Aus Eastern states viewing so you would think they would want to put them on. Still the networks may be reluctant to change schedule too close the actual tournament and all the final games I believe are evening games which start after midnight so they might not see much value in them.

  • “I think Sky to an excellent job. Their coverage is top-notch and those who can afford their subscription enjoy extensive, in-depth analysis that simply wasn’t available in the past”

    I agree with this, and have enjoyed their coverage for nearly 20 years now. Gave me an access to cricket that would never have been possible before.
    I do worry about the cost cutting though, the scaled down England production this winter, and of course they have lost the Cricket Australia coverage.
    It just seems the right time to tweak the contract, Sky need to free up some money and Cricket desperately needs FTA exposure.
    Hello BT?

    • Simply carving up cricket between BT and Sky is only going to lessen the number of people who have access to it. It is clear that Sky have suffered because of having to spend a whole heap of money on Premier League football rights and BT have marched in up to a point with their buying up of Australian cricket rights as well as European football. Yet viewership of BT European football has had very poor figures. I’d be surprsied if cricket coverage on there would do very well considering.


      • I agree with this. I don’t like it when coverage of sports is split between broadcasters. I can afford Sky but currently can’t afford the extra £20 per month (or whatever) for BT sport in HD. It absolutely kills me that I can’t follow my rugby team Worcester on TV (because top domestic rugby has moved to BT).

        I had originally hoped that the competition between Sky and BT might drive prices downwards. The opposite has happened. As they both try to outbid each other for football etc, the expenses are passed on to the subscribers. It’s an awful situation.

        I really don’t know what I’ll do when the Ashes comes around. I won’t get rid of Sky because I also love golf and NFL. Yet I simply can’t live without cricket. I might have to sell one of my kids ;-)

        • BT are a successful organisation without their TV expansion whereas for Sky it is the other way around, I doubt that broadband and telephone connection make such a huge part of their profit. Yet BT have spotted Sky’s weakness and they may possibly be able to steal a march on them for future bidding wars, though this is dependent on how much of an impact bidding a whole lot for football may have on them. I have found what football coverage I’ve seen (this is in pubs) largely rather dull and like you I can’t afford to pay for both.

          There may come a point in time where largely paying subs for cricket may be an option that I have to review. I am one who is not much of one for watching cricket overnight. At best I used to get up early to watch the end of the day’s play or stay up late and watch the first couple of hours.

          I have caught a few hours here and there of the NZ-Aus series although of course NZ being 13 hours ahead means that it starts at the relatively early time of 9:30pm

      • BT sport is just incredibly bad in every possible way. Its foray into sport has been badly planned and badly implemented. They threw stacks of money away on the wrong contests and then didn’t even bother to implement it properly.

        I actually have BT sport as part of my internet deal, but because they’re useless, incompetent bastards, I can’t actually get it on my tv, but instead have to watch it over my computer, where the quality is fucking shite and the picture keeps dropping out. So obviously, I don’t bother and am looking forward to telling them where to shove it the moment my contract comes up for renewal.

        • “the moment my contract comes up for renewal”.

          From my experience with BT, I’m guessing that’ll be somewhen in the late 2020s!

      • Agree on carving up.
        I wasn’t necessary thinking of a carve up, more cricket transfers to BT completely. BT is cheaper than Sky and cricket probably won’t add much to the subs cost.

        Mind you it’s probably just moving deckchairs on the titanic.

  • Off topic, so my apologies….

    I’m going to really miss Brendon McCullum. Well done on your international career, sir.



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