England captain Joe Root led his team to victory in Cardiff. Pic: Getty Images.
Remember the days of proper cricket reports in the Welsh newspapers? Richard Thomas does. He used to write them. But the craze for ‘big hits’ – on the field as well as on-line – has altered the way the game is played and covered.
The Champions Trophy bandwagon rolled into Wales this week and along with it comes all the media and PR trappings which are always bolted on to such international sporting events.
Nice, then, to see a full press box for a change covering England’s clash with New Zealand at Cardiff’s Swalec Stadium – the first of four games Wales are hosting. It’s a very rare happening for the Cardiff media centre to be generously populated.
More often than not, only a handful of seats are taken up for county matches these days and sometimes cricket press boxes are the Marie Celestes of sports coverage.
Unfortunately, almost all written media organisations fail to see the relevance and worth of covering county cricket anymore. Even The Times, once the go-to paper for cricket reports, has trimmed its four-day and one-day reports back to a relatively bare minimum.
Lack of budgets and the onset of the analysis of digital clicks on web reports has been the death knell for domestic cricket. ‘If it doesn’t get clicked, it doesn’t deserve to get covered’ is the modern philosophy.
Unfortunately, county cricket has not got a sexy pants image even when the powers that be are trying to seduce the sporting public with the T20 version of the game, which, to be fair, does get a good airing courtesy of Sky Sports.
But sometimes you can turn up at a ground where there are 30 people in the employment of Sky and no more than three ‘others’ in the press box.
The accelerated demise of county cricket reporting came to a head in 2014 when the Press Association decided to pull the plug on having designated correspondents at county games.
There is the odd county who are still well covered but nothing like it was pre-internet and when local press produced proper newspapers, judged by the quality of court reports, accurate records of council meetings and solid sports analysis.
Back in 1997 when the likes of the Western Mail and the South Wales Evening Post still had their own printing press and a full staff, Glamorgan were on their way to the County Championship title.
The press boxes were not empty then. Far from it. By the time we got to Somerset in September the Taunton press box was full to bursting.
As well as the local PA stringer, you could always guarantee there was always a representative from The Times and Daily Telegraph. More often than not, there was also someone present from The Guardian and maybe the odd tabloid. Plus, you had your ‘local men’, which in Glamorgan’s case was Western Mail, SW Echo, SW Evening Post and at the weekend Wales on Sunday. And when the South Wales Argus did turn up on occasion the Welsh media outnumbered the Yorkshire press pack. No mean feat, that.
Home or away, press boxes were well populated back then and from them often came a lot of laughter, and a great deal of column inches. Unfortunately, apart from occasions like Cardiff on Tuesday press boxes now have an empty, ghostly feel about them.
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