Extract from The Evening Standard, 5th December 2098: Whatever Happened to Sport? How many of us sit down in front of the television on a Saturday afternoon to watch Grandstand, before realising that it is no longer on and has been replaced by repeats of the Eastenders Omnibus repeats? How many of us tune in to Radio Five for the afternoon s scores, only to remember that Radio Five is now a children s channel ? And how many of us pick up the paper to look at the back pages and find a report on last night s Gladiators? The answer is most of us, and I have been thinking about what happened to the sports that were a major part of most of our lives. The demise began with tennis, which was dissolved in 2024. I remember it well. As soon as Wimbledon ended, the Lawn Tennis Association voted to stop Wimbledon and lawn tennis in general. The other tennis governing bodies soon followed. The reason was, of course, that the players, especially the men, although some of the women were a little guilty, were serving the ball so quickly that the spectators could not see it. Often, the opponent could not see it coming, either, and matches were being reduced to several aces, game, than several more, and another game. The only way a player could break an opponent s serve was to hope that he made enough mistakes to lose it, a very rare occurrence, meaning that matches were nearly always decided by a double fault on a tie break. Athletics was next to go. It all went wrong in the 2032 Olympics in Edinburgh. Scotland was in turmoil following their recent devolution programme and it was not the best place to have held the games but the Scots insisted that they could cope. It was a shambles. There was no schedule, and the athletes never knew what day they would be competing on and were unable to prepare. Then there was the USA drugs scandal, when after testing, all the USA team members tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. They argued that they due to the lack of a timetable they were unaware that they would be competing whilst still under the effects of the drugs. This was considered an invalid excuse and the whole team was sent him in disgrace. As a result, no Americans watched the rest of the Olympics, and the Olympic committee went bankrupt as all the major companies pulled out of their sponsorship deals. The opening ceremony had cost so much that the committee was in heavy debt and was dissolved as a result. Cricket was next. It was never a popular world-wide sport, and people predicted that it would be finished soon when in 2030 the BBC got the rights to show any cricket match for + 50 000 when BSKYB couldn t be bothered to renew their old contract as they thought it was no longer necessary to have a minority sport on the air. Then there was the scandal with England captain Ben Lateman going on record about his drink and drugs problems in 2038. This could not have come at a worse time as England were one over away from winning the Ashes for the first time in 30 years but were forced to withdraw from the tournament as a result of this scandal. England fans were outraged and most of them boycotted all cricket matches and televised games. The BBC sold their licence to Channel 5, making the problem even worse, as now even the minority who were not boycotting the televised games could not now watch them unless they moved to the middle of Dartmoor to the Channel 5 village, the only place in Britain were people could actually pick up the signal. The clubs could not afford the players wages and all went bankrupt. All the other cricket nations teams were disbanded as without the television money from playing England, which was at the time the only country that was prepared to watch cricket, they could not even afford the plane fares to play each other. Another sport down.
Next came what I consider to be the most significant disappearance that of football. By the mid 2050 s, football was in financial trouble. Pay-per-view had kept the sport going up until the 2040 s, but there were all sorts of problems that it was hiding. When Rupert Murdoch became the owner of Manchester United in 2001, after much legal wrangling, he brought in the new idea of having a new kit for every game. Not only will it provide more jobs for the people of Manchester , he said, but it will also generate a large amount of money for the club to spend on new players . He failed to mention that this money would be a result of parents being nagged to shell out + 40 plus per week so their child could have the new strip for that weeks game. This alienated a substantial amount of football fans form the game. Then, in 2003, Murdoch also bought Manchester City and attempted to merge the two teams to get a bigger fan base. This was also attempted by Richard Branson with Tottenham and Arsenal, and King Harry with Mohammed Al Fayed with Liverpool and Everton. Anyone with any sense would have known this would be a disaster. For once the supporters of the rival teams united in a boycotting of all matches. Six of England s big clubs (well, Man City used to be big) went bust and disappeared from view. However, this was good news for the smaller clubs. They got a greater share of SKY s money and some of the smaller teams, West Ham United, Aston Villa and Leeds United, left the Premiership to join the newly formed European Super League in 2032. However, this new league meant that no one wanted to watch the Premiership anymore, and it, as well as the rest of Europe s domestic leagues, was broken up and all attention was on the European Super League. This, however, was misguided faith. With no relegation and only one club gaining anything by winning most teams were just playing for honour by January, by which time the title was normally down to a two or three horse race. Many people began to lose interest but there were still enough punters to keep the League going for twelve more years. What ended the League, more than anything, was greed. The clubs were so rich that the players wanted a greater share of the profits, and the best players were earning in excess of + 500 000, or 1 000 000 Euros, per week. Unfortunately, only the teams in the top half of the table could support these financial demands, and in 2044 the League was halved in size. No one could see it going on for much longer, and it faded without a trace in 2051. That is the story of how professional sport went down the drain. There are still people who play sport for fun, but this is more and more being substituted for artificial entertainment like IBMsoft s new sports simulator . It is a part of our culture and heritage that is sorely missed.