Saturday, 26 July 2008

The ridiculous spread of covering of sports grounds

When I heard torrential rain
just as Richmond were beginning to play the Brisbane Lions, the absurdity of playing sport in covered stadiums dawned on me like never before.

The way I see it, football authorities should have no desire to follow the error made by cricketing authorities in England and New Zealand (elsewhere I will acknowledge some excuse for covering pitches) and try to play exclusively in the dry. The rapid drying of Melbourne's climate will sooner or later make this happen anyway, but still creates no excuse for putting a roof on a stadium.

One article in the Age from around two years back really shows that covering, elimination of suburban grounds and a drier climate has no doubt denied the possibility of playing top-class football to some youngsters who would have excelled in the age where wet grounds were an everyday occurrence. The great rovers of even twenty years ago like Platten and Liberatore would simply be far too short to succeed in an age where there is so little play at ground level.

Though my recollections of footy in the wet as a youngster are not sweet, I do feel I should reconsider them.

Another advantage of playing sport on grounds unprotected from rain is the much reduced injury hazard. Even though footballers are supposed to and no doubt are fitter than today, they play on grounds so hard that injuries remain an ever-present risk. With the climate drying out so fast, grounds should be allowed to get as much rain as possible and should be designed to store as much moisture during the footy season, so that players who do hit the ground are less likely to have a limb break if they do fall.

The same holds for cricket, though outside England and New Zealand grounds would actually be as dry protected from rain because of excessive sunshine and evaporation.

In England and New Zealand every cricket fan should imagine what the game would be like with pitches completely open to the elements. Shorter (three- or probably four-day) Tests on fully uncovered and better-drained pitches would have a hope of competing as a public attraction with one-day and 20/20 cricket that five-day Tests on covered pitches simply do not. With pitches open to sun-wind, and dew, the incentive to take long run-ups would be reduced, so that more cricket would actually be played in three days than is now in five!

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