The drain of ‘live’ followers is a worry

WHEN a record 12,692 football fans piled into the Track to see us win the 1951 Muratti Vase final, islanders put themselves out to follow the island’s sporting heroes to an extent never seen before or since.

WHEN a record 12,692 football fans piled into the Track to see us win the 1951 Muratti Vase final, islanders put themselves out to follow the island’s sporting heroes to an extent never seen before or since.

The thrill of watching the cut and thrust of inter-island sport at its best, had the island, virtually as a whole, enraptured.

Sixty years on, Guernsey’s sports scene has moved on leaps and bounds. It is not all about football any more, the true sports follower can get to see sporting excellence in a variety of forms, be they international athletes, cricketers, sand racers and snooker stars.

Virtually every weekend of the year there is some major sporting event, key match or inter-island clash. Standards, virtually across the board, have gone through the roof and, generally, you can watch in degrees of comfort never previously enjoyed.

But, as organisers of the inaugural GPL T20 competition and the latest Golden Series athletics meeting discovered, the general sporting public are seemingly not bothered to come along and catch a glimpse of the action, even when it is free.

The decline in sporting attendances is a worry and should be factored in by the men behind Guernsey FC with the club’s introduction into the national pyramid seemingly just weeks away.

Needless to say, even with all thepre-publicity the combined Guernsey media and PR businesses can throw at the GFC’s first league campaign, 12,692 will not be piling into Foote’s Lane when the club’s first game is played.

Indeed, the club would be overjoyed, I suspect, to get that number through the turnstiles from their 17 home league matches next season.

What sort of average crowd can GFC reasonably expect?

It’s very hard to determine a realistic figure as Guernsey sports folk appear to be becoming increasingly fickle as to what they watch and when.

Both the ongoing GPL and the Golden Series athletics deserved to be watched by many more than they were.

Take away the resting athletes and parents of the dozens of junior athletes on view at Foote’s Lane in the latest Golden Series meeting, and I suspect there would have been no more than 100 spectators in the Garenne Stand and on the grassy slopes on the southern end of the field, to see the likes of Dale Garland and Tom Druce compete as part of the virtually entire Guernsey track and field team heading off to the Isle of Wight next week.

At KGV, which has been decked out impressively for the month-long GPL, numbers have been in short supply, especially outside of the corporate guest tents.

It’s clear that for all the increasing excellence of local sport, the general public are adopting a blasé approach to seeing it for themselves, being content to simply read about it in the GP or through the other media.

For years, Guernsey showed Jersey the way when it comes to turning up and backing their teams with physical presence, be the event here or in the sister isle, but now it seems we are contracting the Caesarean syndrome and attitude of: ‘I’m more interested in me.’

Shame that.

I rather doubt that Foote’s Lane would draw 12,692 if Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay went head to head and there was no charge on the gate.

I doubt if KGV would be two-deep

all-round with spectators if the England Test team were in town.

It’s all rather disappointing and, to organisers, disheartening.

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REGARDLESS of how many have glimpsed the inaugural GPL T20 action, the competition should be viewed as a success.

The cricket’s been tough, the professionals have been admirably competitive and committed, and it will help Guernsey be a better prepared and more competitive team at the European T20 Division One championships being jointly staged by Jersey and Guernsey next month.

The usual suspects have shone, none more so than Stuart Le Prevost.

But the one player outside of the established island stars who has impressed me more than anyone is the young left-arm spinner, Max Ellis.

After delivering an awful first ball for Mourant Ozannes - a head-high full toss smacked for four - the OE has settled down to demonstrate that he should not be ignored when it comes to choosing future island sides.

True, his fielding could vastly improve, but his control, temperament and ability to turn the ball, has proved invaluable in Mourant Ozannes’ quest for the GPL title.

The trouble is that Guernsey isalready well-endowed with spinners and, to a man, they can all bat very handily.

Ahead of Ellis in the slow-bowling queue for the 14-man squads to be chosen for the European tournament are Jeremy Frith, Tim Ravenscroft,

GH Smit, Gary Rich, and there is even Ross Kneller to call upon.

Ellis will have to wait his turn but, might I suggest, there will be life after Rich in the spin department.

And, oh yes, James Wilkes-Green is not so bad a prospect either.