Monday, 22 April 2019

County Lines?

Rivalry is a natural thing. Pull back your bedroom windows and I bet the bloke over the road wants a nicer place than his neighbour next door. I bet he wants a flashier car, he thinks his wife is prettier and parts of his anatomy are bigger. Cricket is no different. Yet is it becoming more like football with abuse on social media? Are fans becoming more abusive behind the anonymity of their keyboards? Is it cricket's issue, or a problem for society as a whole? Read on...

Surrey...everyone's favourite to abuse
I'm a member of a Facebook group called Specsavers County Championship where some of the abuse has been getting below the belt recently. Admin quickly delete the posts but it has been thought provoking in the sense that cricket fans have become more like football fans with regards to social media and are abusing others just for the sake of putting the boot in.

There has always been a bit of rivalry in cricket. As a Middlesex fan, the Thames Barrier isn't something that saves London from flooding but a distinct boundary between those of us lucky enough to support the wonderful gentlemen from North London and those Brown Hatters (without wanting to go all Israel Folau on you) who play next to the Gasworks at the Oval. Saying that, everyone seems to hate Surrey, it isn't just the exclusive domain of Middlesex supporters. When Worcestershire's New Road flooded a couple of years ago, a couple of wags from Warwickshire were going to donate a couple of crocodiles to the flood appeal. In the West, Gloucestershire and Somerset don't like each other much, Kent and Sussex too. Yorkshire and Lancashire have fought a war over the colour of their rose, the trinity of Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire have always been rivals, more so since the Trent Bridge recruitment policy seems to offer their players more money to play in the county of Robin Hood - robbing the poor to play for the rich. Glamorgan just don't like you if you're English.

So it's always been there but is it getting worse?

Well T20 cricket has brought in a new type of fan. Recent years has seen crowd trouble between Nottingham Forest and Leicester fans, whilst security is tight in Roses games, as Leeds and Manchester United have always been about as cordial as Jacob Rees Mogg and Donald Tusk. Chelmsford has had problems in the crowd, as has no doubt every ground in the country with isolated incidents.


Yorkshire v Lancashire...1485

Cricket hasn't always been like this though. As a Middlesex fan, I don't really hate Surrey. In fact, I have an admiration for what Alec Stewart is doing in Sarf London by bringing through home grown talent. Surrey have got a reputation amongst county fans but some of their supporters are as loyal as the most one eyed Yorkshireman and just as knowledgeable about the game. Personally, I've got far more issue with counties who play a number of Kolpak players, not putting anything back into the national team, the university where county cricket should be a prep school for.

As a cricket fan, I have always had the ability to realise good play and applaud it. Virat Kohli's knock at Edgbaston for instance last summer, the day after he ran out Joe Root and was booed all the way to the wicket. Yet his brilliant innings was worthy of applause, watching the best batsman in the world manipulate the English bowling, cajoling his tail. If that was football? Well you've seen what one individual in that city did the other week to Jack Grealish because he played for another team.

I don't want to get into a situation like football where people aren't allowed to sit and have a beer to watch the game, or to see supporters segregated watching the game. I have had some brilliant days out at games of cricket with rival supporters - one West Indian fan at Lord's sharing his jerk chicken with me springs to mind. Going on a messy night out with ten or so Australians in Maida Vale being another.

However it is more on social media where the problem exists. It isn't just cricket's issue though, it is society's. Some journalists put up with some awful abuse on there for no reason whatsoever than people are bored. One female cricket journalist on Twitter has had rape threats, abuse about her child and all sorts. I'm sure that she is not the only one. Even I, as a top all round bloke and well balanced individual, get a number of comments every time I write.

As a writer, social media is a wonderful way of promoting our work. It is a way of getting our writing into the open and allowing people worldwide to see what we do. To be called various names because people don't agree with what I write is par for the course. It doesn't need to be like this. County cricketers likewise, liaise with their following via this platform, yet get abused for doing so. Many have now stopped.

Abuse on social media needs to be monitored. A mentality of abusing people for the sake of abusing them is prevalent in our society.

I hope that this summer doesn't see more of the same. I'm not saying take the passion out, or forget rivalries as in the instance of Yorkshire and Lancashire, they are five hundred years old. Just have respect for your opponents. This is cricket, not football.


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