Opinion: It’s time to move on

The Brownlee bothers in action during the Rio Olympics.
The Brownlee bothers in action during the Rio Olympics.

The main thesis of Anthony Clavane’s book, A Yorkshire Tragedy, is that Yorkshire has declined as a powerhouse in sport in lock-step with the passing of traditional industries.

Whether it’s Hull and fishing; Sheffield and steel or Wakefield (et al) and mining, the story has been the same: the Old Yorkshire of community fellowship and (yes, it has to be said) gritty honesty has disappeared into history.

Times when all you had to do was whistle down a pit for a prop forward or a fast bowler now seem the stuff of sentimental legend.

The book’s dust jacket exhibits a still of Billy Casper (from the film Kes) making a defiant two-finger gesture. This too is becoming a thing of the past, since anyone now wanting to indicate contempt would probably prefer the American digitus medius.

Clavane acknowledges that Yorkshire County Cricket Club have won the County Championship twice in recent years and that Hull City yo-yo in and out of the Premiership. Indeed, at the time of writing, Hull FC top Super League.

However, Clavane argues, these successes are not the result of a community’s engagement with sport, but vanity projects of the nouveau riche who can afford to pour in millions while communities around the grounds rot. Even a successful modern sportsman like Joe Root is the product of a private education.

Well, times change.

We may not have Fred Trueman any more, but we do have the Brownlee brothers; no Neil Fox, but we have Jessica Ennis-Hill; no Paul Ingle, but Nicola Adams.

Not a bad list is it?

In addition, at the Rio Olympics, as every sports fan in Yorkshire knows, our county would rank 17th in the world if extracted from Team GB’s tally, ahead of the likes of Canada and South Africa.

But this is still not representing Clavane’s main point. The working class (there, it’s out in the open) that used to be the life-blood of Yorkshire sport are being excluded by ever higher ticket prices and celebrity sports stars they find it impossible to relate to.

This is catalogued for chapter after chapter.

It is a nostalgic inventory that veers perilously close to that most uncharacteristic of Yorkshire qualities: whingeing.

Yes it was criminal what was done to fishing and the smokestack industries and we in Scarborough felt it only at second hand, but it is pointless to dwell on the miseries of the Valley Parade fire, Hillsborough and Orgreave.

Time to move on.