curious thing happened in our corner of south east London last month. Normally quiet side streets were rammed with double parked cars, the babble of excited young fans with accents from around the country filled the air and the sold out signs went up at The Valley for the first time in many years. Since the absentee owner Roland Duchatelet began his one man war against Charlton Athletic’s fanbase, it has often been hard to tell when there is a home match in SE7 as a dispirited, desperate and dwindling band continue their estimable protest against an owner who has hollowed Adidas Cody Franson Womens Jersey out their proud club. Hashtag United, Wimbly Womblys and the virtual gamers striking it rich Read more But these hordes of youthful and giddy fans were wearing not the red of Charlton but the black and white replica shirts of Sidemen FC – an online phenomenon who were to play a team of YouTube Allstars in a charity match. As just the latest iteration of a dizzying set of developments that have left those of us who find the prospect of watching clips of other people playing the video game Fifa as baffling as parents of the 1950s found a Chuck Berry 45, it was a sign that something is shifting. There is a palpable nervousness among television executives, expensively attired sporting executives and the concentric circles of advisers and analysts that populate the industry that something may be happening beyond their immediate vision. Television ratings for live sport, the rights fees for which have for so long been the engine that has powered the growth of sport in the modern era, are down. The Olympics, once seen as the pinnacle of sport but now tainted by cynicism, are struggling to attract a younger audiencehe problem with highlighting golf’s struggles is that those at the summit of the game have never had it so good. The US Open this week offers a record prize fund of $12m (£9.5m). One must look seriously hard at the PGA Tour’s schedule to find a tournament which does not bestow immediate millionaire status on the winner. And yet the feeling persists that golf is a sport from a bygone age, being left behind by those considered more trendy. Other obvious realities play a part; golf remains time-consuming, not always easily accessible and generally expensive. In the United States 23.8 million people are considered golfers. “You see two and a half million players enter the game this past year,” says Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour’s commissioner. “That’s the highest number on record, exceeding the 2.4 million in 2000 when Tiger Woods was at the top of his game. Sport 2.0: crumbling traditions create a whole new ballgame Read more “We have 2.9 million juniors; that’s up 25% since 2011. You look at underneath that number, in 1995, 17% of those juniors were female. Now that’s 33%. So you are seeing growth at the junior level. I get the fact that there’s a lot of discussion on the health – and some of it is negative – but I think there are some really positive trends and storylines underneath it.” That negativity to which Monahan refers is more prevalent in the UK, where there are reportedly 4.5 million golfers and a steady rather than sharp annual drop. Partly linked to economic scenarios from 2008 onwards, clubs have shut down across the country. And many of those which remain have slashed entry costs in a desperate bid to pull in the generation which will take them into a new era. Basketball, volleyball and hockey feature regularly on school physical education curriculums whereas golf never does. Although impossible to measure, golf may suffer from historical and accurate perceptions of a Authentic Rollie Fingers Womens Jersey discriminatory environment. A firm upside might yet be provided by Olympic participation, which was restored for golf in Rio last summer. “In terms of the golf clubs themselves, I challenge them,” says Keith Pelley, the European Tour’s chief executive. “I challenge them to think differently. I challenge them to look beyond the rules that have always been there and I think this is critical for the success of our game going forwardball bowlers will look forward to bowling with this,” grinned Stuart Broad, just after zipping one past his best mate Luke Wright’s outside edge in a live demonstration on Sky last Friday. Broad was referring to the pink Dukes ball, which he will use at Edgbaston when England play West Indies in a day-night Test in August, and in nine Championship games from Monday. These rather lovely little pink things are made at the endearingly ramshackle warehouse that is Dukes’ north-east London home, and Dilip Jajodia, the company’s boss, is explaining the process to the Spin. It is a den of organised chaos and mastercraftmanship in which he estimates there are 120,000 balls. Everything is done by hand, from the milling and polishing of the balls to the notes and labelling, before they are distributed across the cricketing globe. Jajodia has a box he carries around containing the component parts of a Dukes that he explains to anyone who will listen, and another with a century-old Dukes to show how well they age. He says his white ball would end the need for a ball from each end in ODIs and reckons the England and Wales Cricket Board should use his orange ball for its new T20 tournament from 2020. He is most bullish regarding these pink balls, however. Hail the Unbelievables! How Pakistan found cricketing redemption Read more His confidence comes with good reason. It took 18 months to develop, with plenty of trial and error over the colour; the seam is black (it’s the same thread as a red ball, only dyed) and they have developed a new formula for the polish so the colour holds. Last August it handsomely outperformed its Kookaburra counterpart – in terms of behaviour and condition (both colour and shape) – in a second XI match between Warwickshire and Worcestershire at Edgbaston last August. In Abu Dhabi in March, it produced a brilliant, bowler-friendly (but not bowler-dominated) match between Middlesex and MCC, containing two scores of 300 (including a successful chase), but also two below 200; a hat-trick for a seamer and a four-fer for a leg-spinner; eight ducks and seven scoreless partnerships, but runs, too, both stylish and grafted – batsmen reached 40 11 times. Wickets fell in clusters, particularly as the sun went down, but batting was a serene enough exercise in the afternoon and once darkness had fully fallen. The inbetween stage was more problematic, with visibility trickier from high in the stands, and the ball talking. The game became something of a meeting of minds, with a delegation from Edgbaston, including the groundsman, Gary Barwell, looking to learn as much as possible.

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