On Sunday I received texts from various friends who were at Lord’s for the Cricket World Cup final. One thing they had in common was that, in all the years I’ve known them, never have they betrayed the remotest interest in the sport. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard any of them so much as utter the word “cricket”. Yet they were there and I wasn’t. I couldn’t get a ticket. I’m not bitter on my account, but I am gutted on behalf of so many long-suffering, hard-travelling cricket fans who would have given their right stumps to have been there.
Even if I had been offered a ticket I would have had to refuse it, or at least not accept it until I’d called at least three people I know who would have been more deserving cases. I’ve watched plenty of county cricket, and fought for Test match tickets tooth and nail. It was even my privilege once to travel to Cape Town to watch England lose a test match at Newlands in less than three days. I’ve done my time. And yet, relative to my cricket-fanatic friends, I wouldn’t have felt worthy of a ticket for Sunday’s final. The guilt of being there while they weren’t would have been too much.
I get the need for the organisers to generate revenue by courting the corporate shilling. And yes, I’ve been on the receiving end of lavish corporate hospitality myself more than once. But a balance has to be struck. If the passion of too many genuine fans is being discharged yelling at televisions instead of at the field of play, the game will be the poorer for it.
Football is no better. I took my girls to see One Direction at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium. Full disclosure: we were there as guests of Liam Payne’s parents (who I happen to know). Accordingly, we were in some corporate entertainment area with the family and friends of the band. A testimonial on the wall caught my eye, from someone described as a chartered financial adviser. “The experience in the platinum boxes is pretty much unforgettable. Even when our guests have no great interest in football, you can guarantee they’ll be blown away.” Eh? If you have “no great interest in football”, what on earth are you doing there? As good a spread as they put on at the Etihad, you’ll get better in a restaurant somewhere and won’t have to trouble yourself watching all that running about chasing a ball.
Anyway, back to the cricket. One of my friends there was a lawyer. I asked them how they got their ticket. “Corporate box – invited by a generous client – amazing view and champagne all day.”
I know not what the answer is here, but if I was in charge, as well as frisking punters on the way in I’d quiz them on their cricket knowledge. Nothing too difficult: “Who is England captain?” or even just “Who are England playing?” would have probably weeded out a couple of thousand, at least. Their confiscated tickets could then be passed to accredited cricket stalwarts queueing at the Grace Gates. That should sort it.
Well done England, by the way. Brilliant. Wish I’d been there.
• Adrian Chiles is a Guardian columnist, broadcaster and writer