It’s that time again, as the Miller Sports Notebook returns after another period of twists, turns, celebration and commiseration across the world of sport.
Where to start?
Security Concerns Across Cricket
Perhaps the biggest story of the last few weeks has been the unprecedented decision by the New Zealand cricket board to pull out of its planned One Day International tour of Pakistan, citing security concerns.
The Black Caps pulled out on the day of the first ODI, referencing an "an escalation in the New Zealand government threat levels for Pakistan", much to the chagrin and dismay of Pakistani administrators and fans alike.
And now, after some debate and considered decision, the ECB has elected to cancel England men’s and women’s tour to the country, scheduled for late October, again claiming similar security concerns as well as the pressure it would place on player welfare.
A statement released by the board read: "We know there are increasing concerns about travelling to the region. We believe that going ahead will add further pressure to a playing group who have already coped with a long period of operating in restricted Covid environments."
This is set against the background of no international cricket being played in Pakistan for six years following an attack on the Sri Lanka team by gunmen in 2009, with the team holding the majority of their home matches in the United Arab Emirates.
Touring teams began to return in 2015 and Pakistan hosted their first home men's Test for 12 years when Sri Lanka travelled in 2019. As of yet, no non-Asian team has toured the country yet, with New Zealand and England set to be the first.
It’s a crushing blow to PCB (Pakistan Cricket Board) who were relying on the high profile nature of international touring teams to bring in fans, ticket revenue and increased sponsorship.
The board is now faced with not only that lost income, but also the prospect of having to cancel all the fixtures, renege on contractual agreements with stadia, and fan refunds.
It’s another example of the complexities and intricacies associated with event cancellation insurance, and the multitude of factors that can contribute to it.
England have a scheduled Test tour to Pakistan planned for late 2022 and have pledged to support Pakistani cricket as much as possible, but it’s another unwanted setback for the proud cricketing nation.
Phil Jones and Athlete Welfare
We’ve spoken at length both here in the Notebook and across other articles about the increasing impact that professional sport can have on athlete well-being and, in particular, their mental health.
In previous articles we’ve discussed the repercussions in cricket, and now it seems football is the spotlight too.
This comes on the back of a brilliant, exploratory and revealing article on the club website of Manchester United by defender Phil Jones. Jones was once lauded by Sir Alex Ferguson as the next big thing in English football, and he shone brightly at the start of his career, landing a starting spot with both United and England.
The piece, however, discusses Jones beleaguered injury history and how he dropped out of both the England and United first team as a result of persistent niggles and recovery setbacks, and consequently the devastating effect this had on his mental health.
He said he felt helpless after undergoing knee surgery, adding: "It was the lowest I've ever been as a human being. I used to come back and be in bits.
"My head was an absolute mess. I'd be in tears. I'd say to my wife, 'I don't know what to do.' I remember us both crying."
Once more a stark reminder that footballers are humans too, and are at increased risk of mental health challenges given the fragile and volatile nature of sport. We continue to be there for all athletes that need support.
The Industry’s Biggest Night Returns
In much brighter news, September saw the return of the industry’s biggest night of the year, the Sport Industry Awards.
Revealed virtually in 2020 as a result of COVID-19, the #SIAwards2021 brought together 1,300 high profile leaders from across the sport industry together again to celebrate the work we all do to keep those on the pitch ticking.
Miller is a proud sponsor of the Awards, and of the (Virtual) Event of the Year category - this year hotly contested by some of sport’s biggest properties. The winner on the night was London Marathon Events for the fantastic Virtual 2020 Virgin London Marathon - a worthy winner and one that overcame a challenge in lockdown to still bring people together.
A fantastic evening, as always, and an event that supports the industry as a whole - one we at Miller are proud to play a part in.
And as we close another Notebook, a quick word on the absolutely brilliant Emma Raducanu, who won the US Open at just 19 years of age. The perfect combination of poise, talent and likability, Emma has an immense future ahead of her - we’re excited to follow her on the journey.