This is an archive copy of a document originally located at
With Amanda Smith
Origin of the Ashes
This week, how sports organisations are now trying to address the
“insurance crisis”, which has caused the cancellation of numerous community
sports events this year.
Plus, as the call has once again gone up for cricket’s famous Ashes trophy to be
returned to Australia, a look into the origins of this little urn, which are
still shrouded in mystery.
And, the oldest world championship in sport, just won for the 9th year in a row
by an Australian. The sport is Royal Tennis, and the champion is Rob Fahey.
Details or Transcript:
Amanda Smith: Coming up on The Sports Factor, the oldest World Championship in
sport that’s also just been won for the 9th year in a row, by an Australian.
Also, with the debate raging about whether the original Ashes urn should be
returned to Australia from England, we’ll look into the origins of this little
urn, still shrouded in mystery.
Amanda Smith: First up on The Sports Factor, one of the major issues that’s been
facing Australian sport over this past year: the insurance crisis, which has
threatened the existence and viability of all kinds of sport, big and small,
amateur and professional. In a moment we’ll find out what sports are now doing
to deal with this. But before that, and to get a sense of how bad this public
liability insurance crisis has got, a couple of examples.
Belle Moore is the Secretary of the Recreation and Sport Advisory Council in
Northam, which is about 100 ks inland from Perth. This year, for a local event
Belle was organising, she couldn’t even get to first base when it came to
Belle Moore: In fact I’d start to talk to people and they’d say, ‘Madam of you
want public liability, we’re not going to extend the conversation.’ And that
happened several times. I was having a problem; how was I going to have an
evening for the community if we couldn’t get public liability?
Amanda Smith: And what sort of things are you talking about? What sort of sports
or events did you need to get this coverage for?
Belle Moore: It’s for an Awards night, one night of the year.
Amanda Smith: So this was just an Awards night, an indoor event, not even a
sports event that you couldn’t get coverage for?
Belle Moore: That’s right. It was just a dinner, with a bar. And we’ve been
going for 21 years, and touch wood, we haven’t had any problems, but that was
their reaction. I think just the word ‘sport’.
Amanda Smith: So because the word ‘sport’ was involved in this dinner, it was a
sports awards night, that meant all the problems?
Belle Moore: Yes, that seemed to be the word, ‘sport’, which was very strange,
because we considered ‘award’ and ‘dinner’ was more important, but the person
providing the insurance cover didn’t. And as I was saying, we had no history of
any claims, and we’ve been going for 21 years. So it was amazing really, the
reaction I had.
Amanda Smith: And Michelle Arthur tells a similar story. Michelle’s the Events
Co-ordinator for the Activ Foundation, which supports people with intellectual
disabilities in Western Australia. The Foundation’s major fund-raising event is
a City to Surf fun run. It’s held each year at the end of August. But this
year’s City to Surf race almost didn’t go ahead.
Michelle Arthur: Previously as an organisation, being a not-for-profit, all of
our insurance, we have many facilities right throughout Western Australia, were
all pulled together for one, and it was considered up until the whole public
liability bang and everything going a bit haywire there, was that our fund
raising came under our core business activities there, which now that’s been
split and unravelled, so that we need to find insurance separately for it. But
we literally didn’t get insurance until the week before the event, which is
quite difficult when you’re dealing with five different Councils. I mean we’ve
got very extensive risk management plans as we must do with 16,000 people, but
certainly not being able to have that documentation until the week before was
quite a head stress.
Amanda Smith: At that point you must have thought you may have to cancel the
Michelle Arthur: Certainly. It’s the real possibility that you can’t literally
run it without your basic $10-million. I mean that’s pretty much become the
benchmark for the industry now that you need $10-million for a major event.
Amanda Smith: $10-million of insurance coverage?
Michelle Arthur: That’s correct. So the general insurer that we had used
previously and we’re using for our other facilities did step away from it
because they didn’t have the knowledge or the trust or the confidence basically
in being able to accurately assess it, and therefore cover themselves, given any
Amanda Smith: And stories like those have been experienced by all sorts of
sports and events over the past year or so. Sport Industry Australia is the peak
representative body for Australian sport, and it’s trying to find a workable
solution. Sarah Lucas is the Chief Executive Officer there, and she says that
the enormous increases in the cost of public liability insurance, if sports
organisations can get cover at all, really has had everyone tearing their hair
Sarah Lucas: Well that’s right. I mean they’ve really got three key options to
pursue if they’re hit with a premium hike of that sort of kind. I mean they can
obviously increase membership fees but that can have very adverse effects on
participation numbers. They can change the nature of the policy that they’re
taking up, which can really still expose them to a fair degree of risk. Or they
can simply not insure at all, or I guess they can just close down. So really,
they’re not faced with particularly attractive options.
Amanda Smith: Why has sport in particular suffered so badly from the changes of
the last year or so in public liability insurance?
Sarah Lucas: Well it’s interesting you ask that. In actual fact they shouldn’t
have suffered that badly. The Trowbridge Report which was prepared by Trowbridge
Deloitte actuaries for Senator Coonan in March of this year, actually identified
sport and recreation and also the welfare and community sector as two of the
better performing areas in public liability over the years. So it’s been very
difficult, and sport has actually been hit harder. So I think because of the
perception of the danger involved, the changing community attitudes towards
blaming somebody, or suing in effect, when there is an accident, which really
should be considered as part of the normal activity, and also the insurance
companies wanting to get out of a market that they don’t perhaps understand to
the extent that they should. So it’s been an easy area to pick on I think.
Amanda Smith: So what’s your organisation, Sport Industry Australia, doing to
try and fix up this mess?
Sarah Lucas: We’ve actually engaged insurance companies in this issue. It was
notable that they were fairly quiet in this whole crisis and this whole
situation, so we actually went to them and said, Well what is it that you need
that will make you reassess the way you are deciding premiums for sport. And in
effect what we’ve come up with is an industry standard accreditation scheme, and
that accreditation scheme relates primarily to risk management and for public
liability insurance. So we’ve set this up and what we’ll do is organisations
which are cheap, the accreditation standard, will be able to purchase a specific
insurance product from n insurer, who we’re still in negotiations with, but it’s
going well, which will actually recognise that accreditation standard, so if in
the past they’ve been unable to secure insurance and they reach the
accreditation standard, then they will actually be able to get the insurance and
other sports will be able to get it at a comparatively better price. This is
also an important part, not just for the insurance, but also for the industry to
establish best practice standards so that both the organisations and consumers
can have a level of confidence in the operations of the sporting organisation.
Amanda Smith: So take us through say what a local footy club or league would do
to get this accreditation that you’re working on and what that would give them.
Sarah Lucas: Sure. They apply to us to get a copy of the audit guidelines, which
cover all the risk management. There’s a generic guideline and then there’ll be
a sport specific one for their sport. They will go through that, do a self
assessment. If they think they’re up to standard, then they can apply for
accreditation and we will have an external auditor come in to do that
accreditation. They’ll then be able to purchase that insurance product. If
they’re not up to standard they will have to address those areas in their risk
management plan. We can assist with that. So then they can actually badge
themselves as an accredited organisation. It is something we actually have to
do, it is the reality now that to deal with this crisis, and also to protect our
organisations in light of some of the legislative changes that have occurred to
put the onus of responsibility for their actions onto the participants. Now we
agreed with that to a certain extent, but in doing so people will need that
confidence that the organisation they’re participating in or that they’ve got
their kids enrolled with, is actually doing the right thing and delivering their
sport in the safest way possible.
Amanda Smith: So that shift in onus of responsibility away from sports
organisers and on to members or participants, that hasn’t been an entirely good
thing for sports organisations?
Sarah Lucas: Well I think it has to go hand in hand with industry standards.
What has to happen is that we have a set of industry standards in place, and if
an organisation is accredited then they know they’re doing the right thing. If
people are then able to sign a waiver to say they accept the responsibility, or
they accept the responsibility for their own actions, and they accept the
inherent and obvious risks involved in sport, then that’s going to give the
organisation some security against negligence actions. In sport, you often get
injured, it doesn’t mean it was a negligent act involved. If there was, yes,
take a negligence action, but if there wasn’t, then the organisations should be
securing that. And that’s really what the insurance companies want to see too.
Amanda Smith: Sarah Lucas, the Chief Executive Officer for Sport Industry
Australia, based in Canberra. And Sarah expects to have this insurance
accreditation scheme, called ‘Safesport’, up and running early in the New Year.
Now to what must be the least significant-looking of sporting trophies in the
world, but the one with the greatest mystique and controversy around it. I’m
talking about the Ashes urn, the symbolic prize for the cricket Test Match
series played between England and Australia. Australia has of course already won
the Ashes series that’s currently being played here for the 8th time in a row,
and that’s meant the debate has blown up again about why the urn can’t leave its
home at Lord’s and come back to Australia.
Well this object of desire is also the subject of considerable historical
debate. One of those who’s researched the original Ashes urn is Joy Munns. Joy’s
a local historian of the Sunbury area, north-west of Melbourne, a location
that’s important to her theory. And it’s in Sunbury that I spoke with Joy about
the little urn that’s grown so big in our imagination, and the background to its
place in cricket.
Joy Munns: In a nutshell I suppose you could say it was a joke that got out of
hand. Actually for a trophy that no matter which nation wins the series, neither
of them actually possess, because the trophy actually belongs now to Lord’s, to
Marylebone Cricket Club, and it was only ever left there once, it came out to
Australia for our bicentenary celebrations and was in Sydney for a short time.
Amanda Smith: Under great security.
Joy Munns: Under great security yes. So even that in itself will show you just
how much importance is placed on the urn itself. It is such a very small trophy,
if you like a very insignificant trophy if you compare it to other great huge
silver cups and things like this which are on offer in other sporting fields.
But it is just the mystique, the aura, it is the Ashes, what more can you say?
Amanda Smith: Now it’s pretty well-known where the joke, and the term ‘The
Ashes’ had its genesis. In August 1882, an Australian team beat England, in
England, for the first time. This prompted an English journalist, Reginald
Brooks, to write a mock obituary in The Sporting Times, saying that English
cricket had died, and that the body would be cremated and the Ashes taken to
Australia. The particular wording of this ‘obituary’, says Joy Munns, was as
much about another controversy going at the time as it was about cricket.
Joy Munns: Now at that time in England, there was a great debate being carried
on over human cremation. Now Brooks’ father actually belonged to a cremation
society which was set up to actually have human cremation legalised. So Brooks’
obituary notice, besides mourning the loss of English supremacy, if you like, on
the cricket field, was actually a bit of a double-edged sword, because it did
refer, by including the words ‘cremation’, ‘ashes’, etc. he was virtually having
a bit of a dig, if you like, and having his little say on the human cremation
debate. Now even though there was no urn, there were no Ashes at that time. This
is all we had, an obituary notice. And it virtually started from there, and when
Ivor Bligh, the English Captain came out to Australia at the end of that year,
1882, ye made reference to bringing home, or taking home the Ashes. So he was
sort of keeping this little joke alive, if you like.
Amanda Smith: But when and where did the original Ashes urn itself appear? This
is the point of conjecture and debate. Although from her research Joy Munns
believes it was December 1882, 120 years ago, in Sunbury in Victoria, at
Rupertswood. Rupertswood was the country property of Sir William Clarke, who was
at that time the President of the Melbourne Cricket Club.
Joy Munns: And on Christmas Eve, 24th December, William Clarke actually
organised a bit of a social hit-out on the cricket field at Rupertswood. He had
a lot of family guests there to spend Christmas, and it was more or less a spur
of the moment thing, a bit of light entertainment. And the English team –
Amanda Smith: So he’d invited the English team to play this cricket game at
Joy Munns: Virtually, yes. The eight amateur members of the English team were
actually his guests at Rupertswood, they were staying there. And it was just got
up, a bit of a hit-out, and that’s all it was. Clarke’s servants were busy
retrieving fours and sixes from all over the place and throwing them back, so it
was a just a bit of entertainment and a bit of fun. But at the end of it, Janet,
Lady Clarke, decided to actually present the English Captain with the very
object he’d actually said he was coming out here to retrieve, and she burned her
veil, put the ashes into a small urn which she had, and just sort of presented
it to Bligh, a continuation of the joke, it was never meant to go any further
than that. But it did. But that is actually where it all started, and how it
started. There is a lot of evidence to support Rupertswood.
Amanda Smith: But are there conflicting claims, and what are they?
Joy Munns: Yes, your main conflicting claim is that the Ashes came into being
after the Third Test in Sydney which was in 1883. There is no hard evidence to
support this claim, and a lot of it is firmly based on the fact that there is a
velvet bag which accompanies the urn and which is on display at Lord’s. Now the
date on the velvet bag is 1883, and that’s been the big stumbling block over the
years. The fact that 1883 is on the bag is very easily explained because after
England won that Third Test she actually won the series. So in effect, Bligh
could actually say that he had retrieved his Ashes, even though the public at
large didn’t know they had existed at the time. But Annie Fletcher, up in
Sydney, who was wife of the Paddington Club Secretary, she knew of the existence
of the urn and had quite possibly even seen it. Now she made the velvet bag, and
put 1883 on it because in actual fact that was when officially, if you like,
Bligh regained his Ashes. And it wasn’t publicly official but it made it
official amongst a very sort of elite circle, if you like. Now that has been
your stumbling block, the 1883, and that is your main rival.
Amanda Smith: And what’s your interest in delving into all this?
Joy Munns: Right, my interest. A love of history, basically. And to me a trophy
of such importance, a valued trophy as the Ashes or the urn is, nobody really
knew where it came from. And any books or magazines, anything you read on the
origin of the Ashes, really just glosses over it. Everybody’s interested in
later Ashes matches and conflicts etc., which is all very great, but nobody
actually knows where it all started.
Amanda Smith: Joy Munns, who’s the author of ‘Beyond Reasonable Doubt’, her
account of the origins of the Ashes urn. And that particular theory has become
known as ‘The Rupertswood Claim’.
And now to a sport that’s even older than cricket, in fact has the oldest
continuously running world championship of all sports. It’s Royal Tennis, and
this year’s world championship has just been held at Hampton Court Palace in the
UK. The men’s singles title was won, for the 9th year in a row, by an
Australian. Rob Fahey started playing Royal Tennis in the mid-1980s, in his home
town of Hobart. And because this is such an old game, played with archaic
equipment, and a world championship that dates back to 1740, I had to ask the
champ, Rob Fahey, where Royal Tennis began.
Rob Fahey: Well it was started by the French monks about 500 years ago. They
were obviously very bored and looking for something to do in their monasteries
and things, so they got together a few clumps of hair and things and made a
ball, and started hitting it around the cloisters, off the roofs and through the
windows and anywhere. 500 years later, here we are playing this game.
Amanda Smith: Yes, well where’s it played now?
Rob Fahey: It’s only played in the four countries: Australia, the US, France and
the UK. Mainly in the UK, they have about 30 courts, and there’s about another
ten or so strewn around the world.
Amanda Smith: And how did it come to Australia.
Rob Fahey: It’s a sort of point of contention, that one. Ballarat claim they had
a court in the gold-mining days, so nobody knows how that would have got there.
But Hobart still claims to have the oldest court, 1875 and an English trader
just came out and built a huge house in the middle of the city and it was one of
those things you build in your backyard, a bit like today, a tennis court in the
Amanda Smith: Now lawn tennis of course developed out of Royal Tennis, but the
difference between the two I think has been described as like the difference
between chess and draughts, because Royal Tennis is a much more complex game.
What are the major differences between the two tennises?
Rob Fahey: Two major differences. One is that we’re indoor and the walls are all
in play, a bit like squash. And the other one is a slightly unusual concept
whereby if the ball bounces twice, you haven’t necessarily lost the point, you
have the chance to actually change ends.
Amanda Smith: That sounds much more like my kind of tennis, letting the ball
bounce twice before you hit it.
Rob Fahey: It’s a lot better I can assure you.
Amanda Smith: And what sort of racquet are you using?
Rob Fahey: Quite a sort of heavy wooden racquet with a very small head. Not a
lot of surface to muck around with, and they’re made in England, all hand made,
nothing super technical about them, just a chunk of wood really.
Amanda Smith: And I’ve heard Royal Tennis people call lawn tennis flannel-ball.
Why is that?
Rob Fahey: That’s just being rude really. I think we like to think that it’s
quite a fast game that we play, I mean relative to lawn tennis, it is, because
the balls are a lot harder and so they travel a lot quicker.
Amanda Smith: Well what is the Royal Tennis ball made from?
Rob Fahey: It’s actually made from heading tape, things you make curtains and
things out of.
Amanda Smith: Oh, that’s handy.
Rick Burton: Yes, it is. It’s cotton, wound up in a very tight ball, which is
then tied with string even tighter, so they don’t bounce but they do go quite
Amanda Smith: Now sometimes it’s called Royal Tennis and sometimes it’s called
Real Tennis. Does that depend on whether you’re a monarchist or just want to
stress that it’s the genuine article?
Rob Fahey: No it’s a bit silly really. There are only four countries that play
it, and we’ve all got a different name for it. It’s called Royal Tennis in
Australia, Real Tennis in the UK, it’s called Court Tennis in America for some
reason, and it’s Jeu de pomme in France.
Amanda Smith: Now Royal Tennis, Real Tennis, Court Tennis, whatever you call it,
not only has a very strong sense of history and tradition about it as you’ve
been saying, but also one of exclusivity. How did you get into it?
Rob Fahey: Quite by chance really. It was just a job advertised in Hobart for an
assistant to the then professional, and I’d never heard of it, but I’d played a
lot of lawn tennis so I thought I’ll go and have a look, might get the bit of
cash, and years later, here I am.
Amanda Smith: Right. Now these World Championships, how do they work in Royal
Rob Fahey: It’s a little bit like the America’s Cup, in that the champion gets
to wait in the final for the others, for the challengers, and they all play off
to whittle themselves down to one, and they turn up against me.
Amanda Smith: Are you playing in sets in a similar way to lawn tennis?
Rob Fahey: Yes, we play out of six. Best of 13, six-game sets we play. The only
difference being that because you only ever serve from end, we play 5-all and
then six, we don’t have an advantage.
Amanda Smith: And what are the economics of Royal Tennis? Is there prizemoney
involved in these championships?
Rob Fahey: You could say that. I’m no millionaire.
Andrew Ford: So what does that mean? There’s a bit of prizemoney?
Rob Fahey: Yes it’s sort of you take your gate money and that’s about it really.
Amanda Smith: Rob Fahey, who this week once again won the world championship for
Royal Tennis for the 9th year in a row. So you see, Australia currently boasts
the men’s number one in both kinds of tennis, lawn and royal. Although Rob Fahey
doesn’t quite enjoy the profile and spoils that Leyton Hewitt does.
Well Royal Tennis is an old sport that’s surviving, in a modest way, in four
countries of the world. But in a globalised, technologically advanced world,
what is the future of sport in general? Will the mass market sports that
generate huge amounts of money eventually just swamp everything else? And in a
borderless, globalised world, what should national governments be focusing on
when it comes to sports events? These are questions that have been exercising
the mind of Hans Westerbeek. Hans is a founding board member of the European
Association for Sport Management. Since moving from Holland, he’s now the
Vice-President of the Sport Management Association of Australia and New Zealand,
and he’s the co-author of a new book called ‘Sport Business in the Global
Marketplace’. So, is globalisation having a positive or a negative effect on
Hans Westerbeek: When you look at globalisation as something that’s evil and
many of the anti-globalisation protests are premised on the basis that they are
Western values, American values, values of trade rather than values of a better
world for all of us, then globalisation indeed is something that also will
impact negatively on the future of sport. However, globalisation in my mind is
much more a function of the opportunities that technology have given us to talk
to bigger groups of people. And business takes advantage of those opportunities.
So globalisation again is not something evil in its own right, it can turn evil
when applying wrong principles or wrong value systems or narrow-minded value
systems to it, and that’s where the whole system falls down if you indeed only
apply Americanised or Westernised values to sport in a global context.
Amanda Smith: Well the important economic, social and political shift of our
time is that of globalisation. Would you say that sport is ideally suited to,
and perhaps even one of the key instruments of this globalisation?
Hans Westerbeek: I think so, yes. I think sport is more than any other form of
popular and ancient culture for that matter, a language that is spoken by people
all over the world, rather than in a confined area. Sport has always had its
antecedents in tribal rituals and all those kind of things, therefore it is
basically a modern way of communicating something to the rest of the tribe, and
sport is a language that is understood by what you can call the mega-tribe which
you know, are all the people on the planet.
Amanda Smith: Now your interest is really to try to understand where global
sport is heading now, what the future is for sport and the business of sport. If
you did have to name one sport or event that you think will succeed globally
above all others into the 21st century, what would it be?
Hans Westerbeek: Well many people may think that as a Dutchie I’d pick soccer,
and the World Cup, and irrespective of my love of the game I’d probably pick an
event that has multiple opportunities to accommodate multiple markets, and the
obvious one there is the Olympic Games that are multi-sport events either based
on a regional or global scale. Events that now slowly are emerging to be
accepted as high potential events and Melbourne has recently hosted one, the
World Masters Games, these events do not –
Amanda Smith: And would you include the World Gay Games that Sydney’s just
Hans Westerbeek: Definitely. The Gay Games are another event where the emphasis
is on something completely different. It’s not based on TV ratings and mass
market communication and sponsorship communication, it’s based on people getting
together for the fun of it. And opportunities that extend well beyond the event
for regions and cities to benefit from those events. The Masters Games offered
tourism packages prior to and after the Games, and families, rather than
athletes, visited the Masters Games.
Amanda Smith: So you think those large-scale world participatory style games
have a greater potential than say the professional sports events like the Soccer
World Cup, or other World Cups in Rugby?
Hans Westerbeek: If I had to put my money onto one or the other event from an
investment point of view, the mass audience events will always win.
Amanda Smith: There you are talking about the Soccer World Cup for example?
Hans Westerbeek: Correct, yes and that’s from an economic point of view, first
and foremost. If I look at a more broad application of outcomes and objectives,
then the catchphrase of good corporate citizenship for example, rather than only
looking at bottom line, there’s also social issues and environmental issues,
then those events rise to the surface and need to be strongly considered by I
guess representative entities such as governments in particular. You know,
governments have continued to subsidise the commercial events more than the
generic, non-media events. And governments in my mind should be much more
focusing on what is for the good of many more people, rather than those overpaid
athletes that make sufficient money anyway.
Amanda Smith: Hans Westerbeek, who lectures in the business of sport at Deakin
University, and who’s one of the authors of ‘Sport Business in the Global
And that’s The Sports Factor for this Friday. I’m Amanda Smith, thanks for your
company. Maria Tickle is the program producer, Paul Penton is technical
Guests on this program:
Belle Moore - Secretary of the Recreation and Sport Advisory Council,
Joy Munns - author "Beyond Reasonable Doubt"
Rob Fahey - Royal Tennis singles champion
Michelle Arthur - Events Co-ordinator, Activ Foundation
Sarah Lucas - CEO Sports Industry Australia
Hans Westerbeek - Board Member European Association for Sport Management
Sport Business in the Global Marketplace
Author: Hans Westerbeek and Aaron Smith
Publisher: Palgrave MacMillan
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