Lord's steaming over champagne bottles

Published: Tuesday, July 27, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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London:One of the most enduring traditions of English sports - sipping a glass of champagne while watching a match - might soon be a thing of past with the International Cricket Council (ICC) planning to ban bottles from Test venues in England as well.

Glass bottles are banned from every cricket ground in the world but England were given a one-year exemption from the ruling because the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said it needed some time to adjust to the ban.

While some grounds in England have already imposed the ban, fans at Lord's are still allowed to carry either one bottle of wine or champagne or two pints of beer.

Now the ICC wants to have a blanket ban in place by early next year because it says it is concerned about safety. The issue of formal adoption of the rule would come up during the ICC meeting in Monaco in September.

Charles Fry, president of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) which owns Lord's, said he saw "no justification or need whatever" for the ban. He claimed that the ECB was also against the no-glass proposal.

Robert Griffiths, a member of the MCC committee, described the ban as an "absurd" measure that would threaten the game's ethos, according to a report in the Western Mail

"A worldwide ban seems wholly wrong. It is not ICC's responsibility. Their responsibility is for the organisation of the sport," said Griffiths, a leading commercial lawyer who played cricket for Glamorgan in the late 1960s.

Meeting friends for "liquid lunches" at the Lord's coronation garden is one of English cricket's enduring traditions.

"If you can't bring a bottle of wine to the ground how are you going to organise refreshments?"

"... Some of them (fans) are retired people who enjoy a day out and bring a couple of bottles of wine," he said.

Lord's has one of the best behaviour records of any international ground, the one blemish coming three years ago when Australia's Michael Bevan was hit by an unopened beer can.

It was thrown after the match on to the first tier of the pavilion by a man in a throng of several hundred spectators on the playing area.

The MCC have since disallowed spectators from coming on to the playing area and banned beer cans from the ground.

But Griffiths said there was no justification for a ban on the basis of one or two isolated incidents.

"... There have been one or two very isolated incidents. These are all well-behaved, responsible people and there is no justification for a ban on the basis of any history related to the throwing of missiles.

"Imagine having champagne in a plastic bottle."

An MCC spokesman said ground safety should be a matter for the ground and licensing authorities.

"We take ground safety very seriously and constantly review procedures but we see no need for a ban of this kind," he said.

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