And the sporting capital of the world is.....?   2 Jul 2010

Marty Hearnden and Michael Hinds

OPINION: Just the sort of question that is guaranteed to start an argument between any group of sports fans. You can picture it now as everyone settles down with a cold drink to argue the virtues of the USA (probably but they don’t really play the same stuff as us), Australia (unfortunately they certainly have a case) and the more creative will mention Cuba, surely the great over-achievers. How about China (not really) or even Russia (ditto)? Little old New Zealand probably gets a mention purely on parochial grounds and because we will turn our hands to just about anything and compete. The answer to the question? I confidently give you the United Kingdom!

I can almost hear everyone fall about the floor laughing and immediately launching into many stories of the hapless Poms and how they don’t win anything and basically compete so that everyone else can beat then and have a good laugh in the process. Surely the Brits idea of sport is to get drunk and rampage thru Ibiza (or Barnsley) wearing replica football shirts and eating very badly. The performance of the England side at the Football World Cup does little to dispel this theory but further investigation and a bit of careful thought is required.

The argument is actually very simple, they basically invented sport as we know it and if they did not actually invent it they certainly codified it, organised it and took it to the world. As over 60% of Kiwis can still trace their ancestry back to the UK we did not stand much of a chance. Virtually all of the sports that we have come to know and love fall into this category – William Webb Ellis picked up the ball and ran with it at Rugby School, Cricket is traced directly back to the village greens of England, League is traced back to a pub in Huddersfield and a meeting of disaffected players who wanted to be paid, Golf is Scottish (12th century), Tennis entertained the upper class in the 19th century and the list goes on. Just who first decided that it was fun to kick a ball around is lost in the mists of time, even the Chinese rather speculatively lay claim to this, but the English FA (formed in 1863) wrote the rules and organised leagues. This spread onto the continent, UK railway workers took the game to Argentina and South America, the rest is history.

Kiwis come to the UK for many reasons, but unless they are (semi) professionals, sport is probably not high on the list. However, you do not have to be in the country (town or City) long to see the hold it has on the nation and just how that love of games has spread around the world. Even now, if you study the calendar of events it dwarfs whatever goes on in countries in Europe. Right now we are in the midst of a World Cup, Wimbledon is reaching its climax, England are playing Australia in ODIs, the county cricket season is in full swing, so is the League season, Golf builds towards the Open and all is right in the world and the much awaited start of the premiership season is starting to creep back into conversation again.

Another aspect of this is the coverage it all gets in the various media. One thing I will miss about the UK when we go back to God’s own is the BBC, their coverage of Wimbledon is way better then very good, it is superb. On the Sky Channels (pay to view) it is wall to wall football and throw in some excellent cricket coverage to boot. Basically if it moves, shoots or scores it is on the telly. The All Blacks? No problem, in fact compulsory breakfast viewing on a Saturday, a bit odd I know but better than the middle of the night. Super 14, Air NZ Cup and even the Black Caps all feature right down to the familiar twang of Ian Smith and Mark Richardson.

Sorry folks, no argument here, the UK it is. Obviously if you have grown up on Ice Hockey, Baseball and Basketball then maybe the US is your choice but our links to the Mother Country are a bit stronger than you may think, just cast your eye around the sporting spectrum. Must dash, Wimbledon to watch and the Kiwi girls are about to take on England in a 20/20 international…..


Add a comment

Bookmark and Share


Hilary Timmins' Award-Winning UK Documentary Series To Inspire NZ Students

29 Jun 2020 Education
Dream Catchers, produced and directed by Hilary Timmins, celebrates the success stories of more than thirty inspirational New... more

New Zealand reaffirms support for Flight MH17 judicial process

7 Mar 2020 News By Rt HON WINSTON PETERS
Ahead of the start of the criminal trial in the Netherlands on 9 March, Foreign Minister Winston Peters has reaffirmed the need to... more


NZ Government's Economic package to fight COVID-19

17 Mar 2020 Business News By RT HON JACINDA ARDERN
The Coalition Government has launched the most significant peace-time economic plan in modern New Zealand history to cushion the... more

NZ Government announces aviation relief package

19 Mar 2020 Business News By Hon Phil Twyford
Transport Minister Phil Twyford today outlined the first tranche of the $600 million aviation sector relief package announced earlier... more


Northbound and Down: the London-based NZer who journeyed from Alaska to Mexico by bicycle

18 Aug 2020 Lifestyle
An exiled Kiwi has been hailed as inspirational for completing a remarkable American cycling adventure.   Auckland-born Otto... more

The Serious Road Trip: how one Kiwi woman’s Big OE took her into a war zone

18 Jun 2020 Review By Charlotte Everett
I was delighted to receive in the post a new book to review. Simone van Kan’s The Serious Road Trip was a decent-sized... more


Fairer rules for tenants and landlords

17 Nov 2019 Property By Minister Kris Faafoi
17 NOVEMBER 2019 The Government has delivered on its promise to the over one million New Zealanders who now rent to make it fairer... more

New Zealand Government will not implement a Capital Gains Tax

17 Apr 2019 Property By RT HON JACINDA ARDERN
The Coalition Government will not proceed with the Tax Working Group’s recommendation for a capital gains tax, Jacinda Ardern... more


Boosting border security with electronic travel authority – now over 500,000 issued

19 Nov 2019 Migration By Hon Iain Lees-Galloway
19 NOVEMBER 2019 We’ve improved border security with the NZeTA, New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority, which helps us to... more

Christchurch reinstated as refugee settlement location

18 Aug 2018 Migration
18 AUGUST 2018 HON IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY The announcement that Christchurch can once again be a settlement location for refugees... more


Gallipoli Anzac Day services cancelled

19 Mar 2020 Travel & Tourism By RT HON JACINDA ARDERN
The New Zealand and Australian Governments have announced this year’s joint Anzac Day services at Gallipoli will be cancelled... more

New Zealanders advised not to travel overseas

19 Mar 2020 Travel & Tourism
New Zealanders advised not to travel overseas more


The Skipper's Diary: Sir Richard Hadlee honouring his father and NZ's Forty-Niners

27 Oct 2019 Cricket By Charlotte Everett
NZNewsUK London Editor Charlotte Everett spoke to Sir Richard Hadlee about why he’s chosen to publish his father’s... more

PREVIEW: All Blacks v England semi-final

26 Oct 2019 Rugby
The two most convincing quarterfinals winners are set to square off in a semifinal showdown for the ages when the All Blacks meet old... more


Gordon Campbell on the Gareth Morgan crusade

11 Nov 2016 Opinion
Gordon Campbell on the Gareth Morgan crusade First published on Werewolf The ghastly likes of Marine Le Pen in France and Geert ... more

Gordon Campbell on the US election outcome

10 Nov 2016 Opinion
Column - Gordon Campbell   Gordon Campbell on the US election outcome Well um.. on the bright side, there (probably)... more

Kiwi Success

Congratulations to Loder Cup winner

26 Sep 2018 People By Hon Eugenie Sage
25 SEPTEMBER 2018 The Loder Cup, one of New Zealand’s oldest conservation awards, has been awarded to Robert McGowan for 2018... more

Appointments to New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO

16 Aug 2018 Appointments
16 AUGUST 2018Appointments to New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO HON JENNY SALESA Associate Education Minister Jenny Salesa is... more


Historic pay equity settlement for education support workers

14 Aug 2018 Recruitment By RT HON JACINDA ARDERN
14 AUGUST 2018Historic pay equity settlement for education support workers RT HON JACINDA ARDERN HON CHRIS HIPKINS Prime Minister The... more

Historic pay equity settlement for education support workers

22 Aug 2018 Recruitment By RT HON JACINDA ARDERN
14 AUGUST 2018Historic pay equity settlement for education support workers RT HON JACINDA ARDERN HON CHRIS HIPKINS Prime Minister The... more