We Spoke to Varsity Spectators About Left-Wing Revolution at Lord's Cricket Ground

We went to Lord's and talk to people about the political makeup at cricket matches, and whether a left-wing revolution would be a good idea. Reactions were mixed.

by Will Magee
Jul 8 2015, 4:35pm

Photos by the author

This article originally appeared on VICE Sports UK.

I have learnt many things in my pursuit of a peaceful, left-wing takeover at Lord's Cricket Ground. I have learnt that cricket has a fascinating Marxist heritage. I have learnt that drinking several mid-day cans of Tyskie – the left-wing football ultras' lager of choice – can be quite soporific. I have learnt not to announce my revolutionary intentions to the Lord's bureaucracy, lest I find myself denied admission at the gate. Looking back on it, that probably should have been obvious.

All the same I was pretty much in the dark about what attendees at Lord's might think about the arrival of a mixed bunch of leftists at the ground. If I was going to found a socialist utopia at the Home of Cricket, I would naturally need to do so on principles popular with everyone. Would the idea of rubbing shoulders with left-wing ultras prove popular amongst a contemporary Lord's crowd? For Oxford v. Cambridge Varsity match, I went to find out.

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Before I looked for spectators to speak to, I decided to take in some actual cricket with a fellow ultra (my mate Ben). An Oxbridge men's sporting event is always a good opportunity to spy out some future Conservative front-benchers and so, in the spirit of good-natured opposition, we settled down to see if the next generation of Tory grandees could play a half-decent cover drive. Oxford batted first and – despite the struggles of their middle order against Cambridge's spin bowlers – ran out a respectable innings of 202-8. At this point I got bored and started reading some Gorky, but I hear that Oxford did enough to win the game with Cambridge all out for a mere 159.

The author (left) and his mate Ben, both living up to stereotypes in Dulwich Hamlet scarves

With play still continuing – cricket doesn't half go on, honestly – we trotted off to ask some people their opinions on Lord's political situation. As it turns out, when politely asked if they wouldn't mind chatting to a VICE writer about politics, the vast majority of Oxbridge cricket fans look as if they'd rather contract gonorrhoea. Thankfully, I did eventually come across some very nice people who were willing to indulge me in conversation.

First I met "H". "H" didn't seem like the average spectator on the day, mainly because he wasn't wearing a bow tie with shorts. He told me that he was a tradesman from Boston – and that he was basically a massive fan of all cricket.

"H", a tradesman from Boston in Lincolnshire.

Me: Hi "H". What's the general makeup of the people here at Lord's? Do you like them?

"H": It's a funny one. I love cricket, I love Lord's. Today's a bit different 'cos of the university people.

Me: So would you say that the people here are quite 'establishment', if you see what I mean? Feel free to say that's absolute bollocks.

"H": No, but they think they are – some of them. But we have had a chat, and some of them seem really nice... I thought today would be a bit tricky, with the uni boys and their families – the bigwigs, whatever – but they're alright mate, yeah.

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I asked "H" whether he thought Lord's could do with more of a mix in terms of politics, but he seemed to think it was pretty much fine as it was. Next I met Patrick, a Cambridge graduate.

Patrick, who recently graduated from the 'Bridge.

Me: Alright Patrick. What do you think the average person who comes to Lord's' political outlook is, generally? Just if you were to guess.

Patrick: If I was to guess completely, I'd probably say they'd be leaning right.

Me: Yeah, fair enough. That was my conclusion as well. Do you think it could do with a better mix?

Patrick: Yeah of course, I think it'd be good with a better mix. Then again, people who come to watch cricket are people who like cricket. Whether that's come from their schooling or whatever...

Me: Were Russell Brand to turn up here, how well do you think he'd fit in?

Patrick: To be honest, I think no-one here would have a problem with him – but he'd probably have a problem with the people here... that's the impression I have of Russell Brand.

Me: Sure. Would you say it would be a good idea to have loads of very left-wing people here? Bear in mind you can say that's a horrendous idea.

Patrick: To be fair, I think it doesn't matter... people who want to watch cricket will be here watching cricket.

Sensible points from Patrick, who seemed like he was having quite a fun day. Having let him crack on with it, I then met Alice and Alysia – both Oxford alumni, the latter a batsman with the Oxford Women's team.

Alysia (l) and Alice (r), who understandably thought my questions were quite stupid.

Me: Hi guys. What do you think about the sort of people who've been at Lord's today? Where would you say – roughly – they would fall on the political spectrum?

Alysia: I think we can probably make a decision on that one... judging by the blazers.

Me: I've been judging a lot by the blazers.

Alysia: And there's the comments as they walk past us. We were just sitting there, waiting to bat, and the amount of men in blazers that walked past who were like "Ooh, what's going on here?", and we were like "We're women, and we're playing cricket".

Me: So it's been a bit patronising, basically?

Alysia: A little bit, but not entirely – there's been a lot of support as well. We just take it in our stride. It's quite humorous.

Me: Do you think Lord's would benefit by a bit more diversity in the sort of people here?

Alice: It would be a different atmosphere. I don't know if it would be a better atmosphere.

Alysia: We have to bear in mind that this is an Oxford v. Cambridge match. If it was an international or county match it'd be slightly more diverse...

Me: Just finally, do you think Lord's would benefit from a couple of stands full of Marxists? The answer can definitely be "no".

Alysia: I think the answer is definitely "no". I mean, there's a family stand at the Oval...

Me: And a Marxist stand at Lord's?

Alysia: That would require us to assume that Marxists behave completely differently to anyone else – and they just don't!

Alysia's last point was highly astute. It made me think that perhaps left-wing revolution at Lord's should be far more subtle than I might want it. That, just maybe, left-wing people should quietly mix with all the other people. But not wear the blazers. Alysia's Oxford side went on to win their match with relative ease. Then, in the mellow evening sun, the crowds started to head home.

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Finally, to get a non-Varsity perspective, I asked my friend (and part-time cricket ultra) Al what he thought about the prospect of the left reclaiming Lord's.

Al at the Middlesex v. Hampshire T20 a couple of weeks ago. He almost certainly brought the headgear from home.

Me: Al, having come with me to Lord's both as an ultra and a Middlesex fan, what do you think of the idea of left-wing revolution at the ground?

Al: Prior to my trip to Lord's, I did not consider the Home of Cricket to be the most fertile ground for a socialist revolution. I still don't, but the thought of W.G. Grace being the catalyst for a Marxist uprising is sort of beautiful.

So there we have it. The prevailing opinion seems to be that radical, leftist reform to Lord's is either a fun but impractical idea, or just a straightforwardly bad idea. I now feel that – as is the case with all great left-wing thinkers – I may have somewhat fallen into the trap of idealism; of thinking other people will take up my beautiful, utopian values, when actually other people aren't that keen on utopia and actually prefer the unrelenting bleakness of reality.

Still – just like Marx, Trotsky, or Jeremy Corbyn – I will never give up on my principles no matter how mad, impractical and outdated they become. If revolution at Lord's Cricket Ground has to be kept alive in the heart of one man, then so be it.

Keep the faith. One day, the cricket ultras of the world shall indeed unite.