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IS SPORT TODAY BETTER THAN IT WAS FIFTY YEARS AGO?

Zig-Zag Of Retrogression and Progress

Of course soccer must be better than it was. Athletics have improved; lawn tennis has improved......... Why should soccer be the only sport that has stood still?" Not once but several times Walter Winterbottom, England's team manager, has challenged me with this, but I am not convinced that sport today is better than it was fifty, twenty-five, or even fifteen years ago.
In certain fields, of course, the figures cannot be denied. Last year's Olympic Games at Melbourne were, as everyone expected, the scene of yet another wholesale mowing down of records, both in swimming and athletics.
People are faster. They jump farther and higher, and they throw things farther, too. Ten years ago, when big Frank Swift, the England and Manchester City goal-keeper, asked the Swedish miler Arne Andersson whether the four-minute mile were a possibility the tall Scandinavian replied gravely, "Yes, but only if Gundar and I ran against each other and helped each other".
Gundar, of course, was Gundar Haegg. Supermen as they seemed at the time, neither of these two Swedish colossi ever managed to break through the four- minute barrier. Yet today, since the original triumph of Roger Bannister at Oxford, miles in three minutes and fifty-odd seconds are becoming almost commonplace.
It is the same over the shorter distances, and in swimming such stars as the Australian girls Lorraine Crapp and Dawn fraser [[Fraser]] and their male colleague Murray Rose are making the old times look slow and silly. If Sidney Wooderson or Paavo Nurmi came back to the track today the times they put up in their prime would not qualify them, in many cases, for an Olympic final!
There is a strong case for saying that lawn tennis has improved, too. Admittedly, the pre-war field was strong, with such stars as Don Budge and Fred Perry among the men, and Alice Marble and the incomparable Suzanne Lengien, among the women... Yet would Budge, Riggs, Perry or Vines have stood up to today's remarkable world professional champion Pancho Gonzalees [[Gonzales]]? And Lew Hoad at his best, which is still a good way below the best of Gonzales, would probably have accounted for most of these prewar stars.
In women's lawn tennis there seems to be a temporary recession; yet the last ten years have produced a crop of brilliant player's [[players]] above all from America... Brilliant as Lenglen was, there are doubts whether she could have stood up to the fantastic Maureen Connolly, who reached the top a great deal younger, retired while she was
AUSTRALIAN CRICKET HAS SLUMPED AMAZINGLY....
still very emphatically there, and had none of the temperamental deficiencies of the French girl. Then we have seen Louise Brough, Doris Hart, Pauline Betz, Margaret Osborne Dupont, all of them hefty smiters of the ball. Lawn tennis certainly has not slipped back. 
Yet I think it would be wrong to believe in some inevitable law of progression, to believe that sports and sportsmen must evolve and get better as the years go by. Look at cricket. World cricket at the present boasts fewer great figures than it has done at any time over the past generation, and one is tempted to be more sweeping still.
AMAZING SLUMP
Australian cricket, in particular, has slumped amazingly. Ten years ago Don Bradman, Lindsay Hassett, Keith Miller and Ray Lindwall all towered above the contemporary cricket scene. Today the heroes are no more... Gone with them are such as Len Hutton, while Denis Compton's knee has pushed him prematurely out of his place in the sun.
What Australia has to offer now are young cricketers with bright possibilities, but these she has always had, ever since Bradman began clouting runs in the Nineteen-twenties. What she also had then were major stars to take the brunt of the Test series while the fledglings were maturing. Much the same can be said today about cricket in England. 
Soccer, too, is in a period of world decline, at least so far as playing values are concerned. Of those countries who will fight out the final rounds of the World Cup in Sweden next year one alone can look forward to the tournament with any confidence, and that is

Argentina, the brilliant winners of this year's South American Tournament, At Lima. But even the Argentinians are known to give much less than their best when they play on European soil. 
Elsewhere it is a sorry story. Though Italy treats her footballers like demi-gods, her international team is feeble, thrashed by six goals to one at Zagreb by a Yugoslav side which had generally been considered at its lowest ebb since the war... Obviously money does not necessarily buy success at the international level. England are still looking for a team... Spain, despite naturalised stars, do not convince... Where sport advances on one front it withdraws on another. 
16                              NATIONAL SPORTS

BAN ON TABLE TENNIS BETTING 
Timely Move By World T. T. Federation

SCORE or more years ago, when the game of table tennis was still known as ping-pong and the only betting was a family two-pence on Uncle Joe's beating Auntie Mabel, any suggestion that there should be international legislation to prevent gambling on the game would have been laughable.
Yet this year it has come. Wagering during the World Table Tennis Championships at Stockholm reached such a fever pitch that the authorities had to come down on it hard and heavy.
The International Federation is warning all nations to tell their players that betting either on themselves or on other players is strictly illegal and that players who break this rule are subject to suspension. Apparently large sums of money changed hands not only during the opening days of play in the World Championships but also on the practice matches before-hand. 
Table-tennis is an independent sport, being neither amateur nor professional. It is completely open to all those who play the game whether for fun or for money, but it has never been regarded as a gambling sport. 

HARDLY POSSIBLE
Obviously the International Federation had to put it foot down or else there might have been serious consequences, although one can hardly see any player allowing himself to be bribed to lose, nor can one see a thrilling detective story written round the game with the odds-on favourite being doped to lose or kidnapped !
I cannot recall in the many years. I have spent in international sport any previous occasion in an even of such magnitude as a world championship tournament when officials had to stamp out betting. The ping-pong punters have indeed made history. 
Strangely enough, there has been betting of a kind on lawn tennis, but it has never attained large proportions. One of London's leading bookmakers invariably makes a book on Wimbledon, but he reports that the sums won and loss are not large. The big betting men, the men who might be prepared to use their influence to sway a result one way or the 
By
VERNON MORGAN
other, have never come into it. The punters have been those who liked to risk a few shillings for a flutter on their idol.
Obviously the Wimbledon authorities, too, would have-put their foot down had they thought the betting was having even the slightest influence on the game. Moreover, this wagering was never done at Wimbledon but in city offices many miles away. 
The same firm makes a book on the Boat Race, the Open Golf Championship, the Rugby internationals, and, of course, the Football Association Cup, on which there are now official call-overs in which big money is involved. There have been no scandals and nothing serious enough to cause even warnings being given to the punters.
In Stockholm, however, the scene were reminiscent of the earlier days round the boxing rings, with those ready to bet offering their odds blatantaly to any who wanted to have a go. The situation in the British boxing halls was very bad only a few years ago. It was like the betting ring on a racecourse, with backers and layers running round the ring, trying to lay and obtain the odds and get the best prices available.
BOXING MENACE
The betting fraternity became such a menace that the Boxing Board of Control stepped in, and while there is undoubtedly wagering during professional boxing tournaments it is done outside the ring for the most part and, if it is in the hall, quietly and discreetly. The difference from the prewar days is pleasantly most apparent.

ATHLETICS ARENA TURNS INTO EPSON

After the first world war and even earlier than that there used to be considerable betting on amateur running. There was very little in the South, but in the North and Midlands book-makers unashamedly stood on their stools and loudly laid the odds clearly marked on their boards, as they would do at Epsom.
I vividly remember a meeting in the Midlands in the Nineteen-twenties at which I got an amazing reception after I had won a mile handicap off the scratch mark. Apparently I was an unconsidered outsider, and when I caught my last rival inches before the tape the applause was terrific. It transpired that the second man would have hit the books very heavily had he won !
On another occasion, having been beaten in the heats at a Northern meeting, I saw one of those who had eliminated me from the final dressing getting ready to leave. I asked him if he did of course, but he had managed to get a very useful wager against his reaching the final, and he did not want to spoil his handicap mark for a future occasion !
Amateur athletics in the bad old days! And now, in the enlightened year of 1957, it has come to table tennis!
NATIONAL SPORTS                               17

Strangely enough, there has been betting of a kind on a lawn tennis, but it has never attained large proportions. One of London's leading book-makers inevitably makes a book on Wimbeldon, but he reports that the sums won and loss are not large. The big betting men, the men who might be prepared to use their influ-ence to sway a result one way or the

By
VERNON MORGAN

other, have never come into it. The punters have been those who liked to risk a few shillings for a flutter on their idol.

Obviously the Wimbledon authorities too, would have-put their foot down had they though the betting was having been the slightest influence on the game. Moreover, the wagering was never done at Wimbeldon but in city offices many miles away.

The dame firm makes a book on the Boat Race, the Open Golf Championship, the rugby internationals, and, of course, the Football Association Cup, on which there are now official call-overs in which big money involved. There have been no scandals and nothing serious enough to cause even warnings being given the punters.

In Stockhol, however, the scene were reminiscent of the earlier days rounf the boxing rings, with those ready to bet offering their odds blatantly to any who wanted to have a go. The situation in the British boxing halls was very bad only a few years ago. It was like the betting ring on a racecourse, with backers and layers running round the ring, trying to lay and obtain the odds and get the best prices available. 

BOXING MENACE
The betting fraternity became such a menace that the Boxing Board of Contol stepped in, and while there is undoubtedly wagering during professional boxing tournaments it is done outside the ring for the most part and, it it is in the hall, quietly and discretely. The difference from the prewar days is pleasantly most apparent.

ATHLETICS ARENA 
TURNS INTO EPSOM

After the first world war and even earlier than that there used tp be considerable betting on amateur running. There was very little in the South, but in the North and Midlands book-makers unashamedly stood on their stools and loudly laid the odds clearly marked on their boards as they would do at Epsom. 

I vividly remember a meeting in the Midlands in the Nineteen-twenties ar which I got an amaz-ing reception after I had won a mile handicap off the scratch mark apparently I was an un-considered outsider, and when I caught my last rival inches be-fore the tape the applause was terrific. it transpired that the se-cond man would have hit the books very heavily had he won ! 

On another occasion, having been in the heats at a Northern meeting, I saw one of those who had eliminated me from the final dressing getting ready to leave. I asked him if he did of course, but he had managed to get a very useful wager against his reaching the final, and he did not want to spoil his handicap mark for a future occasion ! 

Amateur athletics in the bad old days ! And now, in the enlightened year of 1957, it has come to table tennis ! 

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