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PEARCE ON SUNDAY: Why sport has a real duty to ease the pain.

Byline: Jonathan Pearce

I COULDN'T help it. At every sight of a majestic Andrew Strauss drive, Marcus Trescothick hook or Graham Thorpe cut, I couldn't escape a horrifying mental picture.

It was of a gaggle of Indian kids swept away from their makeshift batting strip on the beaches of Madras by the killer tsunami.

They were there one second, playing the game they loved, the game that gave them such hope, as they did every weekend in the sunshine of their youth, and were then sucked away in a moment.

I live by the sea. My kids are on the beach every day in the summer. Of all last week's chilling images, the thought of the little batsmen has affected me the most.

The reaction of the British public has been generous, but our sporting bodies must act immediately with bold plans to raise the millions needed to boost the relief fund.

The Australia and England players deserve praise for their spontaneous decision to donate pounds 30,000 between them. But it should just be the first of many contributions by cricket. India and Sri Lanka have given so much to the sport and now need its help.

Cricket very nearly lost the great spinner Muttiah Muralitharan to the wave. He was in Galle 20 minutes before the waters devastated the Test stadium there, leaving a bus and a splintered hut as detritus in the outfield.

Clive Lloyd has rightly called on the ICC to set up a disaster relief fund. Pakistani authorities have suggested a money-raising one-day international involving top players from the tragedy-hit countries.

Indian cricket bosses have given pounds 119,000, the New Zealand and Bangladesh cricket boards are giving from ticket revenue. Now it's time for the England and Wales Cricket Board to come up with ideas.

It has just signed TV and radio deals worth pounds 220million. The Brit Oval is a sell-out for the first four days of the npower Ashes test. Lord's has applied for permission to extend its capacity by 800 for the first Test, starting on July 21.

With England in irrepressible form under Michael Vaughan, bumper profits will be made in 2005. Surely English cricket authorities, counties, player and followers can stump up at least pounds 1m.

Football has a duty to give much more. Well done to Glenn Hoddle, who was the first to initiate fund-raising. Too often criticised, the move is typical of the Wolves manager. Celtic's pounds 20,000 followed and the 20 Premier League clubs' collective pounds 1m will make a difference.

But it's still not enough from a sport made wealthy in part by the sale of merchandising in Asia.

The football TV deal and other media income piles not far off pounds 1m a day into Premiership coffers. They can do better than this.

Do Aston Villa, Everton, Liverpool and Newcastle really need the pounds 150,000 they'll get from live TV coverage of their FA Cup third round ties?

Many Premiership players already donated generously to Oxfam for Xmas. They will do so again if approached, I'm sure. I appeal to every top-flight squad member to give just one day's wages. It would raise another pounds 2m.

Brian Barwick can make an immediate impact as chief executive at the FA by pledging money from Soho Square. The FA is in financial straits, but they must be seen to act.

Ticket income from the February friendly against Holland will top pounds 1.25m. A percentage could be donated. Fifty-five per cent of net ticket income from the Community Shield is always given to charity. The FA should promise it to the tsunami relief fund.

Sepp Blatter should climb down from his FIFA political pulpit, open the vaults and give, give, give.

Why not offer the revenue from the Confederations Cup final in Frankfurt in June? It could be Germany-Brazil. It would be a sell-out. By donating the proceeds Blatter could give meaning to a pointless competition.

The RFU was sitting on capital and reserves worth pounds 91.4m according to its 2004 Annual Report. I know it threw almost pounds 58m of its sizeable income back into the sport, but I hope Twickenham will look at giving from the revenue of the England-France Six Nations showdown in February.

What about the All England Club sending come of the Wimbledon profits? The Formula One circus wants to expand in Asia - it should contribute massively.

Sporting supporters and individual sports stars and clubs will make heartfelt donations. But just as Blair and Bush made belated statements on the disaster, sporting politicians have been slow to give any indication of offering real help.

Sport has seemed irrelevant last week but it can play such a huge role in helping to repair the torn lives of the survivors of the greatest tragedy most of us have ever known.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 2, 2005
Words:810
Previous Article:THE VOICE OF THE SUNDAY MIRROR SPORT:Cup shock.
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