What is the point of Breakfast Meetings? This morning’s was a trial even before I heard that the guest speaker was Graham Gooch – one of cricket’s “Dirty Dozen.’
As a courtesy to the local South Wales University I attended a breakfast meeting this morning getting out of bed at 6.45 for a 7.30 start. There was 45 minutes of standing around drinking coffee and breakfast was served at 8.15. The chat with my hosts from university was lively and informative. Then it turned sour.
The guest speaker was introduced as Graham Gooch, a cricketer who took part in the ‘rebel’ tours of South Africa. These were disgraceful challenges to those campaigning against South Africa’s loathed Apartheid regime. A boycott was followed by the great majority of cricketers outraged by South Africa’s bid to impose apartheid on England’s choice of team by banning Basil D’Olivera.
With unashamed mercenary intentions a scratch team claiming to represent England arrived without warning in South Africa in 1982 – captained by Graham Gooch. The players expected a brief public outcry and ICC slap on the wrist. Instead they were the subject of global outrage and labelled ‘the Dirty Dozen’ in Parliament.
A South Africa team beat them emphatically and all received three-year bans from international cricket. The rebel tours were a doomed attempt to shore up the tottering apartheid system, when it needed to be isolated.
The whole misadventure was best summed up by the Guardian's Frank Keating when the tourists returned home. He wrote: "No more inglorious, downright disgraced and discredited team or sportsmen wearing the badge of 'England' can ever have returned through customs with such nothingness to declare."
No mention of the tours this morning in Newport. We were subjected to an endless dribble of ‘jokes-that-are-funny-when-you’re-drunk, strung together with patronising chat about women, Australians and Pakistanis. They all claimed that Oz, Indian and Pakistani cricketters are cheats. No mention of South Africans. Many of the stories were unintelligible to anyone who is not a cricket nerd.
Newport and South Wales has a proud record of opposing Apartheid. The second "Stop the Seventies Tour' protest was in Newport in 1969. I was there. Who thought of booking Gooch?
If there are desperate for a Speaker, I'll do it next time. No fee and I guarantee more laughs.
To ingratiate himsself with the audience Graham Gooch talked about the 'local team' Cardiff City'. Unaware apparently that was not good tactics in a city that's the home Newport County and Gwent and Newport Dargons.
He invited questions at the end of his speech. I asked him 'Do you know which city you are in?' Reasonable question. He did not.