There has been change, massive change!

Top guns: Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are paid exorbitantly when compared to other players.   -  BEN STANSALL

Forty Years On is the famous anthem of a famous English public school, Harrow. And the last 40 years have seen such radical changes in sport. Not least in cricket in which India has strongly maintained its challenge at the top level. But I have in my mind a vivid image of a player I worshipped both in the cricket and the football field — Denis Compton. In these days of heavy helmets shielding batsmen from harm, it is extraordinary to look back on an era when helmets were quite unknown.

I still have in my mind a vivid image of Denis dancing bare-headed down the wicket to attack the bowling. That same head scored many a fine goal for Arsenal and during World War II for England. The great irony being that none of his 11 appearances on the England left wing could count as a full cap, while big brother Leslie, the tall centre-half for Arsenal, won two caps at 38 in less than a week, as a defender, much to the ire of the then England manager Walter Winterbottom, who absurdly was not allowed to pick his teams.

How remote seem those days when professional and amateur players actually came out to bat through different gates. In which the grand panjandrum of cricket Lord Hawke declared that he never wanted to see a professional captain England. And for well after World War II, the English season begin with a match at Lord’s between Gentlemen and Players. In due course, Len Hutton, the player who scored an amazing 364 for England against Australia at the Oval, would become the first professional to skipper England. Now, of course, there is no such distinction between so-called gentlemen and so-called players. Professionals all.

Making a mark: Jean-Marc Bosman’s judical challenge of the football transfer rules led to the Bosman ruling in 1995.   -  Getty Images

  Pro-soccer has exploded with wealth quite unimaginable 40 years ago. It was not until 1960 that English football abolished the maximum wage, but freedom of contract still lay far in the future and it took the persistent challenge of the minor Belgian footballer Jean-Marc Bosman ultimately to challenge and defeat in the appeal courts the contract restrictions which bound players to their clubs. So it is today that a colossal £30,000 a week is earned or at least paid to leading players, much more still if they be a Messi or a Ronaldo. For years after World War II it was unusual for a player with an English club even to own a car. Now a star footballer can own several of high value. Bosman himself has bitterly lamented the fact that he has been marginalised and quite forgotten, even reduced to living on benefits. The tennis and athletics establishments fought hard against professionalism, but it was always going to be a losing battle. One of the outstanding tennis players of his era, Jack Kramer not only turned professional but started his own travelling tennis “circus.” As in athletics, the establishments fought a losing battle against professionalism. The likes of the great middle-distance runner Australia’s Herb Elliott would find ways around the rules to capitalise on their refulgent careers.

Not only male but also female tennis players have capitalised on their abilities. Wimbledon, where for long years professionalism was regarded with scorn, has now agreed to pay its women competitors as much as the men, although they play best out of three and thus fewer sets per match. You might say that the past 40 years has seen the death of the amateur in sports all over the world.

The so-called shamateur, once so prevalent, has now no need to exist.

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