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Test Match Special row: Jonathan Agnew hits out as The Cricketer defends Test Match Sofa

Sofa wars: Editor of The Cricketer defends Test Match Sofa in row with BBC's Test Match Special
We're no parasites and no threat, Test Match Sofa hits back at BBC
Andrew Miller left baffled by hostility from BeebTMS anchor Agnew responds by threatening never to read magazine againEngland T20 captain Broad supports Agnew in row

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UPDATED:

13:04 GMT, 1 November 2012

Test Match Sofa, the alternative cricket commentary which operates from central London not from Test venues, has this week been described as a 'parasite' that needs to be 'nailed' and 'swept offline'. Here ANDREW MILLER, the editor of The Cricketer magazine, who owns TestMatchSofa.com, hits back at those allegations…

Earlier this year, one of the oldest voices in cricket took a leap of faith and jumped into bed with one of the newest.

The Cricketer magazine, established in 1921 by Pelham Warner, saw in Test Match Sofa, an irreverent online cricket commentary service established in Tooting in 2009 by Daniel Norcross, a spark of innovative potential that it simply could not afford to pass up.

The tie-up was never going to be to everyone’s taste, but like two inter-joining circles on a Venn diagram, that was never really the point. In a print media market that seems to be shrinking as quickly as broadband speeds are rising, innovation is vital if you want to stay afloat.

Alastair Cook (second, left) takes evasive action from a shot by Ajinkya Rahane of India 'A' during the final day of England's first warm-up match

England expects: Alastair Cook (second, left) takes evasive action from a shot by Ajinkya Rahane of India 'A' during the final day of England's first warm-up match

WHAT IS TEST MATCH SOFA

test match sofa logo

Test
Match Sofa is an online broadcaster providing cricket ball-by-ball commentary for
all England test matches and selected One Day Internationals.

The
station is available worldwide serving as alternative commentary to
the BBC's Test Match Special which is only available in the UK.

The station began broadcasting from
the Tooting Bec home of one of the station's creators, Daniel
Norcross, but moved to a rented house in Nunhead, also in South
London, in August 2010. In January 2011, Test Match Sofa moved to an
undisclosed location, believed to be somewhere in central London.

Listeners interact with the show's commentators through
Twitter, with this interaction often influencing the agenda.

Follow Test Match Sofa on Twitter @TestMatchSofa

The Cricketer saw in Test Match Sofa a
cult following of young, technologically savvy cricket fans – a
demographic that it might not have attracted by any other means. In
return the Sofa was offered shelter and status, and a chance for that
seed of a concept to germinate. At a stroke, each had doubled their
potential audience, and shored up the other’s foundations. It was, and
remains, a win-win scenario.

We
expected resistance to our venture, and it duly arrived – though not
from the quarters we had imagined. The ECB, recognising that we were not
breaching any rights, ceased correspondence on the subject back in May,
ahead of England’s Test series against West Indies. Test Match Special,
on the other hand, have taken the Sofa’s existence as a personal slight
– culminating in a declaration on Wednesday that it needed to be
'nailed' and 'swept offline'.

We're flattered by TMS’s attention, but baffled by their hostility. At what point in that magnificent programme's evolution did the promotion of cricket become a zero-sum game To complain, as they do, that Test Match Sofa is a 'parasite' that pays nothing for rights and gives nothing in return is a sad parody of the public access position the BBC once held dear.

After a summer in which rain, the Olympics and the Tour de France combined to squeeze cricket to the margins of public interest, surely the game needs as many people as possible to make as much noise on its behalf as is feasible. Anyone who believes otherwise might also argue against letting schoolkids enter for free on the fifth day of a Test.

The Sofa does not profess to fill the void by any means, but it provides a start. Through the use of Twitter (@testmatchsofa), every listener is offered a voice that, as often as not, will help dictate the narrative of the day’s play. In so doing, we aim to cement the enjoyment of a new breed of cricket listener – ones who, like those who will doubtless enter their blog comments below – want a conversation with their commentators, not a lecture.

Different audience: The Test Match Sofa crew pose up

Different audience: The Test Match Sofa crew pose up

Surely, if any BBC institution could still be relied upon to uphold the company's Reithian principles it should be TMS, the voice of cricket for more than half a century and, let's be frank about this, the very reason why Norcross and his colleagues were inspired to establish the Sofa in the first place.

Without exception, the Sofa team venerates TMS. Every one of the enthusiastic amateurs who give up their own time to watch cricket in a windowless studio do so because their youths were misspent with radios under their pillows and Wisdens in their stockings.

Front row, from left, Henry Blofeld, Jonathan Agnew and scorer Bill Frindall. Back row from left, producer Peter Baxter, assistant producer Shilpa Patel, Vic Marks, Mike Selvey, Christopher Martin-Jenkins, Colin Croft and Tony Cozier

Window to the world: Members of the BBC Radio Test Match Special team in the commentary box at Lord's with the window cut out on the far right. Front row, from left, Henry Blofeld, Jonathan Agnew and scorer Bill Frindall. Back row from left, producer Peter Baxter, assistant producer Shilpa Patel, Vic Marks, Mike Selvey, Christopher Martin-Jenkins, Colin Croft and Tony Cozier

… AND WHAT IS TEST MATCH SPECIAL

Test Match Special (known as TMS) provides ball-by-ball coverage of most Test cricket, One Day International, and Twenty20 matches and tournaments involving England.

It is, rightly, considered by most cricket lovers THE place to listen to coverage of England matches.

Former England captain Michael Vaughan and former professional cricketer Jonathan Agnew commentate for BBC Test Match Special

BBC Radio was the first broadcaster to cover every ball of a Test match.

TMS is broadcast on Radio 4 long wave (198 LW). At times of cricket matches, the normal BBC Radio 4 schedule continues on its FM frequencies, while longwave is taken over by the cricket. This has sparked controversy with some Radio 4 listeners unable to change frequencies. The shipping forecast is, however, retained. TMS can also be heard via the Internet.

TMS's coverage of England's tour to India had been under threat over fees demanded by the Indian board to broadcast from the grounds.

However, TMS producer Adam Mountford revealed on Twitter on Thursday that a deal had finally been reached.

'We are pleased to confirm that Test Match Special will broadcast England's cricket tour of India from the grounds,' he said.

Follow Adam Mountford on Twitter @tmsproducer

Jonathan Agnew and Christopher
Martin-Jenkins remain two of the greatest broadcasters of any
generation. But as a homogenized TMS leans more and more on ex-pros and
multi-sports specialists to fill the vacancies that crop up in the
course of time, one wonders where the next John Arlotts and Brian
Johnstons will appear to infuse cricket commentary with the whimsy and
digressions of old I’d suggest, right now, the Sofa is the likelier of
the breeding grounds.

And yet, TMS is still the undisputed master of the airwaves. Earlier this year, the question was put to me, rhetorically, what would happen if the BBC chose to stop broadcasting from the grounds and tried to do it off the telly On account of the India access row, we might be about to find out … and I think the answer has come as a greater surprise to the BBC.

Peter Baxter, the former TMS producer, understood the value of his product (and by extension the rights that the BBC pay) when in 1999, he demanded that a special window be cut in the middle of the enormous sheet of glass covering the front of the new Lord’s media centre. Quite rightly, he wanted to be able to dangle his effects mike into the crowd to provide total aural immersion to TMS’s legions of listeners.

That sense of being there is priceless – it’s the hum of contented silence that tells you you’ve twiddled your long-wave radio to the right frequency – and it’s something that the BCCI, rarely slow to spot a changing trend, have recognised.

Radio rights per se are irrelevant in the internet age. You can no sooner stop Test Match Sofa from commenting on the action than demand silence while fans watch it in the pub. The true value lies in being able to call it from the ground. Remarkably, it has taken the Sofa’s existence to remind TMS quite how important they are.

Andrew Miller is editor of The
Cricketer magazine, who own TestMatchSofa.com

AGGERS HITS BACK AND BROAD JOINS ARGUMENT

After reading the Cricketer on Thursday, Test Match Special presenter Jonathan Agnew tweeted: 'I've never read such hypocrisy & assumed knowledge as that spouted by the once great Cricketer magazine today. I won't be reading it again.'

England's Twenty20 captain and former Sportsmail columnist Stuart Broad also weighed in to the argument, saying: 'Don't read the media Aggers… What have I told you!! Can only bring negativity to your world!'

Mercedes fined for Michael Schumacher incident in Korea Grand Prix qualifying

Mercedes hit with 8k fine after unsafe Schumacher release in Korea qualifying

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UPDATED:

11:02 GMT, 13 October 2012

Mercedes have been fined 10,000 euros (8,000) for their unsafe release of Michael Schumacher during qualifying for the Korean Grand Prix.

The German, who will retire at the end of the season, came out of his garage during the final minutes of Q3 just as Lewis Hamilton was heading down the pitlane.

Punished: Michael Schumacher ventured out of the pitlane at an inopportune moment

Punished: Michael Schumacher ventured out of the pitlane at an inopportune moment

The McLaren driver was forced to take rapid evasive action as Schumacher pulled into his path, narrowly avoiding a collision.

And having examined video evidence of the incident and heard from team representatives, Mercedes were found guilty of breaching article 23.12 of the FIA sporting regulations and fined.

Double trouble: Schumacher was also reprimanded for an incident in practise

Double trouble: Schumacher was also reprimanded for an incident in practise

Schumacher himself was reprimanded on Friday for impeding the HRTs of Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan during second practice.

The stewards also confirmed Karthikeyan will be able to start Sunday's race, despite failing to set a time during qualifying after a brake failure during Q1.

Scott Harrison beats Joe Elfidh in Glasgow

Harrison fails to impress after being forced to go the distance by inexperienced Elfidh

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UPDATED:

22:29 GMT, 22 September 2012

Scott Harrison laboured to a points victory over Joe Elfidh after making surprisingly hard work of his inexperienced opponent.

The former two-time world champion was making his second appearance since finally putting his problems with alcohol and depression behind him, having stopped Gyorgy Mizsei in June.

But despite dropping Elfidh in the first round, Harrison was unable to finish him off inside the scheduled six rounds.

Work to do: Scott Harrison (left) laboured to victory against Joe Elfidh (right)

Work to do: Scott Harrison (left) laboured to victory against Joe Elfidh (right)

Harrison, who was out of the ring for seven years having been stripped of his WBO featherweight title, claims he has been promised a fight with Ricky Burns, who was hugely impressive in defending his world title against Kevin Mitchell, but on this evidence he should set his expectations significantly lower for the time being.

Now fighting at lightweight, the 35-year-old took the fight to Elfidh from the first bell and a hard right followed by a flurry of punches sent Elfidh crashing to the canvas. He beat the count however and survived the remainder of the round.

Harrison continued to control the centre of the ring in the second stanza but his English opponent was proving no pushover and landed several telling blows of his own as the fight reached the midway point. The remaining rounds continued in a similar vein and, despite chasing Elfidh around the ring, Harrison was forced to settle for 60-53 decision.

Evasive action: Elfidh dodges a left hook from Harrison at the SECC in Glasgow

Evasive action: Elfidh dodges a left hook from Harrison at the SECC in Glasgow

Earlier in the evening, Bradley Saunders stopped Ivan Godor in the third round after the Slovakian was dropped three times in the stanza.

Saunders moved to four without defeat while Stephen Simmons made it six straight successes against Tayar Mehmed and John Thain was given a tough time by Lee Noble before coming through to win by decision.

John Simpson was a popular winner against Dai Davies for the Celtic super-featherweight championship, knocking the Welshman out with a crushing right hook in the second round.

Taken the full distance: Harrison celebrates his victory over Elfidh after six rounds

Taken the full distance: Harrison celebrates his victory over Elfidh after six rounds