The organisers of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham are continuing to feel the heat following their announcement earlier this year, that shooting was to be dropped from the roster for the 2022 event. Last month MPs in Westminster debated the issue, the majority of speakers urging the games committee to think again. Alistair Jack, MP for Dumfries and Galloway was scathing in pointing out the gulf in historical achievement between shooting and sports which have been included. Citing the case of table tennis, he said: “England has only ever won 15 medals. That pales in comparison to the 168 medals won for shooting”
In making this point Alistair Jack inadvertently raises an important question. What exactly should the criteria be for including any sport in a major international event of this kind? Is it for example to choose those activities that provide the best possible entertainment or is it to offer a platform to sports that might otherwise not enjoy the exposure that games of this kind can provide? If not either of those should, where the host country is concerned, a sport be selected on the basis of offering the opportunity to garner a big haul of medals? The answer of course is all of these and more with the result being balanced by considerations of budget.
There exists the barely concealed suspicion among those making the case for shooting, that the committee’s decision to omit it from the Birmingham games may have been driven in part by political correctness and given the explanations the committee has offered thus far, it is hard not to have some sympathy with this view, but there is one inescapable fact about shooting which in an age of instant gratification and attention span poverty counts very heavily against it as entertainment. Whilst massively exciting to participate in, shooting competitions are stultifyingly boring to watch. Those in the shooting community who bemoan the lack of media coverage of key events often fail to understand the numbers driven criteria by which a sport’s appeal is measured. Given the choice between watching two top class table tennis players going at it and a couple of top shooters, the reality is the former wins hands down. Of course entertainment value is, as suggested, not the sole basis on which a sport is evaluated, but it is clearly an important factor. There has been some measure of recognition of this among those who administer the differing shooting disciplines, with clay shooting especially looking to beef up its audience appeal, but until someone can come up with a formula which revolutionises that appeal in the same way for example that Twenty-Twenty has for cricket, shooting in all its variants is always going to come a long way down a list of big sports draws.