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Attitude to sport is a game of two halves

Early yesterday morning I heard one of these infuriating sports pundits who confuse England and Britain saying that Lewis Hamilton's success in the grand prix at Silverstone might just have salvaged a dismal year for British sport.

He was referring to England's customary early exit from the World Cup Finals, and the English cricket team's inability to beat Sri Lanka.

Of course Andy Murray might have been at the back of his mind also, and whatever Murray is and isn't, he is indubitably Scottish. But Murray has at least reached the heights very recently, unlike the English cricket and football teams.

Murray's sport, tennis, is one that needs reform more than most. Everything about his success points to it being exceptional. I know that his mother Judy has been indefatigable in her drive to get the sport democratised throughout Britain; that is, to get decent tennis facilities and coaching available to many more promising youngsters, whatever their background.

It is also well known that the Murrays, mother and son, showed great vision in their collective decision that Andy should be sent off to Spain to develop his potential when he was barely into adolescence. But that prompts the question: why should Spain rather than Britain be the right place to develop as a tennis player? The weather maybe has something to do with it, but a paucity of sunshine is hardly why Britain produces so few Andy Murrays. Could it be that the sport is stagnating in nostalgic mire?

Watching the men's final at Wimbledon, I was struck by how self- consciously archaic everything was, not least the absurd, almost ruritanian uniforms that the officials wear.

An elderly member of the royal family took part in the final ceremony, presumably to give everything that ultimate touch of British class. The whole tournament has a frayed and almost sickly sense of "we don't really want to be part of the vulgar, excessively commercial modern world. We may charge you a lot and kid you on, but we have that wonderful commodity, tradition".Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, a vibrant and no doubt vulgar festival of international sport has been taking place on a truly grand scale. The World Cup may have the usual back story of corruption, and the football itself has not been consistently good, though some of it has been wonderful.

Brazil, perhaps a nation of tomorrow rather than today, has been subject to predictable patronising comments about logistical confusion, stadia not properly completed, and so on.

Yet the fans from all over the planet have brought to the event a joyous sense of being part of a glorious human melting pot.

I know that some of the doomsayers predict that, if Brazil and Argentina meet in the final, something akin to a third world war will break out, but up till now there has been a palpable sense of life-enhancing transnational festivity.

I expect that similar festivity, albeit on a lesser scale, will very soon be happening in Glasgow, when the Commonwealth Games will take place.

Meanwhile, although there may not be enough opportunities for promising working class tennis players in Britain, it seems to work the other way in football; there appear to be remarkably few good middle-class footballers. Is an inverse snobbery at work here?

British children are sometimes categorised as the least fit in Europe. There is certainly a general problem with facilities, or the lack of them.

At every level of British sport the physical infrastructure is not what it should be. A few years ago I asked the legendary Willie Miller about the training facilities at Aberdeen FC. He gave me a rueful smile and said: "The beach … when the tide's out".

The irony in all this is that Britain - and I do mean Britain - is more sport obsessed than most places.

Just look at how the folk of Yorkshire turned out for the opening stages of the Tour de France. But all this enthusiasm and good will is not being properly harnessed.

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