Interview: Sam Collins on Death of a Gentleman and the #changecricket campaign

Test cricket is the second most popular sport in the world and is treasured by its fans for its tradition, history and the excitement that every game brings. However, the sport has been placed under threat due to the corruption of its administrators and the emergence of a new format, Twenty20. This is what journalists Sam Collins and Jarrod Kimber discovered and set out to expose in their documentary film Death of a Gentleman which they hope will inspire people to join their #changecricket campaign which aims to save the sport. Last week Collins spoke to KettleMag about his film, the campaign and how cricket fans must unite to save their dying and treasured sport.

What was the central idea behind your documentary Death of a Gentleman?

We are cricket journalists, we care about cricket, we knew it was under threat and we set out to find why. What we stumbled across was a very human story that happened to be set to the background of cricket, something a lot of people care about, which is consequently very valuable in the modern world and essentially being torn apart by the greed of the people who are supposed to be looking out for its best interests. We wanted to make a film which doesn’t just say what’s wrong, but we wanted to give people an output for trying to do something about.

What did you discover whilst making the film?

What the film lays bear is cricket, now a global sport, is being run without any transparency or accountability by three countries, essentially a private members club, whilst the other 102 countries who officially play cricket are essentially left to rot. What has happened during the course of our film is that there has been a power grab by India, England and Australia and so now 52% of cricket’s billion dollar plus revenue is divided between those three countries whilst the other 48% is shared by the other 102 countries. Over the next eight years every single cricket global event is taking place in those three countries, the cricket world cup is lowering the number of teams involved from 14 to 10 and lots of free money is being refused by the decision to not put cricket as an Olympic sport. All this suggests that the problems are similar to what we are seeing with FIFA, but the situation with cricket is in a worst state. If you don’t have independent governance of something which is worth billions of dollars and is important to billions of people, the sport is left to be run by individuals who have at best flawed judgment but at worst corruption.

For you, when did you realise that cricket was in trouble?

We as journalists have been writing about the issue for several years and it has been plainly obvious from the start that there were problems within the game. There has been throughout the years an influx in satellite television money and this has coincided with the rise of a new format which is called Twenty20. There is now friction between the two formats of the game, and we feel that they should be working together, and then we understood that it all goes back to the governance of the game.

Why did you decide to make a documentary?

It is proven that documentaries can make a difference. What your role is as a journalist in the the modern fragmented media landscape is to find a way to get to a new audience. We are sitting in that press box knowing people are writing articles not making a difference, it’s not doing anything. You need to evoke a feeling to change anything, and we thought a documentary would be the best way to do that. We didn’t know what we were going to end up with, but fortunately for us we have a film that people are engaging with and now we have to use that to do some good.

How did you find the transition from journalism to filmmaking?

It was difficult. You have to ask a lot of questions and speak to a lot of people. You have to be persistent and believe in your idea, and be aware of what you don’t know. It has been a long road, but the idea was strong enough to get us there. Me and my friend Jarrod Kimber came up with the original idea and then got together with another co-director Johnny Blank to raise a small amount of money. Four years later we had a film. It is very democratic now, you can just pick up a camera and start filming. We had no expertise but there were no worries about that as you could speak to the right people, get advice and then do it.

What do you hope to achieve through this documentary?

We hope that every cricket fan will see our film and see what is happening to the game. We hope that they appreciate the seriousness of what is happening and are inspired to join us in doing something about it. Life is full of things we cant do anything about, there are so many bad things in the world and sport is supposed to be an escape from that and gives so much to all of us. It exists for us. We are asking fans to realise now that they have to stand up for something, they have to stand up for the sport. It is no good sitting on your sofas and moaning about stuff, you have to understand the issues and take charge. Its like democracy. If you care about something you have got to step up for it. We want people to care and believe that they can do something as its really depressing when people say ‘that’s life’. There are certain things that are just ‘life’, then there are things we can do something about. Never underestimate the power of the individual.

How can people get involved with your #changecricket campaign?

We are launching a protest on Thursday at the Oval where we are asking cricket fans to stand with us and raise media awareness of the issue. People can take an hour off work, wear their team shirts and come down. We just need twenty minutes of their time. We are saying just appreciate the importance of getting off you backside and come and support something which has given you so much pleasure and will continue to do so only if the public make the right step, the right noise.

We also have a petition to the governments of those three countries and encouraging people to ask these governments to step in. We need to rule the rulers, it is the only way to solve the problem.

To find out more about the documentary Death of a Gentleman visit their website where you can also find out where the film is screening near you. In the UK the film will shortly be released on DVD and video on demand. To find out more about the #changecricket campaign and how you can get involved visit their website. The silent protest is taking place at the Oval on Thursday 20th August at 10am.