What cricket fans have to say about F1 as the BBC turns its back on them


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British sports fans can watch F1 - but not cricket - on the BBC in 2009
British sports fans can watch F1 - but not cricket - on the BBC in 2009

Most British F1 fans I know are delighted the sport will return to the BBC next year. But many cricket fans have reacted with anger to the news last week that their sport of choice will no longer be on the same channel – and lashed out at the corporation taking the F1 rights instead.

Here’s a sample of the complaints from last week’s Times letters page:

The BBC recently paid millions for Formula One, but will not pay anything, it seems, for any form of cricket. Why should I pay my licence fee? Formula One is poor by any standard of sport. In fact, is it sport? Ian Dilworth, Suffolk

It’s always interesting to hear non-F1 fans’ views of the sports – especially when they’re so strongly put! Here’s more:

Does the BBC not realise that for the youngsters of today following the cricket is much more to its advantage than the “glamour” of Formula One? F.D. Sturdy, Darlington

England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Giles Clarke had this to say:

How many people play Formula One? There are 19 million cricket fans, 2.5 million men and boys and 900,000 women and girls who play the game. Surely they have a right to expect public service broadcasters to mount bids for the nation’s summer sport?

That line of argument seemed to go down well with the commenters on this cricket blog.

I’m no fan of cricket – but my parents both are and I have a certain respect for it.

I think a lot of the remarks along the lines of ‘F1’s not really a sport’ stem from ignorance. F1 fans understand very well the enormous physical demands piloting an F1 car makes of a top-line driver. But to someone who doesn’t know the sport it looks no harder than driving a car.

F1 drivers have to be super-fit. Jenson Button compte in triathlons, Mark Webber runs a 350km trek/bike/boat race across Tasmani every year, Jarno Trulli contests marathons and so on.

The “how many people play Formula 1?” argument is another statement born of ignorance. How many F1 drivers went straight into the sport without participating in motor racing at some other level? None. Most, if not all, will have started their careers in karting – which large numbers of British youngsters (to say nothing of children in other countries) will have had experience of.

I imagine the debate about what the licence fee should go on holds little interest for readers outside Britain so I’ll confine myself to one point on this – if coverage of any sport is going to be publicly funded, it should be one that would be most compromised by having adverts during the coverage, and I would place F1 above sports that have natural breaks such as football and rugby in that respect.

Finally, I loved the idea implied in the second quote that F1 is “glamorous” and nothing else. There’s someone who’s never stood at Copse, slowly getting soaked to the skin…

As ever I’d like to hear what you make of these criticisms – particularly if you’re a cricket fan!

How should the BBC cover F1 in 2009? Here’s a few thoughts.

Thanks to Alex for the tip

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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45 comments on “What cricket fans have to say about F1 as the BBC turns its back on them”

  1. The ECB can’t talk: they sold out their own sport by taking Sky’s millions and therefore significantly reducing the reach of the sport to its fans. The only reason they wanted the BBC to bid was to push up the price and make Sky pay more than they had to. They are hypocrites of the highest order.

  2. Alianora La Canta
    14th August 2008, 12:16

    It wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of the cricket supporters who think F1 isn’t a sport think football (at the level broadcast by TV) isn’t a sport either, but a political/business mess that happens to about a bunch of competitions. Cricket has certain traditions that mean that marketing-orientated stuff tends to either be done really carefully or get a lot of complaints from cricketing purists.

  3. As a fan of both sports I agree entirely with what Robert has just said above. Sky has paid silly money for the cricket and they are welcome to it, that is the reason it’s not being bought to the masses, nothing whatsoever to do with F1 or the purchase of F1.

  4. I think Robert has pretty much summed up the situation very well.

    I am definitely NOT a cricket fan, but my brother-in-law and his son are, my nephew plays very well for his local team. Therefore I give the sport some respect without watching it. I do feel though that the fans have been short changed here, and with regards to “how many play…” it is a lot easier and cheaper for kids to get into Cricket than Karting.

    However, as Robert said, whose fault is this really…

  5. Formula 1 is one of the most popular sports in the entire world, drawing in huge numbers of the viewing public. Three top line F1 drivers – Hamilton, Coulthard and Button – are British and one is fighting it out for wins and the overall championship. Most teams are British or British based – McLaren, Renault, Red Bull, Force India, Williams and Honda.

    However, attending a Grand Prix can be a fiendishly expensive business and so only a fraction of the viewing public will be able to afford to regularly attend.

    What better use of public money than to bring such an expensive, inaccessible sport to the British public?

  6. Simply put, the ECB can’t have their cake and eat it too. And when the ECB showed where their priorities were, the BBC was just replying in kind.

    I’m more interested to hear what the cricket fans have to say, though.

  7. I’m from India, I’m a big fan of both the games! But personally, being a student of automobile engineering, I love F1 little more than cricket! But the comments posted here are normal consequences of such a shift, who knows – if BBC switches back to cricket on 2020, we may react the same way!

    Considering heritage and being so easy to play even at your backyard… cricket, obviously has great number of audience. Hence these responses! They love their game, and they stand for it, nothing to be taken hard!

  8. “The BBC recently paid millions for Formula One, but will not pay anything, it seems, for any form of cricket. Why should I pay my licence fee? Formula One is poor by any standard of sport. In fact, is it sport? Ian Dilworth, Suffolk”

    Did you think that all £130-odd of your licence fee went straight to cricket, Ian of Suffolk?

    I’m sure there’s plenty of things on the BBC that you don’t like, but do fund with your money.

    I for one am perfectly happy to see my telly money going to F1 rather than cricket (even though the last race in Hungary was just as dull as any game of cricket).

    Its just nice that the Beeb snapped it up instead of Sky, as there’s no way I’d ever pay money to Sky to watch anything (with adverts as well!?!) F1 or not.

  9. “Does the BBC not realise that for the youngsters of today following the cricket is much more to its advantage than the “glamour” of Formula One? F.D. Sturdy, Darlington”

    Is it not more beneficial to the youth of Britain to watch teams based on multi-national co-operation rather than the us against them attitude of international cricket?

    I assume these people who still think it is the 1950s think kids today watch too much TV. Is it not better that they watch a couple of hours of F1 then spend 3 or 4 more hours discussing it on the internet before going outside to play than to sit for hour after boring hour, day after boring day stuffing their faces with crisps watching cricket?

    Is it not better for them to be watching a sport where they will learn about technology, business and the broader world than one where they listen to stupid old men giggling over infantile double entendre and learn about silly mid off?

    Is it not better that today’s obese generation of kids watch a sport that may just inject enough enthusiasm into them to jump off the couch as Massa’s engine blows or Lewis drops it in the gravel rather than a sport where they sit close to a permanent vegatiative state watching someone spending half the day rubbing a cricket ball into his groin?

    Cricket is without doubt the stupidest most pointless game ever created. How can anyone invent a game that takes five days to play and then ends up without a winner? Cricket should be banned and the pitches converted to kart tracks.

  10. The ironic thing about all this is that BY FAR the best way to experience cricket from home is to listen to the BBC’s Test Match Special on the radio – so much so that, if you do happen to have access to the games on TV too, you’re well advised to turn the sound down on the telly and leave TMS on the radio.

    If the Beeb’s coverage of F1 is even a fraction as good as Blowers and CMJ and Aggers then we’ll come out of this very well indeed.

    We’re not hopeful.

  11. Easy there, Steven. I’m sure the cricket fans would see it another way. Let’s remember, most non-F1 fans think F1 cars just go round and round…

  12. Robert McKay summed it up in one. If the ECB wanted cricket on the BBC (or, for that matter, any other terrestrial channel), they have always been welcome to. But they took Sky’s money instead. And then they wonder why youngsters aren’t getting into it? I, too, am a borderline fan of cricket, but the ECB are the people who took it away from me in the first place, so they are in no position to complain.

  13. I think Cricket is going through a period where it is almost schizophrenic, between it’s grass routes and traditions and the modern changing face of the game which involved a lot of commercial investment. There is and has been recently, a large investments of money pured in to the game globally in a bid to make it more exciting and appealing to sponsors. The creation of the Indian Cricket League in particular, which is almost based on the English Premier league football model of paying the players vast sums of money paid into the league by TV channels and corporate backers a has added the “Glamor” to the game and is attracting the big name cricketers from around the world.

    BBC has not had any live Cricket for years, but it has had even less 4 wheeled motorsport during the same time frame, and I don’t hear us motorsport fans complaining that we shouldn’t pay our licence fee. (ok, perhaps a few of us did as emotional knee jerk reactions in 1996 when it was announced)

    Keith, on your point about the sports that are best suited to commercial interruptions such as adverts, being allowed to move to commercial TV channels, I tend to disagree. I think the national TV channels (such as BBC) have a right to show sport that encapsulates the majority of the country – eg Football/Rugby/Cricket/F1.

    However with the market forces driving the cost of TV rights spiraling due to competition from Satellite channels this has taken Football, Rugby and now Cricket. The BBC has been left with making a decision based on percieved interest for the majority of the nation and we come back to the Lewis Hamilton factor for this.

    Unfortunately the Cricket fans comments are correct, more people probably do play Cricket, however more people, in my opinion, probably share an interest in Formula one, and that is why the BBC has chosen to take F1 over Cricket.

    I think us F1 fans should be very happy that the BBC has gone with F1 and not Cricket, because the other alternative would have been to go to SKY and that would have meant we had to pay £40 per month to see it, and have adverts for the privilege.

    Interesting at the time this news broke ITV announced that TV ad revenues were falling and they were expecting poor results for 2008 and 2009. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7544447.stm
    An indication that advertisers are pulling the strings in on commercial sponsorship on sporting events. It was these events which I feel let to the BBC nipping in to take the F1 rights in the first place, and using up the majority of its budget.

  14. I’m not sure if F1 has been in serious danger of going to Sky, as the manufacturers are very keen that it remain free-to-air for marketing reasons. They may not get everything right, but let’s give them credit when they do.

    One thing my dad did mention when i talked to him about this was that he felt Sky had pushed forward he quality of cricket coverage and BBC had been playing catch-up. They have made some noises about doing something special with F1 next year, but no firm details yet.

  15. I’m no cricket expert, but my dad is obsessed with it and has been all his life. He attends a lot of games and loves it. He reckons that if the BBC had outbid Sky for the cricket rights, there would have been a backlash among football fans, who would complain that the money could have been used to keep football on the BBC, instead of going to ITV (where the coverage is poor), or pay-per-view Sky and Setanta.
    Cricket fans need to realise that you can’t please everyone. If the BBC can’t justify buying cricket rights, then that’s that. They have an obligation to serve the viewers, and they obviously believe the cricket is overpriced.
    I also don’t see how cricket fans can blame F1 for Sky’s purchase of the rights. Sky made the highest bid. The BBC weren’t willing to match it, with or without F1. Simple.
    Using the licence fee is a poor excuse to demand cricket, either. The chances are that cricket fans’ £130 a year isn’t paying for F1 – it’s paying for Jonathan Ross.

  16. Going to Sky is fine for a sport if they are interested in short term self interest. Football is different in that people are born to support a particular team but individual sports are different.

    Right now Britain has some of the best boxers it has ever had but no-one has heard of them because they spent the best year of their career on Sky where only serious fans were prepared to stump up the cash to watch. The same would happen to F1 but fortunately as Keith said the sponsors will insist on it being free to air.

    Those of us in Scotland pay our license fees and have been subjected to cricket for years. While there are cricket clubs here they are not exactly popular. So having been fed cricket in exchange for my license fee for as long as I can remember I wll be quite happy to have something worth watching instead.

  17. I’m an F1 and Cricket fan. I have resorted to following all the English Test matches via BBC 5 Live Sports Extra. I bought a DAB radio for my bedroom to listen to it there and have internet streaming on my laptop at work to listen when I can.

    I was disappointed when the test matches disappeared from terrestrial channels and went to Sky. The main problem that I fear the ECB are missing here is that all the young kids on their school holidays may not have Sky Sports and that limits the viewing potential for up and coming players. Not all the kids parents have Sky Sports or has a parent or family member who is a cricket fan. If you want to encourage the younger generation to follow, participate and be passionate about your sport you need “free to air” viewing.

    Certainly the “free to air” viewing of F1 and cricket when I was younger helped my interest in them. Without it, I would probably never have followed the sports.

    I don’t blame the BBC as they have to work out value for money in this case.

    Now I watch the cricket highlights on Five, but missing so much live cricket to Sky is a disappointment. I can’t justify the cost of Sky Sports for it though.

  18. ‘if coverage of any sport is going to be publicly funded, it should be one that would be most compromised by having adverts during the coverage, and I would place F1 above sports that have natural breaks such as football and rugby in that respect’

    Keith, you’ve hit the nail on the head with this point as far as I’m concerned. I have nothing against cricket, though I do find it mind-numbingly boring, but as others have said so do non-F1-fans think about F1. I also appreciate their plight and there is a point to be made about the heritage of cricket and the large proportion of the genereal public who actively participate in the game. Coming from New Zealand (where cricket is very much loved), I’d imagine a similar furore if the same thing were to happen back home.

    But an F1 race is an hour and a half!! I find the fact that there’s an ad-break every few laps disgusting and disrespectful to the sport (spoken like a true and stoic F1 fan eh? ;-) How many times have we returned to the coverage from an ad-break only to find something ‘race-changing’ has occurred???…..to me it’s unacceptable and as a fellow F1 fanatic I welcome the change whilst at the same time empathise with the nation’s cricket fans…

  19. Again, Robert McKay hit the nail on the head, the ECB sold out it’s own sport, going for cash rather than trying to popularise it’s own sport.
    My brother used to work at Lords, and still helps out occasionally- the governing body is struggling to modernise this game. Women have only just been admitted to the long room.
    But ‘more people play cricket than F1′- obviously, but how many people play cricket? This also is a problem for the sport- it’s lost a large share of the market to football.

    Ernest Hemmingway said it best really’ There are three sports. Motor racing, mountaineering and bullfighting. Everything else is a game.’

    I played cricket for my school and I’m completely with Steven Roy on this one. What a waste of time. If only my school had covered the cricket pitch with a kart track.
    This idea would have thousands of kids up and down the country cheering!

  20. Andy – //The ironic thing about all this is that BY FAR the best way to experience cricket from home is to listen to the BBC’s Test Match Special on the radio – so much so that, if you do happen to have access to the games on TV too, you’re well advised to turn the sound down on the telly and leave TMS on the radio.//

    I’ve heard several people say the same thing about F1, mute the ITV coverage and listen in on BBC 5live. haven’t tried it, but hopefully they can replecate that quality on TV.

    Steven Roy – //Cricket is without doubt the stupidest most pointless game ever created. How can anyone invent a game that takes five days to play and then ends up without a winner? Cricket should be banned and the pitches converted to kart tracks.//

    Lol, summed up my opinion perfectly!!! I can’t believe that 19 million people in the UK are cricket fans, where are these people?

  21. In response to the question is F1 a sport. It Is one of only three true sports that exist in our world football cricket tennis golf and all such things are games. There is a huge difference between a game and a sport. and as much as the people who dislike F1 (the most popular SPORT in the world FACT)for what ever reason it is F1 that is the first amongst the three sports. I will let the people who know so much look into the facts and not let there opinion color the truth. Anyone for a game Cricket? Obviously NOT!

  22. While I consider myself an avid fan of both sports and have physically attended both on numerous occasions, the cricket fraternity is just sore that like football, cricket will for the foreseeable future be pay-for-view and the BBC’s bid to screen the Formula 1 is the easy ‘drum’ these people have chosen to beat their point across with. Both sports have a large avid following which swells with public interest when success seems to be coming to the Nation (e.g. the Ashes 05/ the mighty Lewis)

    I think the point should be made to these people that missing the decisive wicket while queuing at the burger van can easily be matched by having your weekend’s armchair motor racing ruined by listening to some clueless gimp for two hours try and make a soap opera out of the race and then missing the decisive laps/ overtaking pass because the broadcaster has decided I need to photograph a poodle while smashing up my girlfriend’s Ikea shelf & vase collection.

    The ITV coverage has been s**t for some time & I look forward to watching uninterrupted coverage next year. PS. Nothing fills the summer break like a good debate, nice one Keith.

  23. this is a very interesting situation…as this kind of thing also is happening here in India..only that its the other sports which are facing the music…due to the popularity of cricket..the national terestrial broadcaster “doordarshan” has been able to get the rights to broadcast all cricket matches of India dubbing them as things of national importance…frankly its all to get the money from advertising…

    I would agree to the people who dont know the intricacies of f1 only complain of cars going round and round…my father for sure..as he doesn’t understand the sport as well…

  24. This is exactly the sort of a problem one gets when a government tries to ‘do’ TV rather than focus on government. We in Britain are taxed for entertainment. Ridiculous.

  25. I think the explanation is very simple. The Cricket fans are just bitter about the fact that their Sport won’t be shown on BBC and Formula will

  26. I am a big fan of both F1 AND Cricket, and I think that it is a good thing BBC spent the money on F1; over the last few years ITV’s F1 coverage has been detieriorating, with more and more ad breaks. If ou can’t afford Sky Sports (it is bloody expensive) you can still listen to the Cricket on Test Match Special and watch the highlights on Five (as I do).

  27. Keith, Bernie has stated on a number of occasions that F1 will be on terrestrial TV for the forseeable future. As for cricket vs F1, as an avid fan of both sports (and participator in cricket), it was the government’s choice to remove the home tests from the list of “protected” sports, thus allowing Sky to gain exclusive coverage.

    However, there is no reason the BBC could not have bid for the highlights package, especially when it covers such “sports” as equestrianism (which, incidentally, deserves to be in the Olympics about as much as I do), bowls and rugby.

  28. Nick Caulfield
    14th August 2008, 20:43

    I wonder if the perception of F1 as a “rich” sport has something to do with the reaction.

    I suspect it’s not just the money to run the teams and the corporate nature of some of it but it may be that some people look at the cost of attending the British GP and feel that that sounds quite a lot for one event notwithstanding the fact that most fans will then rely on the telly for the rest of the season (and I don’t know about you but I find the season much greater than merely the sum of it’s races).

    Now if, for whatever reason, fairly or not, F1 is perceived as “rich”, then it probably leads to people feeling more agrieved that license payers money has been payed for the rights to show it.

    I guess another thing that struck me – Cricket is a game where to really appreciate the game as a spectator you have to take time to learn the rules of the game, the differences between the different forms of the game, the realtive strengths and weaknesses of different teams and players etc – although I guess many fans will not have realised that this is what they have done unless they think about it.

    Perhaps someone like Ian Dilworth might not realise that if he paid a little attention to the rules of F1, the strengths and weaknesses of the different teams and drivers/designers/tacticians etc that he might not be so quick to dismiss it.

    the sports might be a little different but the reasons people enjoy them are probably not so much.

  29. i’ll address the comment about cricket being so much more to the advantage of young viewers than the “glamour” of f1.

    i think for any kid watching f1 and wondering to him/herself how they make those cars, how they make them so fast and small and light and strong and why are there so many team people with laptops swarming around the pits it might eventually occur to that kid that yeah, maybe they can’t drive in f1 but they may be able to get the engineering degree needed to help build one.

  30. Jonesracing82
    15th August 2008, 8:49

    i personally LOVE cricket, but F1 is my sport of choice!
    most of all, more ppl would “play F1” if they could afford getting there in the 1st place!
    Cricket is much MUCH cheaper!

  31. “How many people play Formula One? Not many! Get rid of F1 coverage!”

    “How may people play Olympics? Not many! Get rid of the Olympic coverage!”

    “How many people live in East London compared to the rest of the UK? Not many! Get rid of Eastenders!”

    “How many people travel through time? Not many! Get rid of Dr Who!”

    etc etc

  32. > “How many people live in East London compared to the rest of the UK? Not many! Get rid of Eastenders!”

    What an excellent idea!

  33. I enjoy going to Lords, not to watch the cricket, but to sit and chat in the sun…. and occasionally watch a ball getting hit.

    excellent point regarding the karting, most MEN and some women i know have tried karting, but playing cricket is reserved for a small minority of people.

    and cricket fans forget that F1 is the worlds favourite sport.

  34. As it happens I was out karting with some of my colleagues last night – am very battered and bruised today!

    I found some of Steven’s remarks quite ironic – I went to high schools in England and Scotland and it was only when I was in Scotland that I played any cricket. I quite liked batting and fielding but I was terrible at bowling. But karting is loads more fun, especially on an outdoor track on a damp day…

  35. which track did you go to Keith?, there’s a fantastic one in milton keynes (the best part of keynes i might add) called daytona (haha)

    they do a special daytona 500, 5 hour endurance race, well they used to. I woke up the next day and my right leg was black from the vibrations.

  36. colleagues?, you what?, no no no Keith… you do this amazing site on your own.. and thats it… no arguing with me.

  37. Sush – no, my work colleagues! I’ve been to the Milton Keynes track a few times but we were at one in Docklands yesterday. Surprisingly quick for an indoor circuit.

  38. Sounds like the rest of us have to get some practise in before the bloggers and friends challenge race.

  39. F1 is not an sport. There’s too much sports on TV. Hence F1 on TV is good.

  40. I agree with the very first comment, If the ECB wanted Cricket on the BBC it would be there. They took the money and ran off to Sky.

    The problem for the ECB is that Cricket is booming, Sky’s coverage is great, but very few people watch it, as it is on Sky

  41. To put to rest any attempts by cricket fans to ask F1 fans to drop trousers and measure, the most popular and accessible sport in the United Kingdom is football.

    Now, some of you will recall that I live in the US, but that is precisely why I am commenting: in the US, very little sport is available on free-as-in-beer television. Let’s take where I live, for instance: if I want to follow Atlanta’s basketball, ice hockey (the NHL seem to enjoy placing teams in cities where water does not freeze), or baseball teams, while some games are indeed broadcast on the regular plain old air, to see all games I must have a cable or satellite subscription and the channels TBS (Turner Broadcasting) and SportSouth (a Fox-based channel). Every city in the US has a similar situation.

    Pointy-football (NFL) is broadcast either through an expensive satellite package or freely under extreme restrictions. Returning to Atlanta for my example, if they haven’t sold out the stadium, and are playing at home, the game will not be on television here.

    In motorsport, to watch all Nascar events, you must have cable channels TNT (another Turner-based channel) and ESPN (anyone reading this knows who they are). To watch all F1 events, you must have the cable channel Speed (another Fox-based channel).

    Reaching my conclusion, having to pay to watch sport on television is neither innovative nor new. It has even reached radio, where I can listen to any baseball and hockey game in North America from the comfort of my car… at $14.99 a month for the satellite radio subscription. Cricket fans should count themselves lucky to have been able to watch what they have.

    For the record, I cannot follow as much of the sporting world as I used to like to do, but I was a fan of virtually any sport with a round object and a goal. I know the rules of cricket but I don’t think I could watch for very long; it is slow-paced and would remind me of baseball. My favorite athletic sport is (round) football, and I was an early supporter of USA’s MLS.

  42. Hehe, as a non-cricket fan, I feel that cricket cannot be counted as a ‘sport’ as every result seems to end in a draw. And the ‘teams’ never actually do anything apart from sunbathe, and have lovely long lunches too, which is more than the average F1 driver can do in an afternoons ‘play’!

  43. PoorCricFan02
    26th August 2008, 0:19

    Found your blog on Google search…

    …and as a cricket fan, I totally agree with the very first comment by Robert McKay. I know nothing about motor sports, but recognise that Formula One is definitely not to blame for the lack of cricket on terrestrial TV. I think that most rational cricket supporters would feel the same.

    It would have been inappropriate for the BBC to use licence fee money to take part in a bidding war with BSkyB. The satellite broadcaster would win every time.

    Cricket’s governing body in the UK have made their bed. Now they must lie in it.

  44. In my sixties and having enjoyed watching F1, boxing Sir Alf in 1966, Olympic Athletics, Rugby, Cricket,Golf and many other sports I consider myself a supporter of all that is English. And thought it a given right to watch the best of our sportsmen on TV as they show the youngsters of our country how fitness dedication and the practising of skills in sport can be a route to all that is good for a happy and healthy life. Those days have gone soon you will not watch any sport unless it is split by adverts or paid for in advance. Kids you have been sold down the river slaves to the media created by money men who have no interest in your welfare just the enjoyment of your particular sport and how they can get at what little wealth you are prepared to spend on it. Reach for the off button with your left hand whilst giving the finger to the Telly with your right, you have the power. The only true love in sport is not watching others but by getting of your big mac bottoms and by taking part! Friendships, Fun and Fitness Follow. Do It.

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