While many blacks in the UK have become very successful in sports, politics and entertainment, few have been able to get into positions of influence behind the scenes as coaches, managers or directors. What is behind this shortcoming?
Britain's Princess Anne, presenting bestowing an MBE to the former gold medal hurdler and national team coach, Lorna Boothe caught the Jamaica born athlete by surprise with her question. "How is it," the Princess Royal asked in words to that effect, "that you have transferred from being a top-class athlete to a top-class coach, when not all top-class athletes have done that?"
One moment Lorna had been thinking that the tension of waiting to receive the MBE medal--remembering not to turn her back on a royal personage (even when returning to her seat)--was similar to what she had experienced while listening for the starting-gun at a major athletics championships; the next, she found it was not just a matter of courtesy, accept, thank-you and retreat, but she was also expected to engage in constructive conversation.
It helped that they had met previously: both were members of the Great Britain team at the Olympic Games in Montreal in 1976--the one on a horse, the other on the track. Lorna replied that she had always had the opportunity to be around a lot of young people and had developed her skills from that.
That answer, simple as it was, obviously satisfied Her Royal Highness, just as the Jamaica-born former Commonwealth 100 metres hurdles champion's talent and commitment had impressed her mother sufficiently to create her a member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE).
This positive news was encouraging because that morning I had learned of the passing of Tony Becca, the former sports editor of the Gleaner newspaper. For many years he had been my 'opposite number'--we worked respectively for the Kingston and UK offices of the same publication--and for just as long (that is, over 30 years) he had been the lone black presence in international press-boxes at a time when the West Indies bestrode the cricket world like a colossus.
At 78 years old, Tony had been retired for some time, though still contributing a regular weekly column, so that when he suffered a cardiac arrest after entering hospital with dengue fever, what would surely have been a unique voice at this summer's forthcoming Cricket World Cup was lost.
On contacting the London office of the Gleaner to share the sad news with...