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George Dobell and David Hopps
July 9, 2013
England's players' plea to Nottinghamshire to lift the ban on the Barmy Army trumpeter, Billy Cooper, in the first Investec Test at Trent Bridge, appears to have fallen on deaf ears after the club reiterated their stance.
The vocal support of many England players, led by home town star Graeme Swann, had encouraged hopes that the county might yet relax its stance at the eleventh hour. Swann said he spoke for the England team in saying that it was "a real shame" that his home club would not allow Cooper - nicknamed Billy the Trumpet - to play as the England side consider him "the unspoken 12th man."
However, Lisa Pursehouse, the Nottinghamshire chief executive, said there will be no change in policy. "I think there's been some hugely emotive language around this whole issue but the truth is, this is nothing new," she told TalkSport. "Although I've only been chief executive for a year, I've been at Trent Bridge for almost ten years and the ground regulation was in place then.
"Billy knows that this is not personal to him - we had exactly the same conversation in 2005. We just don't let musical instruments into Trent Bridge. Billy's not banned and he knows that, but it's about the musical instrument. Billy's been here before and he'll sit and watch the cricket at Trent Bridge and I'm sure he'll enjoy it."
However, the feeling among England's players has been strong enough for ECB officials to broach the matter unofficially with Nottinghamshire to see if a compromise can be reached ahead of the start of the Ashes series.
Swann said: "The players are all in favour of Billy blowing his trumpet wherever we are. He is the unspoken 12th man for us when we are on tour and in big series at home, so I think it's a real shame he's not allowed to play here."
Nottinghamshire have long contended that their blanket ban on musical instruments is stated on match tickets and, that being so, they could face requests for refunds from supporters who object to Cooper's playlist.
The ECB, however, is thought to have some sympathy with Cooper's commitment to England's cause - as well as respect for his professional playing ability.
Compromises so far floated include Cooper playing from the balcony of the Trent Bridge Inn behind the ground, something which Nottinghamshire could not control, or even an official guest spot during an interval. Neither solution would recapture the feeling for England players that he plays when they most value it, during good times or bad.
As a Nottinghamshire player, Swann might have been expected to have an influence on the decision. But he admitted that he had tried to persuade the authorities to no avail.
"I know all the team are behind Billy the Trumpet," Swann said. "The Barmy Army are a massive part of the English team. Nottingham have their rules as Lord's do. It's a shame in this day and age they can't bend them for such a big event but so be it, it's not my decision.
"We don't make the rules, we have just got to go out there and play our cricket now it's been decided it's not the right thing to do and I think that's real shame. I have tried to have my say but I have been batted down."
A poll carried out by ESPNcricinfo on the County Cricket Live blog attracted more than 500 votes with only 15% opposing Cooper being allowed to play his trumpet at Trent Bridge.
Nottinghamshire have also pointed out that Cooper was also been refused permission to play his trumpet at the 2005 Ashes Test when England secured victory on their way to regaining the Ashes. Since then, though, his presence has become a more recognisable part of England's Test scene, at home and abroad.
Pursehouse said: "There are lots of people that enjoy watching cricket without musical instruments. If you want to go to a ground where there's drums and trumpets and big crowds you're able to do that. There are other venues that offer that. At Trent Bridge we offer something different and that doesn't make it wrong. It's just different and people have always had a good time.
"We've got a great atmosphere at Trent Bridge. We're not stuffy or boring or any of those things and our feedback on the customer experience is fantastic and people do enjoy coming to Trent Bridge to watch the games. We're an intimate ground, and the atmosphere is all created by the cricket."
The club aims to identify more with the traditional Test atmosphere at Lord's in contrast to other Test grounds such as Edgbaston and Old Trafford and believes that this policy is justified by ticket sales. The match is sold out for all five days.
This story was updated on July 9 with Lisa Pursehouse's comments
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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