In this section I have included the sort of information that might come up in a news story.

  • cricket: A team consists of 11 players, properly known as an ‘XI’ (Roman numerals), as in ‘First XI’ or ‘President’s XI’. There are national sides in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland (normally north and south combined) but only England play in the highest level of matches, the Tests. Welsh, Scottish and Irish players are eligible to play for England. Test matches last up to five days and are played only between the following sides: England, Australia, South Africa, West Indies, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. The Test series between England and Australia is known as ‘the Ashes’. Traditionally matches at all levels are supervised on the field by two umpires. The governing body of cricket in England is the England and Wales Cricket Board, invariably abbreviated to ECB.

  • football: The British game is technically called ‘association football’ to distinguish it from other variants such as Australian rules football. It can also be called soccer. There are 11 in a side. The governing body in England is the Football Association, in Scotland it is the Scottish Football Association or Scottish FA, and in Wales the Football Association of Wales or FAW. The international governing body is FIFA and the European one is UEFA. Neither need be spelled out. The leading clubs in England and Wales compete in four leagues: the Premier League, the Championship, League One and League Two. These may have sponsors whose names should be used in the first reference, eg Barclays Premier League. Scottish teams have an equivalent set-up, preceded by the word ‘Scottish’, eg ‘Scottish League One’. There are also a host of minor leagues organised geographically. Matches are supervised by a referee, aided by assistant referees, who used to be known as linesmen. I think it would be ok to refer to linesmen in a news story.

  • golf: This is played on courses of various sizes, but nearly always with nine or 18 holes. A course near the sea is called a ‘links’ or a ‘links course’. A hole is classified by its ‘par’, the number of strokes a skilled golfer should in theory need to sink the ball. There are various commonly used terms to describe the difference between the par and a player’s actual score at a hole: bogey, double bogey or triple bogey for one, two or three strokes over par; birdie, eagle or albatross for one, two or three strokes under par. An 18-hole course would typically have a total par score of 72. Amateur golfers are rated by a ‘handicap’, the number of strokes above par he or she would be expected to take in a round. So you might say ‘He plays off a handicap of 12.’ Professional golfers do not have a handicap rating. The four most prestigious men's tournaments are the Masters, which is always played in Augusta, Georgia; the US Open and the PGA Championship, both played at various courses in the United States, and the Open Championship, usually called the Open, which is played at various courses round the UK, always links. Note that it is not called the British Open. Golf is governed throughout most of the world by a body called the R&A and in the US and Mexico by the United States Gold Association (USGA).

  • horse racing: This should be referred to simply as ‘racing’ or, for variation, ‘the Turf’. There are two types, or ‘codes’: Flat and jumps. The proper name for jump racing, which may be over fences or the lower hurdles, is National Hunt. Meetings in both codes occur all year round, though the Flat season proper runs from March to November and the jumps from October to April. Very little that is newsworthy will be heard about jumps during the Flat season and vice versa. The two biggest races in Britain are the Grand National, a gruelling jump race with 40 horses of all ages run at Aintree, Liverpool, in April over four miles and four furlongs, and the Derby, a Flat race run at Epsom Downs in June over one mile and four furlongs. Only three-year-old horses (known as colts and fillies, see below) may run in it. The Derby is one of a series of five prestigious Flat races known as the English Classics. The others are the 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas, run at Newmarket in May; the Oaks, run at Epsom in June (solely for fillies); and the St Leger, run at Doncaster in September. The most prestigious meeting on the Flat is Royal Ascot, which runs for a week in June. Although the course is owned by the Queen, only the June meeting is called Royal Ascot, when Her Majesty is driven along the course in an open carriage at the start of each day’s proceedings. (There is a specific betting market about what colour her outfit will be.) A common pitfall is to refer to other meetings held at Ascot as ‘Royal’. The second most prestigious Flat meeting in Britain is Goodwood, in August. It is usually referred to as Glorious Goodwood. The Derby, Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood are part of the series of society events known as ‘the Season’ (for more details see If the Cap Fits). The most prestigious Flat races are known as Group Ones. The most famous Group One outside Britain is the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, run at Longchamp, near Paris, in October, which is occasionally won by an English horse. The biggest National Hunt meeting is the Cheltenham Festival in March, where the top race is the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

    Male and female horses up to the age of three are called colts and fillies. Older males are then referred to as horses, and older females are mares. A male horse which has been castrated is a gelding, and should be referred to as ‘he’ if it is the type of story where gender is given. In jumps, horses are either steeplechasers – ‘chasers’ – which jump fences, or hurdlers, which jump hurdles. Jockeys wear ‘silks’ or ‘colours’. Those associated with a horse, such as its owner and trainer, are sometimes called its ‘connections’. Betting should always be expressed as fractions, such as 7-4 or 200-1, not as decimals. The sport’s governing body in Britain was for many years the Jockey Club, but is now the British Horseracing Authority (BHA).

  • Olympics: The Olympic Games are held every four years, in years which are a multiple of four, eg 2012. The Winter Olympics are also held every four years, in the middle year between the summer games, eg 2014. Both events are followed by Paralympic Games, or Paralympics, for disabled participants. An ‘Olympiad’ is the four-year period beginning on January 1 of a year in which the summer Olympics occur. The 30th modern Olympiad began in 2012. The exact range of sports in the Olympics may vary slightly, with events being perceived as less popular being dropped, and others being added if the governing body, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), decides they are widely played. For example baseball and softball were dropped after 2008, while women's boxing was new in 2012. The term Olympics would be taken to mean the summer games; the Winter Olympics takes caps.

  • rugby: There are two codes, union and league. The word ‘rugby’ on its own usually refers to union. When the two codes developed, union was played by amateurs and league by professionals, but now players in the top levels of both codes are paid. Rugby union is played by teams of 15. The governing body in England is the Rugby Football Union, normally abbreviated to RFU, in Wales it is the Welsh Rugby Union and in Scotland it is Scottish Rugby. The Irish team draws players from both sides of the border and is governed by the Irish Rugby Football Union. Players from the four ‘home unions’ tour abroad every four years under the official name ‘British and Irish Lions’ which is invariably shortened to ‘British Lions’. Matches are supervised by a referee, aided by assistant referees or touch judges (the latter have less responsibility.) The international governing body is the International Rugby Board (IRB). Rugby league is played by teams of 13 and is governed by the Rugby Football League. Matches are supervised by a referee, aided by touch judges and possibly other officials.

  • tennis: This is played indoors or outdoors on a variety of surfaces, including clay, grass or hard court, which in turn may be acrylic, tarmac, concrete, asphalt or carpet. Individual matches at higher levels are supervised by an on-court umpire, while a tournament as a whole is run by a referee. Men’s professional tennis is run internationally by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP); the female equivalent is the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). The British governing body is the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA). The major international tournaments are the four Grand Slams, in Melbourne, Paris, London (Wimbledon), and New York. The Wimbledon tournament is held at the grounds of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, which gives all the event’s profits to the LTA.

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  • teams are always referred to in the plural, eg ‘England are on course for victory’, ‘Spurs do not deserve to win’.

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Last updated August 30, 2015