Peter Alliss has been around golf for more than six decades. He’s seen a few things in his day, to say the least, and golf has changed considerably since back in the day. So too has the world. But as they say, that’s progress. Or is it?
“You can't compare then and now. I only came into golf because my father was a golf professional, and I couldn't do anything else,” he began. “I left school when I was 15 and went as his assistant and followed on from there, and golf professionals or people in sport weren't idolized as they are today,” he continued. “Football, or soccer, we call it football, they were idolized because it was a game for the workers, and they used to get big teams, Everton, Liverpool, they used to get 60,000, 70,000 people, home games every two weeks, and the players were paid £8 a week, and they were performing to audiences of 70,000 or 80,000. They had to go to work on the bus and clean their own shoes,” he said.
“It was a different world, a different time. And you try and explain it to young people today, they don't know what you're talking about,” he lamented. “Even my children, we sit down to eat at our house, which is we think quite civilized, but a lot of people think it's very old fashioned to sit around the table, and we talk about things. Our postage rates are going up alarmingly in Britain. No one will write letters soon. No one will be able to afford to write letters. I said to my senior son, how many letters do you think you could send when I was 16 years of age for a pound? And they thought for a minute, and they said, oh, 10, 12. And I said, 240. So they look at you as you were a bit crazy. But that's how many pence there were in a pound. You could send a Christmas card for a penny, and now you can send one. So if you're looking for something to illustrate inflation, that's it. 240 letters for a pound; today, one.
“I've just tried to explain footballers getting £8 a week. If you were a precocious child (in his day) you might do a paper round, earning a pound a week delivering papers at 6:00 in the morning. You saved your money and you bought a bicycle and then you got a little bit older and you saved up and bought a wreckedy‑rackedy secondhand car,” he remarked. “And now if you have a precocious talent and you're 18 or 19, you go to Italy and guy a Ferrari and you spend $250,000 on a car because it's there. Those are the opportunities that are offered today in a lot of sports. It's very easy spending other people's money, and it's very hard to look out for your own money, particularly if you have a lot. If you're a bit careful like Seve Ballesteros, a dear friend of mine, he was the tightest duck-assed fellow I ever knew in my life, but I loved him dearly. But he had millions. He had two cars in his garage. He had a Lamborghini and a Ferrari, and I think they both had about 3,000 miles on the clock. And a Range Rover. I'm going back 12 years. He said, ‘They use too much petrol. I can't afford that petrol.’ And he was the 840th richest person in the world or whatever it was at that time. So it's just a different world,” he stated.
Alliss was a very good player in his day but made a bigger name for himself describing the game he loved to play. However, that side of the business, alas, has changed too. “Today's keyhole journalism I think is one of the sad things not only about sport but about life, that somebody can be a promising young person, boy, girl, whatever, and the editor in today's society wants to find out if they ever did anything naughty when they were young. Did they ever steal something from Woolworth's, a packet of sweeties, or did they ever have a boy-boy relationship when they were at college or girl-girl relationship, and have you got any photos. That's the way it is,” he said.