Jonathan Knott

Former British ambassador to Hungary, Budapest

Part of UK in Hungary

18th March 2013 Budapest, Hungary

A passionate affair

I’m a big sports fan. So when the CEO of a British company asked if I’d like to go to a football match in which the Hungarian team they sponsor was playing in I said yes straight away. I’ve been in Hungary a year now and I hadn’t been to a game – and this looked like a golden opportunity.

Then I found out that the game was going to be Ferencváros vs Újpest. The biggest derby in Hungary. And that it was going to be the last league game at Ferencváros stadium (which they’re going to demolish and rebuild soon). Well, that just made me even more excited about the match. Friends and colleagues warned me that passions would be high around the match – and that sometimes there was trouble between supporters. But, having followed football for several decades now, that didn’t put me off at all.

And I am so glad that I went. The atmosphere was incredible. The Albert stadium seats around 16,000 people. And I reckon every one of them was singing and chanting throughout the game. There were fireworks, flares, placards, cheering, jeering, jumping.  A real show. The game was good too. Maybe not Champions League standard, but very exciting. And the home team won with the last kick of the game – sending the crowd (well most of them) into delighted celebrations. But the players weren’t the stars: the supporters were. I’ve been to football games round the world and I’ve never seen anything like it. A very big thank you to Botond for inviting me and to the Ferencváros club for taking such good care of me.

As I made my way home after the match I started to think about all the passion I’d seen. And, knowing the passion for sport in the UK, I wondered how I could best help encourage sporting links between our countries. There are big events here like the Formula 1 Grand Prix that might be opportunities. But what about other events? I’d struggle to get a Premier League club to visit. But maybe another British football team? Maybe exchanges in other sports? It would be an exciting project.

But what do you think? Where is the best chance of getting that Hungarian and British sporting passion together?

PS Thanks for the tips on preparing for the Balaton swim. My fitness regime started this week.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

7 comments on “A passionate affair

  1. Dear Ambassador,

    I have been in touch with Andrew Leckonby over the past 18 months or so and have been happy to support his junior cricket club Bat and Ball as well as sponsor the national teams kit.

    Given the strain on Hungarian schools to implement more PE in the curriculum cricket is an ideal sport that along with exercise teaches the children other values. Andrew being a qualified coach and teacher has many testimonials from parents that have seen improvements with the children’s behaviour as a result of participating in regular training.

    As a long term expat in Hungary I’m happy to continue to support as the sport gains traction.

    Best regards


  2. Dear Ambassador,
    having just organised a highly successful weekend of ‘Native Players Hungary’ vs ‘Native Players Serbia’ weekend of international cricket, the Hungarian Cricket Association can confirm the massive power of our sport to bring nations and people together. Cricket is more and more being proven to be a wonderful sport to develop social integration skills and to breakdown barriers at all levels, with many programs successfully getting under way in various parts of Europe, including Hungary. (Examples of programs yet to reach Hungary but hopefully to get here soon can be seen at and

    Especially at beginner/development levels, cricket is a sport where players on each team can be (and frequently are) a mix of adult, junior, male, female: and any one of the players can be the ‘hero’ (as opposed to sports where the ‘hero’ generally comes from the attacking and stronger players).

    I must also mention the natural mix of ethnic background that you automatically encounter in any European cricket league. As Jim Doherty mentioned, this year we actually require each team in the 2nd division to play at least 2 players who are either native Hungarian, female, or aged under 18yrs. It is working brilliantly and we will increase the requirement in years ahead. As a further example of international relations, my ‘Baggy Blues’ cricket club has approximately 15 nationalities represented and uniting to form 2 strongly connected teams. My ‘Bat and Ball Junior Cricket Club’ also has about 15 nationalities represented, many of which are of course well outside the usual concept of ‘cricketing nation’ (e.g. Hungarian/Polish/Dutch/American/Japanese/…)

    The international matches this weekend saw players aged from 10yrs to ‘more than 40’ yrs, of both genders, battling it out against each other, and they had all been selected to play for their nation from a larger pool so played with the pride and passion you referred to from your football experience. All except 3 had completely learned how to play cricket in their home nation.

    In terms of projects already planned that directly involve the UK, this summer alone there will be an adult 100% native Hungarian cricket team visiting Devon, and a junior team consisting of children from about 7 nationalities including Hungarians (and all based in Hungary) will visit Sussex. There will also be several cricket teams from the UK visiting Hungary this summer, including Tim Rice and his ‘Heartaches’ cricket team, the strong ‘York University’ team, and more. Add to this the coaching and other ICC-related conferences and the bonds between UK and Hungary are frequent and more often than not meaningful.

    Relating to other nations, the Hungarian National Team just played in Austria, will shortly go to Romania, and will host Poland and possibly Croatia later in the summer. We will also be visited by the famous ‘Crusaders’ touring team from Australia, and there are already talks well under way for an exchange program with schools in Holland. Add to that our work with bringing a young-adult team from a local refugee camp in to the Hungarian Cricket League (they had their first match last week) and it is clear that there is already a strong and very active base set for further social integration programs through cricket, both locally and internationally.

    Few people realise that more than 200 children are taking part in weekly cricket trainings in various parts of Hungary and that this year’s League will have 3 divisions totalling 16 teams, including a women’s team, a native player team, and a junior team in the 3rd division. In March we trained more than 15 new coaches as well as similar numbers of umpires and scorers, so we see the current statistics as truly ‘just the beginning’. Given that all this happened in just 5 years we know that the next 5 years will see things repidly develop even further, especially considering our new ‘official ICC member’ status, gained in 2012.

    The true beauty of cricket programs though is that they are rediculously easy to implement, and even teaching cricket is CHEAP and EASY. Last year I taught a group of 20 six year old Hungarian children how to play cricket and within 10 minutes they were playing it independently with a good natural understanding of the game (it is a total myth that the game is complicated: just ask any cricketing child under 10yrs!). The gear that was needed was two plastic bats, one ball, and two plastic sets of stumps. Total cost just a few thousand forints and an hour or so of personal time. For exchange programs, it is the unavoidable costs of travel that are the limiting factor, otherwise everything is set and ready to go.

    In February we started a program at a Turkish/Hungarian/English multinational school in Pest, where now more than 70 children from about 20 non-cricketing nations get 45 minute cricket lessons every week. After just a few short lessons they are great at the game and JUST WANT MORE. The school reports big drops in tensions and rivalry between students since our program started. It works, and it is easy and affordable.

    In summary, there is massive energy amongst several European nations to take cricket further and it is without doubt an area that government bodies, embassies, socially-aware corporate enterprises and the ICC are more and more beginning to recognise, lobby for, and act upon.

    If the UK embassy wishes to become involved at any level with promoting UK/Hungarian relations through socially-oriented cricket programs, we at the HCA would love to be strongly involved in implementing such exciting initiatives.

    Thank you for raising the possibilities and the suggestion of using sport to bring our two nations closer together: the idea is for sure a winner.

    Andrew Leckonby
    Cricket Development Director
    Hungarian Cricket Association
    +3670 702 2360

    1. Andrew,

      Thanks for the information about cricket in Hungary. I had no idea there was so much of it! And of the enormous effort you and your colleagues have put into it.

      Thanks for the offer of help if we in the Embassy want to try to use cricket to help strengthen ties. I think it’s a really good idea. And we’ll think about how and when we take up your offer. Our plans for the summer are already made. But maybe in the slightly longer term.

      Hope you continue to enjoy the great success you’ve done so much to earn,


  3. Dear Ambassador,

    To me, the obvious answer here is cricket. The amount of kids and adults playing cricket here in Hungary is staggering. Last summer I played in a league with my 11 year old son that was half Hungarian and half international (Brits, Aussies, Kiwis, Afghans, Pakistanis, Indians). This year, due to the fact that the Hungarian National team coach is British, he has arranged a UK cricket tour for the kids and I guess in that respect we will all be proudly representing Hungary abroad. Hungarian cricket is ICC affiliated which means there are strict rules about including juniors, women, nationals etc and I think that will bring yet more growth. Cricket sits on the “top table” in terms of global popularity and thereby business and social networking opportunity. Think about what UK/Hungary cricket could do with some scale and resource behind it. I helped out at a Hungarian kids sports day where they could have a go at cricket, they absolutely loved it (and were good) and we had a queue all day. Combine all this with the long hot summers and I think it could be the Hungarian and British sporting passion you are after.

  4. Dear Jonathan Knott,

    When I lived in London I saw that the sport is good business. But in Hungary not really. From this independently the sport can build new bridges between the people. I am suggesting if you would like to do something you can start from the local where the life is hard. And I hope you can inspire others and bring hope.

    Yours sincerely

    Kalmár Benedek

  5. I think – here everybody would wait the 6:3 -. May you know the match, before about 60 years (I don’t know it correctly), was that famous match, where Hungary won 6:3. That is a big legend even now. May the two sporting passion enjoy the match without scandal.
    Best regards:

  6. Dear Ambassador, I loved the idea in your above note to bring together the two nations in sports. How I see it, it would work with kids. Kids are very open, love new challenges, have spirit and easier to find sponsors for the implementation. As you can see here in Hungary the sport culture needs to be innovated in social sports, participation sports and recreation sports. Also can be very interesting to bring here the knowledge of British cricket, rugby for children. As vice versa we could host a Hungarian horse riding session. So my idea besides football for kids the above and willing to participate to run this project. Kind regards, Edit

Comments are closed.

About Jonathan Knott

Jonathan Knott was appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Hungary in March 2011 and arrived in Budapest in February 2012 to take up his post. He left this post on April…

Jonathan Knott was appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to
Hungary in March 2011 and arrived in Budapest in February 2012 to take
up his post. He left this post on April 2015.
He has previously held a variety of diplomatic posts at home and
abroad, several with a particular focus on commercial and corporate
finance issues. Jonathan has served in a number of positions in the
British Diplomatic Service since joining in 1988:
Before his appointment was Deputy Head of Mission and Director for Trade and Investment in South Korea from 2008 to 2011.Between 2005 and 2008 he held the post of Deputy Finance Director in the FCO.From 2000 to 2005 he served as First Secretary (Trade, Corporate Affairs and Finance Negotiator) in UKDel OECD Paris.From 1996 to 2000 he was First Secretary (Head of Political/Economic/Aid Section) in Mexico.From 1995 to 1996 he worked in the FCO as Deputy European Correspondent at the EU Directorate.Between 1991 and 1995 he served as Third later Second Secretary (Political / Press and Public Affairs) in Havana.From 1990 to 1991 he was Desk Officer in the FCO’s First Gulf War Emergency Unit.Between 1988 and 1990 he worked as Desk Officer in the FCO in the Anti Drugs Cooperation Department.
Jonathan holds an MA in law from Oxford University, and he is a
member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. He speaks
English, French, Spanish and Hungarian. He is married to Angela Susan
Knott and has one daughter and two sons.

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