The Davis Cup is a weird and wonky competition which nevertheless works. It’s Tennis’s equivalent of a World Cup, but one from which top players often opt out. It’s played at odd times of the year, and many tennis fans, even keen ones, couldn’t tell you when matches were to be staged. So it makes no sense, and the game’s governing body would like to replace it with a real World Cup, which like other sports’ World Cups, would be staged in one place for a week (or perhaps fortnight), a glamorous event in which all the top players would be happy to take part. Furthermore, it would be snappier too: all matches being played over three sets rather than five.

Yet, as I say, ramshackle though it seems to be, the Davis Cup works as it is now. It may even do so because of its oddity. Ties are played on a variety of surfaces, the home team having the choice. They are often staged in places where people have little opportunity to watch high-quality tennis: several Great Britain ties have been played in Glasgow, for instance. The Davis Cup attracts keen and vociferous spectators. It is, agreeably, a bit of a lottery. A team without star players may beat one that is much stronger on paper, for low-ranked players often raise their game as they seldom manage to do in run-of the-mill tournaments where the crowd might consist of one man and his dog if the dog hadn’t been forbidden entry.

Finally, five-set matches can, and often do, make for more excitement and more drama than three-set ones. Example: when Great Britain played Spain in Marbella in February, Cameron Norrie, making his Davis Cup debut and playing his first big match on clay, beat the World number 23, Roberto Bautista Agut. This was remarkable in itself. Even more so was the score-line: 4-6 3-6 6-3 6-2 6-2.  If it had been a three-set match, it would have been over in two, with no drama whatsoever, as dull as it was, from the British point of view, disappointing.

Administrators, with their eye on TV audiences, are always tempted to make things simpler. Five sets take too long. So cut to three. Three? Why not a single set, with the sudden death of the tie-break? Or perhaps, simply, the best of three tie-breaks? Like a penalty shoot-out, you know.

This, they say, will attract a new audience; we’ll make our sport more exciting, less boring. The more complicated it is, the greater the temptation to tinker with the laws. Yes, I’m thinking of the English & Welsh Cricket Board, but no more of them just now – the subject is too distressing. I would say only this: that very often simplification is for simpletons. Maybe, even, the simplifiers are simpletons themselves. You could simplify the Open Championship or the Masters in Augusta by getting rid of the long drawn-out four rounds formula. Would that make these tournaments more gripping?

Duration matters. This is why people remember 5-day Tests years later but have forgotten Saturday’s T20 by Monday. Of course, a long drawn out event may be boring, but so can one that has only a short life. The World Snooker Championship is now being played at The Crucible in Sheffield. It runs from 21 April to 7 May and the final is the best of 35 frames. Preposterous, isn’t it? Especially when you think a frame can last for half-an-hour or more. Let’s quicken the whole thing up.

Well, of course, there are lots of tournaments where matches are short and sharp; there are some experimental ones when a time-limit is imposed for each shot. They are not half as popular as the long dramas staged at The Crucible. They don’t allow for remarkable recoveries from apparently hopeless positions. They don’t test and display character in the same way.

Action isn’t necessarily exciting in itself. It depends on context. Take Rugby Union for example. There’s a place for what is sometimes called “Barbarians-style rugby”, where the ball is thrown about, kicking may be frowned upon, tackling is sometimes shadowy, and lots and lots of tries are scored. Fun rugby, you might say; and yes, there’s a place for it, but it’s not an important one.

You wouldn’t want to see a Six Nations match played in that careless style. Well, I wouldn’t. More than thirty years ago I remember being at one such match, staged, I think for some charitable purpose. Nobody seemed to care what the score was, and I daresay I looked bored because the great Scotland fly-half, John Rutherford, smiled and said, “you don’t much enjoy this sort of rugby, do you, Allan?” Not a lot, I thought, and probably replied.

It wasn’t just that the result didn’t matter; it was simply that when the emphasis is on entertainment, a game isn’t always entertaining. In cricket, a last-wicket pair playing for a draw – as Jimmy Anderson and Monty Panesar did against Australia in Cardiff in 2009 – makes for more compelling viewing than any big hitting when you already have 500 runs on the board.

So far football has more or less escaped the simplifiers. No loud voices seem to be raised in demands for brighter football. We don’t even find administrators devising schemes to reform the game in order to ‘build a new audience’ from people who don’t care for football.

If it has escaped simplifiers, this is partly because it retains its popularity and, at the top level anyway, continues to attract big crowds, and partly because it is essentially a simple sport already. Newcomers to the game may not understand the offside law, or the difference between a fair tackle and a foul one, but otherwise the Laws of the game can be grasped and understood by the youngest child or the meanest intelligence.

Yet there must be ardent reformers who long to get their hands on the game. It is, as I say, a simple one, the object being to get the ball into the net. And yet there are matches where nobody on either side manages to do this, and many others which finish 1-0 or 1-1. Feeble and boring, after all, it’s goals that most excite the crowd. Surely we should arrange to give them more. What can we do to make this possible?

Well, obviously, we should make the goal itself bigger; its present size is too easy to defend. Make it wider. Lift the crossbar a foot or so. More goals, more fun. Again, why should the defending team be allowed to pull everybody back in defence, to “park the bus” as they say. You’ll get more goals if you prohibit this.

Next, they might look more critically at the style of play. There is one obvious change from the football I used to watch as a boy. Players now spend an awful lot of time passing to each other in their own half of the field, and then, if any opponent ventures to approach, passing the ball back to the goalkeeper who gives it back to one of them so that they can resume the making of a pretty pattern in their own –safe – half of the field.

The old cry ‘get it up the park’ is less often heard so there are quite long passages of play when it seems, at least to the uninitiated, that nothing, or nothing much, is happening. Accordingly when the day comes that football seems to be losing just a little of its popularity, expect a simplifying administrator to come forward with a proposal to eliminate back-passes and square-passes in your own half of the field. The game must move forward: passes must be forward too.

An absurd suggestion?  Of course it is – what’s to prevent it being advanced some day and adopted the next? ‘We must’, the simplifiers will say,” attract a new following, and so we must speed the game and make it easier to understand. Who cares what those who follow it and enjoy it as it is now think. We’re not interested in them. They’re not our target. They belong to yesterday. They’re crumblies …’

Yes, I suppose we are, clinging on to the conviction that if it’s not necessary to change, it’s necessary not to change. In which context, there’s no need – no necessity at all – to change the format of the Davis Cup.

There’s a wise saying, “everybody is a conservative when it comes to something he really cares about.”

Quite so: what does that say about the simplifying administrators?