Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Match of the Day ain't broke

There is a lot of rubbish talked about football on television, I am well aware that I make my own regular contributions.

But the day that any television company finds a pundit or presenter or technical gizmo that provides more entertainment than the match action itself, he or she or it will really be earning their money. And the game will be in big trouble.

There is a healthy appetite among television professionals to continually freshen up their act and unveil different approaches to bringing football to your screens. Most of them can be filed under ‘Emperor’s new clothes’, but year by year better technology provides better pictures and analysis, and hopefully better enjoyment and understanding of how the game is played.

Familiarity should not be underrated as a television virtue, though. We can argue all we like as to why many more viewers watch the World Cup final on BBC than ITV, and many more watch the Champions League final on ITV than Sky.

Old habits die harder than you imagine in TV. Two years ago, my dear old dad (a Sky golf addict) inadvertently watched the Chelsea-United final on Sky and asked me next day if I had a cold. Most people just want to see the match.

With the greatest respect to many much admired friends at the Beeb, Peter Odemwingie and Darren Bent were the stars of ‘Match of the Day’ on Saturday.

I’ve read calls this week for the pundits to be given more time for analysis and even for a classic match from the video vaults to adorn the show. Another time, maybe. But ‘Match of the Day’ should do what it says on the tin. The action is the hook.

To harp on about Alan Shearer calling David Silva, David Villa is just silly. The greatest manager he ever served under rarely got a player’s name right and yet Sir Bobby Robson remains the most popular football figure of the modern era.

I got Jack Wilshere and Andrei Arshavin mixed up for the first 10 minutes at Arsenal last week. It happens. I think the issue of (the excellent) Andy Gray laughing off Dedryck Boyata’s cynical checks on Didier Drogba is a far more interesting debating point. When is the ‘professional view’ wrong?

Sound editorial values are important. I have a bee in my bonnet about a manager saying, ‘I haven’t seen the incident yet’ at 10:30 at night on MOD. Show him, then ask him. But the detail of the show must never get in the way of the moments that set the editorial agenda.

The best thing about football is the football. Gary and the boys all wish they were still playing. Their programme usually respects the importance of the action and remains true to its roots. Don’t fix what ain’t broken.


  1. the theme tune kicks in and then so does the conditioned repsonse from my childhood, I run for the kitchen, cheese on toast and a glass a milk.

    It's the best programme on the TV, fact.

  2. Great blog Clive,

    some people just love to moan.
    as football fans we've never had it so good

  3. Can't agree with this. Football is a wonderful sport and the game itself will always be the star, but to argue that this somehow excuses the pathetic level of punditry on TV is a nonsense.

    I don't expect any bewildering statistics or a twenty-minute analysis of a corner, but Shearer's admission that he knew nothing about Ben Arfa was bordering on a contempt for the viewer.

    Pundits/commentators generally fall into one of a few groups: dull and clueless (Shearer), smug and clueless (Lawrenson) or whiney and clueless (Green).

    I had the pleasure of watching the BBC's coverage of the F1 at the weekend (all of it, even the stuff on the red button) and was staggered by the difference in quality when compared to their football coverage. There was some genuinely interesting discussion and insight without it ever becoming dull or too niche and they seemed to understand that fans want more than to see the basic action. And compare Brundle's style with the sort of interviews we get after a match; there's a reson we have all the 'game of two halves' cliches.

    Football coverage is both boring and patronising and it seems that more and more fans are growing tired of it. To trot out the 'if it ain't broke' line isn't helping anyone.

    Johnny Mango

  4. Some good points here Clive, namely that the football action is more important than the punditry/ analysis. And I don't really care that Shearer accidentally called Silva Villa... I do care that he said "nobody really knows much about Ben Arfa..." Yes they do!

  5. The problem with MOTD is that its 'analysts' simply look at footage and say what they see. There's a distinctly remedial feel to the whole thing. When you've had a commentator giving you the detail throughout the coverage and numerous replays therein then there's no need for this. It feels quite patronising.
    Most Irish fans like myself will harp on about the glaring differences between RTE's dream team of Johnny Giles, Eamon Dunphy and Liam Brady moderated by Bill O'Herlihy as being greatly superior. It's an argument that is a little myopic, but it is a much more compelling spectacle. These guys get into heated arguments, give their own opinions on what people are doing wrong, and aren't afraid of upsetting people. Their opinions are often complete nonsense, and in Dunphy's case often pig-headed and vindictive, but on many occasions the analysis has proven to be more entertaining than the game itself.
    BBC should not try to copy this model outright, but they should study it and try to inject a little more intrigue and heart into its broadcasts.

    p.s. Scottishness does not equal gravitas, though most British football coverage seems to think it does.

  6. Great blog, Mr. T.

    The problem many have with ex-players is that in the age of the internets, most football supporters know more than these "experts", and in an age of recession, public money bringing a millionaire down from Newcastle (using private transport) to London every weekend seems like a mickey-take.

    I agree completely that "football is the star" and one should let "football set the agenda", just as I agree that strong editorial leadership is necessary. But the view from the sofa is that bad punditry distracts from good football.

    That said, say hello to Jim Beglin. He is great.

  7. You say its the football itself that people are mostly interested in - you are right. Perhaps you could remember this when commentating? We dont need you to talk constantly as if broadcasting on the radio, we can see it ourselves for goodness sake.

    I suppose it comes down to pointing out the obvious - for example, everyone knows messi is a good player, we don't require being reminded of this every 2 minutes.

    Please, all I ask is you watch how classic commentators of the past combined talking when needs be and leaving us in peace to watch the match. Throw in a Co commentator who likes to share his views and its like listening to sky sports fanzone (incessant and irritating)!

    I really hope you read this and take some of it away.

  8. Couldn't agree more Jon. Having just moved to Finland I can't understand a word the commentators say. And you know what? It actually improves the watching experience because I can concentrate on the football. Today's commentators & pundits obviously prepare their script before the game and are darned well going to read it to us whatever is happening on the pitch. When did stats become more important than action? When you're at a match do you feel at a disadvantage because you haven't got someone droning in your ear for 90 mins? But you'll never change the media - they always know best.

  9. Interesting comments from one and all but this debate and the debates that will follow have moved - along with my blog - to a new location. If you visit you will find the blog and a link to The footballcommentator,org Forum.

  10. MOTD is really rubbish lads. It beggars belief that Shearer and co cant be arsed using the Beebs staggering amount of research that is in the vaults to prepare for a game. I find it incredible that they think its funny when they dont know much about a player. Get your finger out ffs.

    I want a desk in front of their crotches aswell. Put a bleedin notepad on it and take notes, pretend you have to work you twats!

  11. We don't want technical wizzardry or interactive features, we just want analysis that is not the banal, intelectually stunted guff we have to put up with now - offenders being Southgate, Townsend, Shearer, Lawrenson, Keown, Keegan, Hansen, Earle, Davids, Redknapp, Beglin, Motson and most others. As viewers we want information that we wouldn't otherwise know - how a tweak in formation has changed the game, what a player has been doing in training that's suddenly brought about an improvement. Too much time is wasted on slowing down and pausing offside and penalty decisions, before deciding that its hard to call. Sky is very average, BBC is pitifully poor, and ITV is so intensly bad that all staff should be fined for their efforts

  12. I wish they'd sort out the MOTG titles. They're woeful. A nice idea which is poorly executed.

  13. This is nonsense, MOD features analysts because they are footballers, and nothing to do with whether they are good analysts - which they aren't, they're rubbish, condescending and perpetuate the idea that anyone who says anything intelligent is somehow unmanly. The programme is a complacent joke. watch TV hoghlights shows on RTE, SBS in Australia, New Zealand and you'll see what we are missing in terms of intelligent and entertaining analysis. I'm not surpoised you're defending it Clive because you are part of the self-satisfied TV football world too

  14. Interesting debate, Match Of The Day's familiarity is a big selling point and the main reason I was so delighted to see it return after the days of 'The Premiership'. The coverage was fine on ITV but it just didn't sit right.

    That said, I really enjoyed the Monday Night review show and felt it worked well. Perhaps the BBC were aware of this when they brought us MOTD2.

    A friend remarked quite fairly that it was 'trying too hard' in the early days of Colin Murray replacing Adrian Chiles but now it seems to have found its feet as the quirky tabloid brother to MOTD's Daily Telegraph.

    I think the balance is pretty good re: highlights to analysis, mind you, I'm a geek so I enjoy the stats.