If you are an England fan you are likely very satisfied with the 1-1 draw against France. A new manager, a young(ish) team, against a resurgent nation unbeaten in the last 21. If you are a fan of excellent television production, you are likely less enthused.
ITV has had a shaky start, and this game confirmed our fears that they might not have the quality at the highest level. PlayUp Football’s poll on Facebook page last night saw the public give a spanking 79.7% of vote to BBC’s coverage over that of ITV.
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The BBC has kicked off with its usual blend of slick know-how. And with Sky having raised its PL game to a new level with the acquisition of Gary Neville, the old Channel 3 needed to bring some sustainable ‘Wow’ factor to prove its tired old legs still had some running left in them. What they have delivered is more of the ‘What?’ factor.
Jamie Carragher squeaks along in his quaint and high-pitched Scouse, while Patrick Vieira barely takes off his France shirt before making a comment and threatening to walk out if England score a winner. Then there is Gareth Southgate, who talks a lot of sense, but looks like he’s been dressed by his Uncle. Perhaps putting him in a dress might help. Something needs to be done.
PlayUp generally view Alan Shearer punditry with a little scepticism, and in terms of game analysis Southgate is streets ahead, but if you know you are going on the telly, at least put a bit of effort in. Shearer has gone with the fitted tuck-in shirt, although as PlayUp contributor Mihir Bose pointed out, that shirt did become more untidy during game one. Southgate looks like he is wearing one of James Corden’s shirts from his World Cup Live horror show
The ITV pundits are faced with a beauty issue. There is Southgate with his unfortunate nose, Carragher and his obvious deficiencies, Adrian Chiles, the host no one seems to like and resembles a battered Mr Potato Head, and finally Vieira, who when he isn’t working for ITV or Manchester City is standing in for Karl Pilkington in An Idiot Abroad.
Want a coffee while watching the football? Why wouldn’t you? Now, thanks to ITV you can get that ‘just popping to the coffee shop’ vibe as they broadcast from the Polish equivalent of Costa Coffee. The Twitter buzz was that the only way this could be less professional was if a waiter came over to take their order. This may in fact improve output, as someone would then be doing their job correctly.
The BBC have kept their first team, lead by Gary Lineker, at home in Salford in their shiny new Media City that has just cost a fair chunk of license fee. Thinking perhaps being Salford that it is not so dissimilar to the Ukraine that the viewers won’t notice. Instead they have sent their impact subs, Shearer and the easy-to-watch Jake Humphrey, as their advance party.Don’t forget the BBC has an Olympics to put on and there is still a lot of commitment to those arts shows and historical dramas that people don’t like to watch. Let’s hope for their sake England don’t make the Euros final or even, god forbid, win.
Shearer gets more criticism from Bose in the analysis stakes, with the Evening Standard columnist suggesting that the ex-England captain “Adds no value to the comment (or) analysis”. No arguments here, or from Shearer one would imagine, given his track record and studious attempts to say as little as possible.
Linker and company, including Alan Hansen - cited by TalkSport host Alan Brazil as “without a doubt the best pundit on TV with consistently good analysis and comments – he talks a lot of sense” – will only be digging out their passports should England make it to the quarters. Perhaps a little more faith and commitment to the cause would be appropriate. However, in these austere times, you’ve got to respect their frugality. @frankieadz on Twitter gave ITV full credit for bothering to travel: “BBC has it coverage wise but I have to commend ITV for having all there presenters there from the start”. Take what you can get in terms of plaudits, ITV.
Last but not least, the commentators. This is make or break, and unfortunately for ITV, and its viewers, it is break. As soon as the doom-laden words “And here are your commentators Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend” are uttered, it should be the cue to reach for the mute button and listen to ‘Football’s Coming Home’ on repeat or perhaps tune into 5Live on radio. Townsend has had worse nights in an ITV shirt, but the little gem “Lets give a lot of quality to the finish” in reference to Samir Nasri’s goal, was quality in its own right. Textbook Townsend.
Big Clive makes the noises of a pro but it has been suggested he is actually reading from an old Dream Team script. “England are away” he exclaimed when Lescott nodded in. When will you go away, Clive?
Jonathan Pearce was handling the Ukraine vs. Sweden game for the Beeb, and suggested that Kiev was “throbbing”, an unfortunate metaphor, one getting dangerously close to euphemism for BBC One at 7.35pm, but he displays infinitely more control than his ITV counterpart and guided the inexperience Martin Keown through a tricky period with awkward names lined up like jumps at the Olympic equestrian. Even so, one yearns for Motty and UEFA really should have stepped in on this point. Late tackles, studs up challenges, players flying in on the ground, pushing and shoving in the box – none of it has much relevance until Motty gets on the scene.
And that is where the coverage is fundamentally different (or in ITV’s case, worse). The professionalism that the BBC displays from having been there and done it at the major tournaments is missing from Chiles and his coffee club mates. They may have got the big names in Vieira and his old mate Roy Keane, who as Bose says is “Not afraid to speak his mind and is always forthright with his opinions”, but they also have one major problem: We can’t understand what they are saying or doing. @ed_parks perhaps sums it up best on Twitter. Who’s coverage is better? “Obviously BBC’s!! We can understand their pundits. Carragher is incomprehensible and Chiles looks awfully grumpy”. Never has a 140 character sentence so perfectly hit the nail on the head.
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