We could go on for hours talking about the football from this year’s European Championships. Who did well, who underachieved, who could be a potential star etc.
But for all those people who did not venture out to Poland or Ukraine this summer, there was another very important asset to our viewing of this tournament; Television.
And with the domestic dominance of Sky having been broken, it was time for the BBC and ITV to flex their footballing muscles and bring us the best coverage they could. But they are not without the beady eye of judgement either…
Anchor: Those who do not like Gary Lineker have merely fallen victim to the simple notion that familiarity breeds contempt. He has been at the forefront of the BBC’s football coverage for at least ten years now and has earned his right to remain in that post, for he does an excellent job.
The role of a football anchor is not too difficult. Introduce some interesting segways and ask the right questions in order to get the most insightful answers out of your studio guests.
Lineker is affable, articulate and intelligent and offers these very basic qualities without having to resort to nonsensical quips. Often faced with a brick wall in the form of Alan Shearer, Lineker consistently gets some decent insight from his guests, whilst his own monologues continue to inform. Even his dry sense of humour is welcome as opposed to his opposite number on ITV.
It’s often easy to forget how good Lineker is as a live broadcaster when stuck with some of the poor script on Match Of The Day, but he gets results in a pleasant manner that makes us feel like we’re having a conversation with our uncle in our own living room.
Studio Guests: We’ll start with the obvious two. Alan Hansen has become part of the furniture in the BBC studio, so much so that we worry if he has a home to go to. He is not the great imparter of knowledge that he once was, as the game seems to have developed further than he could care to keep up with. But his role as the ‘grumpy Scotsman’ was actually quite nice and his questions over Mario Balotelli’s teamwork proved vindicated in the wake of the Italian’s full-time storm off in the final.
Likewise Alan Shearer is comfortable in his role there, and at least this time round he made the effort to look pleased at doing a job many people would love to do. He has the annoying habit of sitting on the fence very often, and his criticisms rarely vary from someone “being very disappointed with that,” but this was a much better all-round effort from Shearer than we saw in 2010. He even decided to learn the pronunciations of player names.
The other studio guests flittered between who was appearing and were all very good. Lee Dixon in particular is someone who is quickly becoming known for providing superior tactical knowledge to many other pundits, whilst Clarence Seedorf is one of the most insightful pundits out there in terms of psychology and tactics.
Gianluca Vialli and Jurgen Klinsmann also added to a very good cast of former players who have studied the game very thoroughly, done their time and can pass on some very useful information. An exceptional effort from BBC in the studio then.
Extra Reporting: With no advert breaks to hamper them, the BBC utilised their talent very well, with Gabby Logan her ever excellent self, whilst Jake Humphries added to his incredibly impressive portfolio by quoting history from every place he visited. They’re here to educate, as well as inform and entertain you know.
Commentary: There has to be a grumble somewhere doesn’t there. And it comes in deafening form in the way of Mark Lawrenson. Does he even like football? He has a job that about 50,000 men and women would kill to have and his constant whinging and sarcastic ‘quips’ deride the entire company.
Guy Mowbray clearly does a fantastic amount of background work to beef up his commentary, but found himself being sniped at for actually taking an interest in the job he does. It’s frankly pathetic and embarrassing for the BBC to put up with this sourpuss when so many more people would provide some passion at least, in addition to insight and information. It’s just not bearable anymore.
Anchor: Whoever told Adrian Chiles he was funny needs a serious talking to. See Lineker above, he does the minimum and gets results. Adrian Chiles bounces on his seat like an excitable child when a bit of composure is needed. This is not the one show anymore, you do not need to fill all space with your own voice.
He had some knowledgeable guests in the studio, but his decision to try and include them on some frankly painful attempts at humour left a sour taste in the mouth. He isn’t helped by having only a few minutes to get something useful out of them, but he would be helped by staying quiet for a few minutes and actually allowing them to pass on their supposed wisdoms.
BBC crushed ITV by nearly 6-1 in the ratings for the final, in which there was a choice. Chiles was most probably the cause of such a landslide, as he turns people off with his chat-show approach, when we just want to allow the experts to educate us lowly folk on the mechanics of the game.
Studio Guests: We mainly watched ITV in the hope of witnessing the point in which Roy Keane had enough of Chiles’ chummy ‘banter’ and did something unprecedented. But alas, that moment never arrived, as Keane simply growled behind his aggressive exterior. He made some nice points, but once again the point remains that ITV guests are not given any time to appear knowledgeable, with ad breaks and Adrian Chiles constantly interfering.
Gareth Southgate is one of the most knowledgeable people within the game, with loads of experience as a player and manager, and now heading the FA’s development team. Was he encouraged to share some pearls of wisdom? No. Instead, he was left squirming uncomfortably, as he was forced to engage Chiles in a series of jokes. A wasted opportunity, with Patrick Vieira falling into the same category.
Then we come to Jamie Carragher. I fail to see who thought that would be a good idea, given only a small minority of the English viewing public can understand all of what he says. He may have said something brilliant, but his accent is so thick, that it is barely comprehensible if you are not accustomed to it. It struck as a last ditch attempt to get another Englander into the studio, without any thought as to the consequences.
Commentary: It’s hard to knock the commentary on ITV however. Clive Tyldesley and Peter Drury have been the trusted double act for so long, that you have just become used to them. They rarely do anything so offensive to the ears these days and show a fair bit of homework done.
The only complaint that could be had, especially of the former, is that they try and relate to England too much. It is usually in a match that bears no implication on England whatsoever, so the need to find some form of correlation is either an expectation of jingoism within their audience, or utterly needless.
Alongside them, you will regularly find Jim Beglin and Andy Townsend, who can find themselves without criticism this year, on the account that they are not Mark Lawrenson and actually appreciate the role they have been given.
The ratings showed it all. BBC, despite Lawrenson were the runaway winners this summer, as their coverage far outstripped their terrestrial rivals. It was a refreshing change from the shambolic display they put on in South Africa two years ago in which nobody looked like they wanted to be there. They may not have moved camp to the host nations until the semi-finals, but that did not hinder their production at all, with a great amount of knowledge and information being provided by the esteemed guests.
ITV will know how badly they have been beaten and will need to think of a new strategy to avoid the same thing in two years time. The day of Chiles’ studio banter may have to come to an end, as it is driving more people away than attracting and a return to the style of Steve Rider, who could compose a more civilised discussion, while Matt Smith could well be in line for a promotion to revamp their football coverage.
Tags: Adrian Chiles, bbc, Euro 2012, Gary Lineker, itv, Mark Lawrenson