The Football League Show: Surely even the relegated deserve better than this?

For the first time in eleven years, I have to care about what happens in the Championship. Just writing that sentence gives me a little pang of misery, but after Middlesbrough’s woeful 2008/09 season, it’s something I’m going to have to come to terms with. This season’s shaping up to be as engrossing as it is unpredictable, with Forest’s big spending, Ipswich’s grizzly new manager and countless improving mid-table/playoff teams. Alongside this, Peterborough and Leicester are bringing excellent footballing sides from League 1, coupled with the arrival of three distinguished clubs dropping down from the Premier League; Gareth Southgate (the manager) has picked a pretty good time for it.

Despite this, it seems that the hierarchy of the BBC has taken it upon itself to suck as much of the joy and excitement out of the competition as possible, replacing it with bright lights, tedium and… Steve Claridge.
If you’ve already seen it, then you’ll know what I’m on about; if you haven’t, then imagine ‘The Wright Stuff’, filmed in an echoey warehouse, interspersed with football highlights and insight from an ex-player who appears not to have slept in roughly four years.

But all of this weirdness pales into insignificance when compared to the worst part of the show. The BBC’s producers have embraced the belief that everything on television should have some kind of interactive feature, thus plonking Jacqui Oatley in a small room next door, periodically reading out tedious e-mails such as:

“And Tim from Derby says: ‘Come on the Rams!’ – great email from Tim there, keep them coming, guys!”

Who is Tim from Derby? And why does it appear that someone is seriously sitting at home thinking: I’m not sure if Claridge’s thoughts on Nigel Clough’s push for a playoff place are entirely accurate, if only they gave a voice to Tim from Derby…?

The general public ruins the media. Have you ever heard a football phone-in on the radio? It sounds as if someone’s dropped a microphone into a Yates’s Wine-lodge. A typical call will go something like this:

Caller: “Yeah, well, er… I’d just like to say that [insert player’s name] was absolutely shocking today.”
Presenter: “Really, why?”
Caller: “Well, he was just shocking, y’know, he was just, crap.”
Presenter: “To be fair to him, he did score twice.”
Caller: “Yeah, but other than that, what else did he do? Absolutely nothing.”

Why are we letting fans get involved in the making of these shows when the vast majority of football fans are, let’s be honest, absolute cretins?

It’s Oatley that I really feel sorry for, though. Two years ago, she became the first woman to commentate on Match of the Day. She did a much better job of it than the vast majority of TV commentators. Despite this, if you ever need a boost in self-confidence, then have a peek at the reaction of an abundance of raving chauvinists to the development. Thirty-two separate Facebook groups were created calling for her sacking (apparently a vagina makes you incapable of understanding an offside trap).

I can only speak for myself, but football shows need fewer features, not more. All we really want are highlights, a bit of insight from an ex-pro (emphasis on ‘a bit’) and that’s it. No frills, no fuss. I watch football shows because they show football, not because Mark Clemmit is looking around Scunthorpe’s new ground. If that’s what floats your boat, then fine, but do it on your own time and don’t waste my precious Saturday night TV schedule.

Jamie Stanley

4 Comments on this post.
  • Ollie Lacey
    29 October 2009 at 19:57
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    Jacqui Oatley’s commentary was disgusting. I never want to hear the word ‘yakubu’ in such a shrill manner. Don’t feel sorry for her – she was sacked as a commentator because she was rubbish at her job.

  • A
    30 October 2009 at 19:10
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    Andy Gray still seems to be the only commentator who actually ‘comments’. Everybody else gets paid to describe what I can already see thanks to the wonders of sight. It’s about time all commentators reconsidered their position in the world.

    Sorry, I know this has nothing to do with your article. It was a good article, so I feel I’m allowed to talk about something else.

  • JJJ
    5 November 2009 at 17:42
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    Andy Gray is a co-commentator, not a commentator, and that role allows him to make the extra analysis that the main commentator can’t, because he’s busy doing the main job of actually describing the action as it’s happening. Those are the basic roles of commentator and co-commentator; please don’t get them confused, A.

    Anyway, Jamie, I completely agree with you about Jacqui Oatley. People weren’t ready for a female commentator, but people are never ready for change. Hopefully female commentators, and eventually maybe even female managers, will become commonplace. Incidentally, good article, and one which needed to be written. The Football League Show is appalling, and the only thing worse than the weird-arse setting is the “interactive” thing.

  • A
    6 November 2009 at 01:12
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    Maybe they should just have a co-commentator and leave it at that then.

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