Quiet Optimism

2 By Ian  |   The Ball  |   July 24, 2008  |     8

Over the last couple of years, we have been less than complimentary about ITV’s football coverage. However, I’m not one to bear a grudge, and I’m now quietly optimistic that it might be set to improve. Whisper this quietly, but… I’m starting to think that they might have put someone that cares in charge of their football coverage. The first signs of this recovery came in the new year, with the frankly genius idea to repeat editions of “The Big Match” from 1983 on Thursday afternoons and Sunday mornings. John Bourn, whose website about regional football on ITV was started, in his own words, “a spur to ITV to make more use of their massive football archive”, could finally rest easy in his bed at night.

Then, over the summer, their coverage of Euro 2008 was better than expected whilst the BBC’s was worse. It would be something of a leap of faith to say that it was better, but their half-time analysts at least tried to discuss the football rather than try to out-shout each other, and they didn’t repeat the mistake of cutting to adverts over the top of national anthems, like they did at the 2006 World Cup. If they can offer a little more intelligent analysis of the Champions League and steer clear of the patriotic nonsense (which offends many, many people, whilst offering little to the viewing experience of people that do like that sort of thing), they might just have turned a corner. ITV’s Lindsay Charlton had this to say:

“For the first time in the history of the FA Cup, dozens of preliminary and qualifying round matches will be captured on camera, thanks to ITV Local. What makes the FA Cup exciting is when small clubs manage to smash their way through from the early rounds to face Premier League giants. With a little luck ITV Local will be able to follow some of this year’s giant killers all the way.”

It goes without saying that this is A Good Thing. Of course, there are pitfalls that ITV have to avoid with their FA Cup coverage. They need to try, where possible, to steer clear from cliche and one would hope that they will have learnt from the BBC’s horrific mistake of last year, when they managed to miss the story of the Third Round in the form of the match between Havant & Waterlooville and Swansea City in favour of a snore-a-thon between Manchester City and West Ham United. What I would say is this: the world’s oldest cup competition is still a delicate flower to behold, especially in the face of the all-conquering power of the Premier League and the Champions League. ITV’s recent announcements have made me somewhat happier that they will be able to look after it.



Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.

  • July 25, 2008 at 7:07 am

    Michael Oliver

    Promising news, but it’s very difficult to shake the belief that the BBC is the true home of national events and heritage, like the FA Cup. ITV’s coverage of the Premiership a few years back was an unmitagated disaster, so it’s reassuring that they are learning the lessons from that.

    And it is wonderful that at last they’re putting more and more of their archive in the public domain. Much more enjoyable history lessons than we received at school!

  • July 26, 2008 at 1:22 am

    Allan Moore

    Since 1994 at least, ITV’s footballing coverage has been dreadful. I always thought that their worst crime was putting Scotsport (the STV equivilant to “The Big Match”) on at 11:30pm, on a Monday evening. This would be non Setanta subscribers first opportunity to catch the weekend goals from the SPL. The old Football First was rotten too.

    Not too sure that your point about ITV’s coverage is true on two counts. 1) Clive Tyldsley still comintates for them, any improvement would have been cancelled out by this. 2) Yes the BBC’s coverage was worse, due to an air of smugness from the studio guests. I do hope that this doesn’t permiate into the Olympic coverage.

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