“The Football League Show” – The Verdict

16 By Ian  |   The Ball  |   August 9, 2009  |     7

With Norwich throwing in seven goals at home and Sven managing five on his League Two debut, they can’t say that had a paucity of stories to choose from. The BBC launched their Football League coverage in a bold and brash style, with a live match and a highlights package that will now become part of the landscape of Saturday evenings. How, though, did “The Football League Show” look? The BBC have stood accused of being a little smug in their football broadcasting over the last few years, depending too much on its reputation whilst failing to deliver in comparison with Sky Sports. Was this, then, a return to form for the national broadcasters? Well, the honest answer is “yes and no”.

On the one hand, the BBC still carries just enough gravitas to make whatever you’re watching on it feel like an “event”. The Football League have been canny in recognising this and, in shifting their highlights package from ITV, it’s important to remember that the offering on the other side for the last few years, “The Championship”, has been a distinctly low profile affair, often shifted around the Sunday morning schedule to make way for other, more important matters such as Formula One racing and repeats of “Britain’s Got Talent”. “The Football League Show” has a guaranteed slot on Saturday nights (after “Match of The Day”) and, should you miss it or be unable to stay up late enough to watch it, it’s available on the Red Button or on I-Player. Often in the past if you overslept and missed “The Championship”, that was your lot for the week, unless you could hunt it out on ITV4 during the week.

The other significant advantage that the BBC has over ITV for coverage of this sort is a depth of resources. Twenty years ago, the opposite may have been true – ITV at the time was a network of regional broadcasters – but nowadays it is one single, centralised company. The BBC, with superior digital television coverage and more reporters in the field has a distinct advantage in terms of what it can lend to the Football League. The live match between West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United was presented by Gary Lineker and also featured Alan Shearer and Mark Lawrenson, and later on “The Football League Show” saw the harmless Manish Bhasin joined by Steve Claridge and a comparatively restrained Ian Holloway, compared to Matt Smith at pitch-side with a single camera, a microphone and the slight look of someone that was trying to encroach on the field of play.

None of this is to say that the first night went perfectly for “The Football League Show”. The host and guests echoed their way through proceedings in a studio the size of a warehouse. There was also a technical glitch when the show briefly cut to a shot of a woman sitting on the toilet in the film “Blue Crush” (which was showing on ITV1 at the time) but this, one hopes, will be a one-off. More troubling was a half-cocked attempt at “interactivity”, which consisted of Lizzie Greenwood-Hughes reading out text messages and emails from viewers in a “Speek Your Branes” style. “We’ve got a West Brom fan here, Mark, who predicts that West Brom will win the championship and Newcastle will go straight back up as well, and he adds, ‘I do hope that the Toon get it sorted, though, because it’s such a shame”. Well, thanks for that.

Over the last few years, the BBC has given the impression of being somewhat rudderless in its sports production. They have lost many of their distinctive voices – in football, the likes of John Motson and Barry Davies – and haven’t found equally authorative voices to replace them. The fact that they have lost so many sports broadcasting rights has, of course, also been a factor in the corporation’s sporting decline, but winning the Football League has given them the opportunity to flex their muscles again. If they can sort out the technical glitches and focus on the football rather than needless nods towards being the “voice of the people”, then we have cause for optimism that The Football League on the BBC might just turn out to be s success both for the broadcaster and the League itself. Now, let’s see if they can maintain this enthusiasm when the Premier League starts again next week.



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.

  • August 9, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    Bored Statto with free time

    Oh god, I thought the woman in a toilet was some kind of euphemism.

    Hahahaha ‘An eye-catching opener’. I’ve just found the video.

  • August 10, 2009 at 1:32 am

    The Sweeper: Is Argentina’s Club Football Crisis a Bellwether for Europe? | Pitch Invasion

    […] Twohundredpercent reports on the BBC’s first attempt at the “The League Football Show.”  Can Football League coverage help boost the Beeb’s sagging reputation as a trusted footballing authority?  Yes and no. […]

  • August 10, 2009 at 4:43 am

    Sports Balls

    So true! It an eye-catching opener. It was hilarious though. lol

  • August 11, 2009 at 5:32 pm


    If they cut out the e-mails and texts and less of the boring and not very good analysis, it could finish at about 12.30am instead of 1am so we could all have a bit more of a sleep!! It was also boring too. We’re watching it for the goals, not for analysis and e-mails

  • August 13, 2009 at 7:48 am


    I felt like I was watching Crimewatch or Watchdog with a little Most Haunted thrown in. It was a format the BBC are comfy with but football fans dont want emails or artistic camera motion and eye catching sets. We just want to see the football. I do look forward to staying up till 12.30am to see “CrimeFootballLeagueWatchDog”. I wont have time to have nightmares as I will be getting up in a few hours.

  • August 22, 2009 at 11:56 pm

    Joe Matthew

    I’m delighted by the decision of briging a new manager in to Norwich City so soon. Brilliant result today and hopefully we can keep that up.

    Joe Matthew

  • August 23, 2009 at 12:45 am

    sirjeet singh

    ooh great.. its about time the championship and league 1 have a propper show. great teams in the leagues such as middlesbrough, newcastle, leeds united, west brom. well in bbc =D

  • August 25, 2009 at 5:27 pm


    Well now we’ve had 3 of these shows and I know it’s easy to kick the BBC but lets be fair, they were bloody good. You said the BBC was a bit smug in the past but I don’t think that can be said about this show. I sort of agree about E Mails but even that got a lot better, some added info not just ‘We are going to win the League.’ Well done Auntie Beeb!

  • August 27, 2009 at 4:22 pm


    I think its terrable, the worst piece of football coverage on the planet.

    how can anyone moan about missing the championship in the morning it was on after 10 am God who ever don’t wake up before that dont love football enough.

    And the coverage was great, the commentry never told you when a goal was coming or anything they gave the viewer pure anticipation and also the show was rarely Bias, unlike ‘the football league show’

    Furthermore league 1 and 2 get far more coverage then they deserve, I personally dont think they have the prestige and havent earnt the right too be on for as long as they are and have analysis as well.

  • September 20, 2009 at 6:50 am


    “how can anyone moan about missing the championship in the morning it was on after 10 am God who ever don’t wake up before that dont love football enough”

    Followed by;

    “Furthermore league 1 and 2 get far more coverage then they deserve, I personally dont think they have the prestige and havent earnt the right too be on for as long as they are and have analysis as well.”

    So basically you love football but only if it’s regarding your team and the division they’re in (i’m asssuming you support a championship side). What happens if your side gets relegated to League One? Do they suddenly become insignificant and undeserving? No doubt you complain about the money the Premier League clubs get and the coverage they enjoy as well, but of course that’s different isn’t it. I do like how you refer to 5 minutes discussing how great Leeds are as analysis as well, if anything the show is too bias towards the big clubs (surprise). It’s something you could maybe forgive Sky for to an extent, what with being purely driven by profits, the BBC though i’m not so sure.

    The coverage is far better than you used to see on sky’s ‘football league review’ though and we no longer have to suffer that moron reading facts off a clip board about various teams he knows nothing about. The Championship was ok, but like has been said, it never had a regular slot and looked fairly amateurish, truth be told. An improvement no doubt, but there are some things to address (the needless emails and texts bit for a start, most of which seem to come from the ‘knee jerk’ section of each clubs supporters, “sack the manager etc etc etc”).

    While we’re all bashing the Beeb actually, can we get Lee Dixon on MOTD as well as MOTD 2 please? That way we can have some actual tactical analysis instead of Hansen saying ‘look at this defending, terrible, look at this, terrible, look at this, terrible, repeat to fade’, Shearer reeling off ‘this boys got everything, pace, power bla bla bla’ and Lawro just making stupid one liners that frankly get pretty tiresome within the first minute of the show. That is not what so called professional pundits should be saying, they’re there to point things out that we may have missed as they apparently know the game better than us through their years of experience, not just point out the obvious. Ahh glad I got that off my chest, feels good, man.

  • September 27, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    So Steve, got any more cliches?

    The Football League Show is shockingly bad.

    The only way they could possibly make it worse is by not showing action from the Football League which they kind of did, for a short while, on the first show with the ‘woman in the toilet’ interlude.

    The boring, manufactured, plastic commentary, the uninsightful, pathetic, platitude ridden analysis, the embarrassing and dispicable token interactivity, everything about it, except for the actual film of the football, is pure rubbish!

  • November 17, 2009 at 12:00 pm


    Being an Ipswich fan I refused to watch it till we won a game, so you understand it was only recently I had the opportunity to enjoy the show. Imagine my excitement as MOTD ended and the Football league show begun, within 5 seconds it was obvious my season continues its misery, as the titles are bad, really, really bad. As stated the set is from Crimewatch with an editorial approach that treats us like we are watching a digital music TV channel that runs badly spelled text messages at the bottom of the screen. This means the new broom BBC sports producer thinks we have the attention span of a village idiot (no tractor jokes please). I have complained to the football league with no reply and now I am going to track down the CREATIVE behind the sequence and demand an answer.

  • November 21, 2009 at 11:45 pm


    i said crimewatch within the first few minutes of it being on!

    its like a newsround version of a football show! bhasin is really grinding with that whine of his! ITV had the right idea – just stupid timing!

  • February 21, 2010 at 12:33 am


    hi it dylan big forest fan good job today boyz and derby aka sheep lost you redss

  • April 24, 2010 at 11:55 pm


    i said to my brother that it was a bit like newsround because it was so patronising to the average football fan – then i found out that lizzie actually used to present for newsround. WHAT ARE THEY DOING?

    Without Claridge, or Leo, it wouldnt be a show. OK, ok, football is for everybody and is a family game, but at the same time – no 9 year old is up at night watching this and over half of the football fans in this country are working class men. so trying to make it softer or more accessable is really just an invitation to make it both annoying and frankly boring. its flat, predictable, constantly trying not to offend (as if they could somehow?). Get rid of Lizzie’s bit (she’s cool but nobody cares about her emails and texts not even Manish and Steve in the background…). speed the whole show up – or if you do try and analyse then please concentrate on one team or aspect in lots of detail rather than skimping the details of every team – i’ve wasted so much time waiting to basically just hear them say the name of my team and grunt in a way that suggests that they have looked at the form table for 5 minutes. And Manish, well he’s nice but I have 2 things i dont like. firstly he’s a robot, isnt he? He seems to say the same thing with even the same intonation in his voice every week. The only time i saw him try and change it up a bit was when he started an episode coming through a door… and secondly, he doesnt have anything to do with football. this bugs me more than it does most people but when linekar is in the chair on MOTD i feel like he knows the ins and outs of the game a bit. Manish doesnt, he’s paid to sound like he does. Can you imagine what would happen if they swapped gary and manish one weekend? it wouldnt work would it. The show also needs a new set, you can sometimes hear the echo in their voices, bad bbc, bad, do it properly. I would LOV IT, LOVE IT! if they stopped messing around and treated us real football fans with more respect.

  • April 29, 2011 at 6:23 pm


    All I am going to say is come on you saints you can do it!!

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