It’s unusual to find someone writing intelligently about football. I watch Match of the Day most Saturday nights because I love football and frankly I can’t afford to pay £75 (and the rest) every Saturday to watch a premiership game. This writer, Amol Rajan, is The Independent’s Sports News Correspondent, and tries to put his finger on just what’s wrong with the programme. He’s nearly there I think. I like the highlights, but hate the pundits.
The very first Match of the Day highlights package was broadcast on 22 August 1964 and it featured only one match – Liverpool v Arsenal at Anfield.
Saturday’s Match of the Day programme covered seven matches but only one headline-stealer. Just like that summer night 45 years ago, it was the Liverpool fans greedily glued to their TV screens to watch their side win a five-goal thriller.
Were the BBC’s standards of editorial excellence higher then or has “MOTD” always disappointed (which may explain its substitution by basketball highlights in the mid-eighties)?
Like hundreds of millions across the globe, I watched the game live on TV and, like most of the Premier League’s global audience; I witnessed Liverpool start the match with the sort of vibrancy they normally reserve for Real Madrid at home.
Nine hours later, I joined 3.5 million people to watch the BBC regurgitate this season’s finest football lesson; but rather than approach the task with the care and relish of an Emperor Penguin feeding her chick, the BBC approached it with all the regurgitating relish of a recent diner to Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant – say Jim Rosenthal for context and relevance.
At lunchtime Liverpool dominate possession for the first 20 minutes, as Rafa Benitez set about his game plan of starving Manchester United of the ball, disabling the effectiveness of Ferguson’s introduction of Anderson and Carlos Tevez’s energy to the side. Then, when the opportunity arose, Liverpool – through Skrtel, Hypia, Lucas and Reina – four times caught United’s defenders dreaming of quintuples with what can only be described as a series of devastating Garryowens.
On Match of the Day, those first twenty minutes ceased to exist.
According to the programme editors they had no relevance to the narrative that Benitez had crafted with all the intricacies of a footballing Tom Stoppard. But the culling of the first quarter of the game made the watching experience akin to turning up twenty minutes late to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and hoping to understand what the hell is going on.
Match of the Day is failing in its public service remit. I was lucky enough to see the game live and be shocked by its misrepresentation, for many others that was their one chance to view the footage and the BBC failed to tell the whole story. This isn’t the first time and it is far from being MOTD’s only failing but it is glaring and relevant.
But do you agree and how would you change the programme to make it not only more representative of what happens on the pitch but also more representative of what happens throughout the league in general?