THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

26 June ~ The departure of Mark Bolton from Sky Sports after his contract was not renewed sums up much of what is wrong with much of the coverage of football on television. Bolton hosted the network’s Spanish football broadcasts, Revista de la Liga, with Guillem Balague for the past six years and the pair’s easy chemistry made watching the show a much more pleasurable experience than its Premier League equivalent, Match of the Day. Bolton, Balague and regular guest Graham Hunter had a depth of knowledge of their topic unmatched by the rest of the pundits on television.

There were no Alan Shearer-style “he’ll be disappointed with that” moments here, instead an unashamed delight in the minutiae of La Liga, from Barcelona on down. The conversation was intelligent, mature and at times – whisper it – genuinely funny, Bolton’s links a far cry from Gary Lineker’s show-ending puns. Compared to the increasingly nauseating 19th hole of the golf course that has become Match of the Day, Revista was something to look forward to.

You could reasonably expect to learn something from watching, be it the latest transfer news from the well-connected Balague and Hunter, informed discussion of a team’s tactics and selection or an opposing viewpoint to the consensus. Revista was a show for people who were genuinely interested in football outside of the screaming Premier League or soul-destroying Champions League, who cared about the game more than every four years during a dismal World Cup, and who wanted coverage to match.

Instead, while James Richardson is consigned to the Guardian’s Football Weekly podcast, we are left with Lineker’s smugness, the bumbling Adrian Chiles on ITV and a revolving cast of interchangeable Sky Sports News presenters. The monotony of the latter is broken only by Jeff Stelling, but even he loses some of his zest when transported from the Soccer Saturday boys’ club to a live Champions League broadcast.

Then there is Colin Murray, victim of a humour-bypass when swapping the Radio 5 Live studio for Match of the Day 2, and amiable old uncle Ray Stubbs on ESPN. Stubbs is the forefather of the bland Sky Sports News roster that now populates the airwaves. The vacuous horror of Ben Shepherd, meanwhile, is just too grim a prospect to consider.

Revista was a ray of sunshine in a dark world, a place to escape the inanity that has pervaded football discussion on television, as much the fault of the medium as the channels themselves. By chasing away the broadcasters that could offer a deeper analysis of events, the channels that cover football are perpetuating a banal status quo. Andrew Tuft

Comments (9)
Comment by Bobby Westside 2011-06-26 14:15:35

Laura Esposto & James Richardson would be ten times the pressenters of Match of the Day 2 or C5/ITV7.5 Europa League Coverage

Comment by Analogue Bubblebath II 2011-06-26 14:29:27

Balague and Hunter are a pair of spoofers interested primarily in presenting themselves as "in the know".

But Bolton was good, and will be missed.

Comment by sharon 2011-06-26 19:51:59

Although Balague is a bit too keen to demonstrate himself as friend of the stars, he and Hunter do seem to have good contacts with many of the top names in football, unless that degree of private communication isn't unusual (I don't know).

As for the touting of Laura Esposto, I can only assume you're thinking with your other head.

Comment by ian.64 2011-06-27 07:57:48

Bolton himself tweeted that he was sacked because of his 'anti-authoritarianism', which sounds absolutely idiotic if true. Strange because on those occasions I've watched him, overthrowing the status quo and fermenting revolution was hard to see through all those post-match discussions about whether the game should pick up in the second half or whether Casillas could've done better instead of punching it out.

But then Sky is part of Rupe's stable that includes Fox News, where conformity and subserviance is a lunatic obligation.

Comment by ian.64 2011-06-27 08:11:59

Or should that be 'fomenting'? Cuh, I dunno.

Comment by JM Footzee 2011-06-27 11:52:03

I wasn't aware this initially came out on the 3rd June, with him claiming it was his decision to end the contract. http://www.twitlonger.com/show/asmjkb

But then we got this on the 22nd. "Sky Sports told me Im "Very talented & excellent on screen" but that Im "Anti-authoritarian" & that they'd decided to not renew my contract." http://twitter.com/#!/BoltonMark/status/83474199745794051

Wonder what prompted him to speak publicly on the matter.

Comment by Taylor 2011-06-27 16:16:25

Bolton is that unusual broadcaster, a guy who comes over as a total twat but is still very likable. Worked well, I thought.

Comment by Dalef65 2011-06-27 17:35:41

Theres a back handed compliment if ever I saw one....

Comment by MoeTheBarman 2011-06-27 21:49:34

"As for the touting of Laura Esposto, I can only assume you're thinking with your other head."

Lol!

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