Friday 20 February ~

The BBC has a knack of upsetting Premier League clubs. It emerged that following Fulham's 3-0 defeat at Old Trafford on Wednesday night, the club's head of communications Sarah Brooks stepped in and prevented Radio 5 Live from talking to the manager, Roy Hodgson. Fulham fans, already on edge at the ease with which Rooney and co swept their team aside, took exception to the commentary of Alan Green and hit the message boards to protest. "Alan Green's comments about Fulham appalled some of our fans," said Brooks. "Remarks like 'Fulham should not have bothered to turn up' were insulting. In those circumstances, I didn't feel it appropriate for 5 Live to speak to our manager." 

One of the least expletive outcries on the club's official website invited 5 Live to "turn up a day before the match and do their commentary", while the mildest description of the controversy-courting Green was "a mix between Shrek and Benny Hill". The Irishman has regularly been spotlighted for his opinionated and often rash commentary, which in the past has touched upon issues both social (the morals of Liverpudlians) and racial (Sun Jihai and Chicken Chow Mein) which his employers would be keen to avoid. Elsewhere, BBC investigations into the corruption of transfers, agents and bungs has landed the broadcaster in trouble with Harry Redknapp, Alex Ferguson and Sam Allardyce. They all complained loudly about unfair treatment but rather than go to court to defend themselves, they now ignore the broadcaster altogether. Ironically, those who which suffer most from this non-cooperation are the mild-mannered Gary Lineker and his comrades on Match of the Day, and their audience, who must instead turn to Sky to catch any comments from the aforementioned managers.

One might wonder why Sky succeeds so well in maintaining good relationships with football people when they feature comparatively much more opinion-oriented content, on Sky Sports News, or on shows such as Sunday Supplement and Goals on Sunday. Perhaps it is the laddish, less formal atmosphere. But informality can lead to sloppiness as is regularly seen in the commentary faux-pas on Super Sunday. Andy Gray's playing exploits may have earned him an entry into broadcasting, but he remains ignorant of the fact that the name of Chelsea's Portuguese full-back is "Bosingwa" and not "Boswinger". He is not the only culprit of this grating case of media dyslexia. If "Jermaine Jenas" is in fact "Jermaine Jaynus", what chance does Jeremy Aliadiere have? Commentary is a tough job, but it can be made a whole lot easier. Boxing announcers take the effort to approach the competitors' representatives for clarification on pronunciation. If only their football counterparts were as diligent.

Across west London, and almost two years after the first game of football was played at Ireland's Croke Park, the home of another sport is at risk of invasion. Twickenham, "rugby's HQ" in the minds of certain English commentators, is being targeted as a potential venue in the bid to host the 2018 World Cup. The arena's attraction is doubled by the fact that it has a £10 million hotel installed in its South Stand. FIFA is said to demand that a bidding country has at least ten potential stages for the world's finest to perform. While the FA would welcome the addition of England's second-largest stadium to their portfolio, this would involve three venues, including Wembley and the Emirates, being based in one city. And this is without taking into account that Chelsea and Tottenham will also hope to have new grounds by then – or so they claim. Chris Towers

Comments (2)
Comment by statto99 2009-02-20 21:47:56

I'm afraid that, unless I'm very much mistaken, both Harry Redknapp and Sam Allardyce have recommenced talking to the BBC, Redknapp around February 2008 and Allardyce last December after he took the Blackburn job (though almost immediately there was a contretemps with Five Live over a controversial Roque Santa Cruz interview). Sir Ferg would appear to be the final standout, though even he gave BBC Scotland a few words in 2007 after a personal visit to Dunfermline Athletic.

One thing I have noticed is that, since these groundbreaking self-imposed silences, more and more teams whose managers have no official problem with the BBC seem to be sending assistants out to talk to Match of the Day. This seems to cause no outcry in much the same way that nobody now seems that bothered by anybody fielding a less than full strength side in a domestic cup competition after Sir Ferg and a few others were initially hauled over the coals for such practises.

Comment by ian.64 2009-02-22 12:07:08

[i]One might wonder why Sky succeeds so well in maintaining good relationships with football people when they feature comparatively much more opinion-oriented content, on Sky Sports News, or on shows such as Sunday Supplement and Goals on Sunday. Perhaps it is the laddish, less formal atmosphere.[/i]

Or it could be that it's best not to cause too much fuss and rancour with football's present paymasters and their media outlets, whereas the BBC, long since being a power in sports broadcasting, are perhaps easier to muck about with and dismiss.

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