SJA member and first sports editor of the BBC, Mihir Bose, is interviewed by The Guardian‘s James Silver
While there is no suggestion that Mihir Bose got the job of the BBC’s first sports editor for any other reason than simply being the best man for it, it does seem fair to ask why he thinks the BBC suddenly felt it needed a sports news editor at all, having rubbed along perfectly well without one all these years?
“I think the BBC recognises that sports coverage has changed,” he replies.
“They haven’t covered sports news in the way newspapers have been covering it – in the way I’ve been doing it myself for a long time.” Interest in sport – events in the boardrooms and shadowy backrooms, as much as those on the field of play – Bose argues, is ever-growing and he will be expected to generate original journalism, as well as provide “analysis and context” across the range of news outlets, in his new role.
“When I was a kid the only live televised match was the FA Cup final and although I could name the Tottenham double team, I didn’t know who the chairman was, nor did I care to. Today, the board meeting at Liverpool [about Dubai International Capital’s takeover bid for Liverpool FC] is news. Fans follow their sport intimately.
“I think the BBC have been covering the ‘diary’ events very well, but I don’t think they …” he stops, careful not to criticise his new colleagues by implication. “They have done [‘off -diary’ sport stories and investigations] on Panorama but I don’t think they’ve done them on a regular basis. There are many ‘diary’ stories to be reported and [news bosses] probably wanted somebody to come in as a bit of a pundit and leader of the team, in some ways, and take an overview.”
Bose’s reputation as an investigative reporter means that he will be under pressure to deliver occasional scoops. The 2012 London Olympics, the shortcomings of sport’s governing bodies, foreign ownership of football clubs, as well as that hardy perennial, corruption in the transfer market, will all, he agrees, be fertile territory. However, that type of journalism earns a reporter enemies fast and can cause serious problems for colleagues too.
There is no better example of this than Sir Alex Ferguson’s steadfast refusal to speak to any BBC journalist since a 2004 BBC3 documentary made allegations about his son Jason’s involvement in transfer deals. Bose claims he is prepared to be unpopular both inside and outside the corporation. “That is the risk the BBC is taking.” But is it a risk worth taking? “Depends how good the stories are,” he laughs. “I was asked this question at my interview. My answer was it lives or dies by the story. The fact BBC Sport’s access may or may not be denied [as a result] is another matter. I will have to try and convince [colleagues] ‘Listen, this is a good story’.” He quickly inserts a caveat: “I’m not claiming I’m going to break any stories, by the way – that’s something you can’t predict at any time.”