Has the BBC abandoned live football?

From Henry Winter, Daily Telegraph
The nation’s most famous commentator, John Motson, was not chosen by the BBC to cover England’s friendly in Paris last week. Motty sat at home, kicking his heels, as Jonathan Pearce chronicled English travails.

The BBC has always had commentators duelling for the top games, but what should alarm every member of the Corporation’s distinguished football department is that they are being abandoned by management. Live matches will soon disappear from BBC screens.

As Setanta considers offering Motson (pictured above at last year’s SJA Journalism awards with Jamie Redknapp and the Mail‘s Lee Clayton) some live action, bringing a celebrated voice to their burgeoning operation, Auntie blithely contents herself with getting her highlights done. Only when Motson and his sheepskin coat appear on satellite will people wake up to the reality of the BBC’s surrender in the battle for football.

Next season the BBC will have no FA Cup nor England fare. It was outbid for the Champions League. The Uefa Cup is up for grabs, but the Beeb faces competition from those feisty boys at Five and can anyone really envisage Alan Hansen giving his expert opinion on Portsmouth versus Nantes? Unbelievable.

By refusing to invest in live football, the BBC has let down Hansen, Motson, Pearce and the rest of a football unit who do live games brilliantly when given the chance. Gary Lineker is an outstanding presenter, witty, articulate and possessed of a footballing CV that grants him instant authority. Hansen’s comments make headlines and terrace mantras.

The supporting cast, particularly rising stars like Lee Dixon, also impresses. Adrian Chiles has proved such an engaging compere of Match of the Day 2 that ITV pursues him with a passion.

As well as wasting the abilities of such accomplished employees, the BBC has also failed badly in their statutory duty to serve viewers, more of whom want to see 11 Englishmen play football, however badly, than one Englishman, Lewis Hamilton, chase Formula 1 glory.

For all the BBC spin, for all the happy stories about Hamilton and Top Gear‘s Richard Hammond entertaining the nation, the fact remains that the BBC went into the big, bad jungle of televised football rights and got eaten alive.

Read the rest of Winter’s commentary by clicking here

Join the SJA today – click here for details and membership application form