For as long as anyone can remember, it has been common practice in UK football broadcasting to hire cliche-mumbling ex-professionals who bore viewers on a regular basis.
TV producers believe that only veterans who have been there and done it can provide insight into the game. Sometimes they do, but fans also have to put up with mind-numbingly obvious analysis from pundits such as Jamie Redknapp and Michael Owen.
It’s a failed logic, that being an expert at playing the game automatically makes you an expert at reading and talking about it. Within weeks of their retirement, the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Paul Scholes are placed on our screens.
Producers must have had no idea if they will do well or not, but the logic applied because they were great players.
Last year Sky ran endless adverts announcing that Thierry Henry was joining their ‘team’, highlighting some of his mesmerising goals and rightfully showing that he was one of the greatest players our league has ever seen.
However, his main contribution has been lots of long, rambling sentences that has offered little or zero input into the games we’ve been watching.
Of course, it’s wrong to pretend that only one type of footballer-turned-pundit exists. In the latest generation there are several that offer a lot to their viewers, the likes of Jermaine Jenas, Danny Higginbotham and Gary Neville (before his step into management) stand out.
The reason for this is because they clearly do their research and try to offer more than just the obvious analysis that any true fan can already see.
“Fans don’t want to be treated like children who don’t understand the game because they never played it professionally”
Despite an increase in these type of pundits over recent years, broadcasters have still stuck to their old ways, picking mundane legends of the game for the top live games.
And this is why BT Sport’s European goals show has been such a welcome addition to the sporting television schedules.
The show is anchored by James Richardson, a fan favourite ever since he hosted Channel 4’s Football Italia show in the 1990s, supported by journalists Julien Laurens, Rafael Honigstein and James Horncastle.
Right off the bat, you can see that all of these guys know what they’re talking about – they offer a real depth of knowledge of players and teams that most English viewers will not know much about.
However it’s not just the fact that they’re journalists and not ex-pros that makes them so valuable. There’s a real chemistry at work as they debate teams, players, managers, clubs and the game itself. They’re also very comfortable in front of the camera, an attribute that is often overlooked in this industry.
The same team also feature in BT Sport’s Champions League goals show, a programme that British TV has needed for a long time.
Similar to the NFL’s Redzone, it offers viewers the option of watching the best bits from every game as it happens. A very simple and effective idea that no one has come up with in the UK until now.
The programme is great however because it offers so much more than just highlights of the goals as they go in. Julian, Rafael and James give viewers the chance to learn about these great European teams we have been in awe of for so many years.
For far too long coverage of European games in this country has focused fully on the English teams involved – understandable perhaps a few years ago but less forgivable these days.
English fans already know all there is to know about their teams, and are enquiring enough to want to learn more about why an impressive Borussia Dortmund side won, than why Tottenham lost.
Fans don’t want to be treated like children who don’t understand the game because they never played it professionally.
They want knowledge from people who know what they’re talking about, have worked hard to get to the top of their profession and who are deep down, fans who love and are invested in the game as much as us.
That’s a criteria that BT Sport’s European coverage has met perfectly. It’s the perfect example of what an industry has needed for a long time.
Image courtesy of soccershouts