The media is a wonderful thing. It gives information on absolutely everything, whether it be the country where the next opponent to put a Scottish team out of Europe will be from or the average attendance at Borough Briggs in 1923. It creates debate, forces opinion and provides a smorgasbord of avenues to keep up to date with the game we all know and love.
Internet, Social Media, Radio, Newspapers, Apps for your Phone and even television all contribute. Television is, in the case of the BBC, a publicly funded entity designed to provide everybody with fair and affordable access to a wide variety of events. Take The Premiership for example, dependent on how far away the journey to the match is a Saturday morning usually starts with an episode of Saturday Morning Kitchen followed by Football Focus a programme designed for discussing all the big issues across football in the UK that week.
In the afternoon they have Final Score with updates from around the grounds and a couple of ex pro’s , unfortunately including Garth Crooks, giving analysis on the action as it happens. Of course it’s a blatant rip off of the Jeff Stelling Juggernaut on Sky but still a good idea none the less. Then in the evening you have Match of The Day followed by The Football League Show a full three and a half hours of football covering every game in England. The MOTD studio screams, ‘this is a big deal’, the presenter Gary Lineker brings the right level of gravitas and charisma while the established set of summarisers, including the likes of Lee Dixon and Alan Hansen, bring a knowledge and a familiarity that means although not always right their opinions are respected.
The coverage done gives The Premiership that big league feel. Every game has its own moment in the sun whether it be Manchester United mauling Arsenal or Stoke scoring a disputed winner at The Hawthorns. There is a commentator for each match. The coverage itself does not feel rushed but in keeping with the events of the particular game being covered. They have a post match interview with both managers and any key protagonists in the game and then back in the studio it is for further discussion.
It’s not a hard format to replicate. Case in point: MOTD2, aside from its occasional tendency to fancy itself as a light-entertainment show on a Sunday night it too provides all the same things that makes MOTD so great. A host with a drop of charisma, a regular summarising team and discussion on the big points of the day.
The thing is if this is so easy to replicate, as has been proven, then what the hell is Sportscene all about!? There is great debate as to how the SPL is perceived across Europe and in particular down south and after watching the mammoth 45 minutes of coverage on Sunday night (15 minutes less than the MOTD ‘B’ Show) I was left with the opinion that no one here cares so why should anyone else. I’m not asking for the world here, I understand financially it makes no sense have a Scottish version of The Football League Show. I doubt they would count viewing figures in the hundreds but really is that the best we can come up with for the top level of our national sport.
Lets break it down, the studio looks like somebody has decided to have a go at one of those Big Make’s they do on Blue Peter although I will argue with anyone that the papier-mache Tracey Island is an architectural masterpeice against the current Sportscene studio.
The lead anchors Rob MacLean ad David Currie although passable always seem to be just going through the motions, and some of the questions they dole out to the ‘experts’ beside them leave you wondering, ‘did he just ask that’? Chick Young may talk nonsense 75% of the time but at least you know he cares. The majority hate the english media for its incessant bravado about how ‘The Premiership’ is the best in the world and how England are going to win every major tournament but at least it shows a passion for their product. Watching Rob and David plod through Final Score and Sportscene you can almost see the cogs turning saying ‘are we done yet?’.
Although they are not helped by what they get given to work with. Footballers in the most part are a pretty lethargic lot when it comes to intelligent conversation, Scottish footballers even more so. No offence to Callum Davidson, a solid full back but absolutely nothing he said enhanced any discussions that were attempting to be made. That’s another point,a discussion is not just two people it’s a conversation. A presenter, who isn’t allowed to have no opinion for the sake of impartiality, and a pundit/player/manager who has one opinion and no one to disagree with. Let’s be honest unless Pat Nevin decide’s he’s got nothing better to do then you’re as well sticking it on mute and doing the summarising yourself with your mates. Bring in a bank of 4 or 5 ex players, managers, referees or whatever with actual opinions and have two on a week to create a livelier programme. At the moment it’s like watching two people round at their Gran’s too scared to ask to turn the volume up.
Saying that it’s not like they actually get a lot to talk about,.I tuned in ten minutes late the other night and missed the ENTIRE highlights package for the Edinburgh Derby. That ten minutes would have included an introduction and some kind of preview package as well. At least that game got a commentator and the managers got to say their piece on proceedings but what about Dunfermline v Motherwell fro example. A six goal thriller covered in 3 minutes with a Jonathan Sutherland voiceover, that right the bloke that reads the emails out. Did we get to hear how Jim McIntyre felt about losing his unbeaten start or how far Stuart McCall feels his team can last the pace> Of course not. Also is there really such a dearth of Scottish Commentators that Rob MacLean has to do a handover to himself, as is the weekly occurrence for whatever game he was covering. Conversations like, ‘Hi Rob’, ‘Thanks Rob’, ‘Good Game Rob?’, ‘I thought so Rob’, ‘Bye Rob.’, really do whet the appetite don’t they?
How can the media bang on about how nobody has any pride in the Scottish game when they themselves are responsible for a programme and a format that makes the SPL look like nothing more than an after thought in the minds of the BBC. I understand there are restrictions in place and but that isn’t excuse for poor formatting, poor production and a general malaise that is only reflective of the national feeling about the SPL because there is nothing being done to change that perception.
I’m not a BBC basher, I think Sportsound and Open All Mics are two of the best pieces of sports coverage out there. I also think that Richard Gordon comes across as a knowledgable and intelligent anchor while at the same time not being afraid to muscle in with an opinion if he sees fit. I think the BBC website although lacking in true depth when it comes to the Scottish Lower Leagues is informative and functional and my only real gripe is the removal of 606 because people mistook a public forum for debate as a venue to slag off your rivals.
If I am wrong and people think that Sportscene is fine the way it is then I bow to your opinion. Your wrong but I respect it. The BBC have a responsibility to produce quality television for our licence fee and although the SPL may not have the Aguero’s, Torres’s and Rooney’s of this world, it still has the ability to serve up enough entertainment and debate for people to make it worth shouting about again.