My letter to the BBC Re Football Pundits and Commentary.
About 5 minutes after posting this i wished i had written a better letter. The subject matter is probably the thing that annoys me more than anything else in football. Punditry and co-commentary. 99% of what is provided is truly terrible. So as soon as id put it in the postbox i wished id made references to people like Sid Waddell (the legendary dart commentator) or to Steve Cram and his commentary on Mo Farah’s double Olympic glory or even Football Italia and Fantasy football (to some extent) from way back when. What ever way you look at it, something needs to change. Having Martin Keown and Mark Lawerenceson as co-comentators throughout the Euro’s basically summed it up. Dull, lifeless and 100% disinterested. What ever happened to the Jonathan Pearce who i used to listen to as a kid on the radio when there wasnt wall to wall TV coverage? Because that guy was as enthusiastic as they come, now hes a watered down BBC puppet.
I don’t have the answers, but the question needs to be asked. Not just by the BBC but by all stations with football coverage. Sky TV revolutionised sport on television, but it now needs to evolve.
Head of TV Sport
PO Box 1922
10 August 2012
I am writing to you as feel that you need to make a stand with regards the quality of punditry in the national sport of this country, Football.
The quality of punditry in football generally, not just on your channel is widely seen as being dull as well as lacking insight and knowledge on the subject. The main reason I feel for this is that 99% of pundits (majority of which are late 40’s – 50’s ex-footballers) simply lack enthusiasm, have clearly fallen out of love with the game or are jealous of the fact that they missed out on the ridiculous money that is around the game in the modern day. This is reflected in the way they discuss or commentate on football.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are some exceptional pundits working in television today. Also I am not saying punditry has got worse over time. It is probably as good as it has ever been. Much like referees. These guys are constantly under the spotlight and any gaffs are magnified. Particularly due to media, social networking and the internet etc.. usually by people like me, who think they know more than people who have played the game. That said, change is needed.
It would be pretty easy to list quotes from the pundits to highlight their misgivings. So I wont, with the exception of my personal favourite from the recent European Championships. During one of Spains games at half time, long time BBC pundit Alan Hansen said ‘Spains passing has been appalling’. Yes, he said appalling! I think you’ll agree that you would be hard pushed to describe even the worse passing performance of Spain in recent years as anything other than exceptional even on a bad night. With regards to your own stable of pundits, many are well past they sell-by date. Hansen re-uses the same 5 or 6 sentences every week and Lawrenson shows a real lack of respect for the viewers with a disinterested style. The less about Shearer the better. The irony is that Lineker seems to give the impression that he would be a fairly sound pundit given the chance on the other side of the desk.
The world has changed and times has moved on from when a simple chat was sufficient. This is a generation where information is assessable and simply saying it’s been a game of two halfs or all manner of football cliques just does not cut the mustard anymore. Remember fans can retrieve all manner of statistics even on their phones these days in real time. Fans want helpful, distinctive, insightful and detailed analysis presented in an enthusiastic manner.
A simple comparison can be made to the printed form that sport is reported on my trained journalists. They may not be ex players, but that do have the suitable grasp of the English language and a passion for the game as well as utilising the information available. These people are widely respected throughout the game. Whilst ex-players do have columns in the newspaper, they are usually superfluous to the mainstream sports news.
I think there needs to be a rethink. We need people with enthusiasm for the game from grass root level to the top with a worldwide knowledge of the game who can express this information visually. Why do they need to be ex-players? The right people are out there. Punditry and commentary should be a specialist area full of characters, not a fall back plan for retired players. There is room for ex-players as pundits as they can give an insight from a player’s perspective, but it should not be the mandatory qualification to be a pundit and should only be for the exceptional characters. As a side note what the game desperately needs is for ex-players to be retained within the game. Top stars with vast experience re-trained as coaches and referees. This is something that would revolutionise football in the UK, but due to punditry they can take the easy way out and the game suffers as a consequence.
I am writing to you the BBC as a taxpayer. As someone who contributes to the funding you receive. Remember the sport is the star of the show and you should facilitate that in the best possible way to us with the best experience possible. Be brave, make a stand and change punditry.