World Cup television coverage leaves a lot to be desired

By Paul Hurst

television camera

Ten days into the tournament and the standard of the football has finally picked up, but the level of UK television coverage is getting even worse.

ITV started the ball rolling during the England-USA game where viewers on ITV HD, instead of seeing Steven Gerrard slide the ball home past Tim Howard, were treated to an advertisement for sponsors Hyundai.

This was especially embarrassing for the broadcaster who managed to do exactly the same thing during the Merseyside derby last year, cutting to a commercial break when Dan Gosling scored Everton’s extra-time winner.

However, such a faux pas simply masks the real elephant in the room when it comes to this year’s World Cup coverage; the shambolic standard of punditry that viewers are having to put up with.

After his much-vaunted channel switch, it has already become apparent that Adrian Chiles’ MOTD2 shtick really does not translate well to a live broadcast where his job to press ‘star footballing guests’ for their insights.

However it is difficult to single out either channel on this point, when the standard has been equally poor.

The number of times viewers have heard phrases such as “we don’t know a great deal about this lot” from the respective panels is quite laughable from broadcasters who are supposed to be doing a professional job of covering an event that only occurs once every four years.

The likes of Shearer, Southgate, McCarthy and co. are being paid good money to offer insight and analysis, but day after day viewers are treated to little more than the usual tired clichés.

An admission of not having much knowledge about the sides playing is a sign that they should perhaps be doing a little homework before the matches so that they do have something meaningful to say.

Not being able to speak with authority on who is the best candidate to fill the left-back position for North Korea in a 4-5-1 formation is fair enough, but not being able to even name players in a team in England’s group?

What compounds the situation is that, as a panel, they seem to revel in their own ignorance of the situation; a sign that this is not just an isolated issue, but that they are all in the same boat. When one panellist does appear to show some knowledge, the other members invariably make some kind of joke about it.

This was the case when Danny Baker joined the BBC studio following the evening match earlier in the week. Often overlooked in discussions listing the top football pundits, Baker is someone who manages to combine humour with genuine knowledge of the game.

In the studio, he managed to speak more sense in one minute than we have had from certain pundits in one week. Unsurprisingly, his insight was met by jokes from the rest of the panel, led by Shearer.

Along with Baker, Roy Hodgson is another notable exception, often saying things worth listening to. However, those two aside, there are not many more worth mention.

For a tournament like the World Cup, viewers deserve good coverage. Is even a cursory glance at the tournament media guide really too much to ask of those being paid to entertain and inform us?

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