By Tony Attwood
Of course if you enjoy football on Sky, the BBC, ITV or BT Sprout you’ll disagree with my headline, but I do find broadcast media’s commentary on football – be it live matches or in discussions or reviews of games – completely unrelated to my experience of football as an actual spectator going to games. Indeed I could go further – it is alien to my experience – and that involves going to Arsenal, Leicester, Torquay United, Kettering Town, Corby Town, Poole Town…
So it was that while meandering around the supermarket this Sunday lunchtime trying to think of what food I actually need in the house, I began to lose focus on my shopping and think on this subject.
Of course that meant that as a result I have now come home with a whole array of food that I don’t actually need, while forgetting to buy the stuff I went out in the rain specifically to buy. But as a bonus, I’ve found a subject that quite intrigues me.
I guess what really brought it up was the way in which it would have been quite possible to write the commentaries that all the media offered us in the wake of the troubles in Marseilles, in advance of the whole Uefa thing starting. That led me to think, “how could that be?” and from there a thesis began to develop.
The problem with broadcast TV and radio covering football is that it is run by combination of ex-players (usually but not exclusively in subservient roles) and the dominant “expert commentators” and “expert summarisers”. Now it doesn’t take long to find out what is missing from that list: the fans. The people who actually pay for football by going to games.
Of course the broadcasters will say that they do allow the fans to have a say, on phone ins. Except that the people who do phone in are then carefully selected by the media, and their input is carefully controlled by the “experts” who always have the last word. On the few occasions that the fan can make a point that floors the “expert” the programme anchor then says, “well thank you. A different point of view there. Now John from Stoke. What’s your point John?”
The “different point of view” is lost. It doesn’t fit the agenda. Back to the dominant vision.
So in simple terms, what happens is that the “experts” selected by the media get vast amounts of time to express their visions of what football is about, while the fans don’t.
No you could argue that this is how it should be, because the experts are either professional commentators or ex-players, and so they know what football is about. The fans are amateurs; they are biased (in that they are supporters), incoherent, and lacking in detailed knowledge (because by and large people who are coherent and knowledgeable know that they are going to be edited out, and that any point which can’t be established in two sentences is not going to get a look in.).
And when we have the likes of the manifestation known as “Savage” repeatedly describing callers repeated as “Pathetic” and being given the last word, anyone with an IQ of anything knows he/she isn’t going to get much of a chance to contradict the dominant view within the mainstream of commentary.
When you think about it this is actually strange. The people who pay for football (either by going to the games or subscribing to a TV channel or by paying their licence fee) are effectively excluded from a discussion the agenda of which is utterly dominate by the media. No wonder they are increasingly removed from the reality those of us who go to games experience.
Indeed this is the explanation as to why more of the interesting debate has moved away from the media to the blogs.
The media will not, and indeed cannot, accept that their vision of what is interesting and important in football, could ever be challenged. They know. They are the experts. They act exactly like The Party in “1984”, and the churches in Mediaeval Europe; the people who decide what is knowledge and what is not.
So they become increasingly irrelevant to those of us who go to games and think about football in its broadest context. Issues of interest to thoughtful fans are set aside and the agenda set by the ex-players and expert commentators is continued no matter what as the gibberish is maintained.
It is, in short, as if we, the people who pay for it all, don’t exist.
By way of example, let me give a few of the phrases said by commentator and co-commentator in the Turkey v Croatia game which is on ITV as I write. Here are a few said across a couple of minutes.
- He just about kept it in.
- The pressure is being mounted up here
- Very strong now Croatia
- They’ve got Turkey penned back in now
- Two yellow cards will mean a suspension.
- Your arms are up of course they are there up.
- Let’s keep an eye on things.
- Nobody does this job if they want to do it.
One must, I suppose, say thank you to these poor saps churning out this nonsense, and indeed their producers and directors who think that somehow those of us who like football, who go to football games, feel this is adequate.
And of course this is not just today’s game. By chance I had on TV a discussion on yesterday and made a note of two things I heard before I gave up and took my life into my own hands by driving through the most dangerous set of roads in the UK. These included
- Well I mean its a decent ball in in theory
- Well the first tackle oh no this is the chance this is the tackle its a stupid tackle there’s no need he’s hight up the pitch you’ve got to look at the ball
My point is, TV and radio commentary and comments after a game, are now utterly and totally irrelevant to many football supporters who actually go to games. They know that TV and radio commentary (live and in discussion) on football has nothing whatsoever to their everyday experience.
Indeed as we have shown over the years, even the editing of live matches removes the game from the reality of what actually happens in the stadium.
The mass media serves to remove us all from football, portraying their own visions of football which are utterly alien from the experience that most of us have when we go to games. The distance between fans who go to games and the media is huge, and getting bigger by the day.
Ultimately we need to treat the broadcasters with the contempt with which they treat us.
- The aftermath: England media blame the Russian media, Twitter blames Tottenham, I avoid the local police
- Why is it that when Arsenal goes for a player something always goes wrong?
- Memo from editor: It’s the Euros. Make sure you knock Arsenal and its fans at every turn
- Accounting regulations make club finances hard to compare, but Arsenal are going in the right direction.
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- The Arsenal Yankee by Danny Karbassiyoon with a foreword by Arsene Wenger.
- Arsenal: the long sleep 1953 – 1970; a view from the terrace. By John Sowman with an introduction by Bob Wilson.
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football. By Tony Attwood, Andy Kelly and Mark Andrews.
- Making the Arsenal: a novel by Tony Attwood.
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal by Mark Andrews.
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