[Frontpage] Self-Censorship Robs the English of Realistic Expectations and More

With the English football team yet again looking as likely to succeed as a Fianna Fáiler with a sense of social responsibility, the role of the English media in the latest collapse bears careful examination. Their astounding ability to detach themselves from reality has long made English punditry a laughing stock, but have their delusions caused more damage than we could previously have imagined?

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Good effort WTB.

RTÉ reckon North Korea aren’t far behind England. You won’t hear them saying that on BBC or ITV.

Hard to say whether the media and the resultant hype affects how a team plays but it can’t help I’d say. They’ve never really approached a ttournament with realistic expectations and their blindness to their deficiencies is galling.

I think the media had an influence with Sven who seemed very independent at first but soon conformed to the regular English style and personnel. Capello looks to be his own man but he won’t last in the job without the support of the media and it’s a media that doesn’t do reasonableness or rationale.

Ended up watching the highlights of the England game on BBC on Saturday night so saw their analysis rather than ITV’s. To be fair, they gave what seemed an honest enough assessment. Didn’t keep the ball well enough, no chance of beating a quality team playing like that, etc.

Andy Gray had a piece in yesterdays star saying that the English team is overrated, credit to him…

But I agree, even watching the difference in the comments Graeme Souness makes on RTE’s champions league coverage and skys are worlds apart…

I’ve heard other people say that about Souness and I don’t think it’s true. I think he’s always very good on Sky. I think people just have a perception that no-one ever says anything interesting on Sky, because to be fair they usually don’t, so they don’t really listen to them.

I don’t think RTE should be held up as the standard either. Far from it. They’ve definitely put all their eggs in the entertainment basket. The sheer cliche ridden banality of football analysis has almost become the standard now though. With us it’s more annoying, but with the english it’s a bigger problem.

RTÉ aren’t exempt alright, and sometimes they play the negative role too much, but at least it’s blindness by foolishness. The suspicion in England is that it might be editorially suggested that you support the national line.

One thing that’s missing from football is good statistical analysis too. RTÉ are reasonably good at analysing goals to be fair and picking out who did what in that move. I don’t understand why we don’t get passing stats, distance run etc when they’re available to the broadcast media. They’d tell an awful lot.

RTE are far from exempt but more often than not they call a spade a spade and cut through the bullshit, especially after poor performances from sides although as you say they play the negative role a bit too much and too much hysterics/hyperbole…

Braz when was the last time you seen Sky pundits disagree with each other and have what you could even consider a mildly heated debate…more often than not it is the same bland shite over and over again, although their research is head and shoulders better than RTE’s which is a serious let down

For example Appiah and Sulley Muntari were both missing from the Ghana side the other day and are big players for them and were excellent at the 2006 WC, rte didn’t even mention them and just talked about Essien, the first thing Clive Tysldley said was that the two lads were bigs losses

Old players and the like are massively suspicious of these though and they have big control over the coverage. Imagine Johnny Giles throwin the eyes up to heaven if someone tried to disprove him with stats. It’s a big problem in gaa too.

I don’t think fear of statistics is something that should be accommodated though. I definitely agree regarding their use in Gaa. Given the pace of hurling games in particular an awful lot of stuff goes under the radar.

Probably a more fundamental point though is whether programme directors have any interest in expanding the analysis aspect of sports coverage. On the sunday game, there is little or no analysis from the three chief analysts on the live programme. It’s obviously just about the personalities and their generic views rather than the content of the games.

Creating celebrity personalities is the name of the game. Look at Hook and Pope.

I find that the ‘debate’ among these pundits is more about creating heat than light and as WTB says, creating ‘personalities’. Sky’s coverage is dreadful, but so is RTÉ’s in a different way. I try to avoid all of them now, and will only watch them if I don’t have control of the remote and am too lazy to leave the room.

It’s more than just the punditry with stats though. When watching AFL the commentators will often talk about the number of disposals etc during the game. They have live stats for this and it’s interesting stuff and gives an important perspective on the game. GAA is horrible for stats. Shots, wides, time since last score is all we ever get. Brutal and uninformative because those “stats” are generally obvious already.

Possession, passing accuracy, number of possessions by player, distance run etc would all be useful in soccer and gaelic football/hurling.

I would watch RTE’s soccer coverage. I find it entertaining if not riddled with inaccuracies, but some of it can be good. Souness and Brady were good last night for instance for the Italy game.

The rest of them saying nothing to me at all.

As for the GAA, I despise RTE’s coverage of the football. I can’t actually watch the live Sunday coverage as I find myself thinking Pat Spillane to be the most tolerable even though he is an utter wankstain.

The rugby is alright I think but I wouldn’t be hugely into it.

An Moltoir on AFR does excellent analysis on hurling games, even if he does rank players according to a system no one really knows except himself. But as Rocko says, it’s about the plays the individual gets through and it’s gives you a way clearer picture of how players performed in the game. It shouldn’t be independent of further analysis, but it should be there at the same time. In the GAA, even something as simple as scoring streaks like they have in basketball aren’t used as a stat. That’s pretty basic.

I thought they were awful last night. Embarrassing actually.

Good article, WTB. I agree with braz’s point on the BBC actually - they weren’t having that England performance at all and there were a few comments about Argentina’s possession football earlier that day being light years ahead of anything England could manage. I was genuinely surprised to hear it.

Article on the British TV coverage from today’s Scotsman:

Tom English: ‘The level of punditry is patronising and insulting’

Published Date: 16 June 2010

IT’S FAIR to say that it’s not just ITV that has taken some stick for some of their coverage at this World Cup, particularly the coverage of the tournament’s lesser lights. The BBC have been getting it in the neck as well. To give you an example, what I’m talking about here is things like Alan Shearer’s self-proclaimed “expert analysis” that amounts to a conveyor belt of cliches and the kind of insight that even a child of six would describe as laughable.

Before the Algeria versus Slovenia game in Group C on Sunday, Shearer seemed to be speaking for the entire BBC panel when he said, “Our knowledge of these two teams is limited.” Limited! What the former England striker was saying was that he hadn’t done his homework, that he hadn’t spoken to any of his vast array of contacts in the game, hadn’t tapped into the BBC’s huge research machinery, hadn’t even bothered, seemingly, to peruse the internet for some background on Algeria and Slovenia or even flick through a newspaper or a magazine. Shearer was content to sit in front of the cameras and tell the viewers that, really, he didn’t know much. Hardly a revelation to those of us who have groaned our way through his anodyne commentaries in the past, but embarrassing all the same.

Why do the BBC deem that acceptable? Why is Shearer not taken aside and told, ‘Listen, if you can’t be bothered doing some research on this game then get lost’. It’s a different, and entirely more professional story, on radio where the wonderful 5 Live and, closer to home, the award-winning Radio Scotland present their football coverage in a proper fashion. How does Shearer (but not just Shearer) get away with opting out like that?

And here’s another one. The Beeb got carpeted by some viewers for their treatment of that Algeria game. So what happened before the kick-off in yesterday’s lunch-time match between New Zealand and Slovakia? In a six-and-a-half minute introduction just one player out of the 22 on show was given a name-check, and here is how it happened.

Lee Dixon: “Slovakia have got some decent players, Hamsik, the pick of them. Young player, plays on the left side.”

Gary Lineker: “He’s at Napoli.”

Lee Dixon: “That’s right.”

Alan Hansen (chuckling): “Somebody gave you him, by the way.”

What Hansen meant, I think, was that his colleagues must have been fed the Hamsik reference by another party, that they couldn’t have come up with his name all by themselves. It’s not like Dixon or Lineker produced a dossier of facts about Hamsik, a file of information on who he is and where he has been. All they did was mention his name and the fact that he was rather good. That was it. Hansen seemed to think this was worthy of a gently-mocking put-down, as if the other two were some kind of class swots. As such, he was almost revelling in his own ignorance.

There’s a lot of this going about, on BBC and ITV. The level of punditry is cringe-making. It’s lowest common denominator stuff. Patronising and insulting, much of it. Emmanuel Adebayor’s mobile phone started ringing in his pocket live on air the other day. His respect for the viewers didn’t even amount to him making sure the thing was switched off. Edgar Davids has been unintelligible, Gareth Southgate hasn’t said one interesting thing, Kevin Keegan has been nothing more than a cheerleader for England and Andy Townsend has been his usual bland self, trotting out statements of the obvious with a rapid-fire gusto. “I tell you what, for me, he’s gotta hit the target from there!”

And you are paid how much, Andy?

Clarence Seedorf was in the BBC studio the other night for the Italy versus Paraguay match and he was making a point about the positive impact an Italian substitute had made on the game. He was referring to Antonio Di Natale, winner of more than 30 caps for the Azzurri and the leading goalscorer in Serie A in the season just gone, but Seedorf couldn’t remember his name. Hadn’t a clue. Neither did the blokes alongside him, Hansen among them. “He was the No 10,” said a smiling Seedorf, who then reached for a team-sheet on the desk for help before realising that it was the Dutch team-sheet. “That’s no use,” he laughed. Indeed, Clarence.

Hansen thought this was priceless. “That might be highlight of the World Cup so far,” he trumpeted. The programme ended and still nobody had figured out that the No 10 was Di Natale. You would hope that behind the scenes the BBC producers were holding their heads in their hands with embarrassment, but you wouldn’t bank on it. Of course, in the squirm factor stakes there are many challengers. Mick McCarthy claimed just before kick-off in the Argentina versus Nigeria game that he’d only just realised that the Juan Sebastian Veron that appeared on his team-sheet was the same Veron who’d played for Manchester United and Chelsea. Quite a statement of ignorance, that.

In fairness to McCarthy, he does have something to offer in his reading of the game. It’s just that there is so much that makes you wince in between. What we’re getting a lot of from both sides is glib nonsense, crap jokes and crass stereotyping. Adrian Chiles is flavour of the month on ITV, but his popularity is not what it was. It wasn’t his fault that ITV HD pressed the wrong button at the wrong time during England’s opening game and missed Steven Gerrard’s goal, but Chiles has been distinctly unconvincing in the anchor role. He wants to be the funny man when the job demands gravitas. He wants to throw in one-liners when he should be attempting to spearhead a proper discussion about a match.

His introduction to England’s game against the Americans was mortifying. Wielding a baseball bat and sending a message to America, he said, “Just stick to your sports, why don’t you?” Chiles was also seen patting a burger, adding: “We really love Americans, just wouldn’t eat a whole one.” He made himself look like a clown.

Keegan’s summing-up: “It was a very, very good performance, good enough to win any game.” This classic piece of Keegan claptrap should have been jumped upon and ripped apart for the nonsensical garbage that it was, but it sailed through pretty much. Chiles doesn’t do confrontation – neither does the BBC – and it’s a terrible weakness. There is no edge, no passion. It’s all so bloody harmless and dull.

ITV needed somebody with a backbone to turn around to Keegan and say to him, ‘Okay Kevin, what you’re saying there is a load of junk. Explain how getting a draw against a team of journeymen like America is very good, explain the selection of James Milner out of position, explain why the rank ordinary Shaun Wright-Phillips was brought on instead of the classy Joe Cole, explain the failure of Gerrard and Frank Lampard to function together yet again, explain why this negated Wayne Rooney’s impact’. Kev didn’t do any of that, though.

There are many days ahead when our intelligence will be insulted by “expert analysts” who speak to us like simpletons who’ve just staggered home from the pub. We could do a lot worse than hitting the mute button from here on in. Or getting the commentary off the radio.

Think that fella Tom English might be from Limerick. Used to work for the Irish Sunday Times.

He did indeed Gola. He’s a decent writer in fairness.

That Keegan comment that he’s talking about is even more idiiotic than just overly flattering to England. It was good enough to win any game, yet it didn’t win any game.

Fair bit of anger in that article. The man speaks the truth though, there just isn’t any meaningful analysis.

Another side of it that he should really have used to underline his argument is the attitude of the public towards these so called experts. At the end of the day, there are two sides to it - the pundits and the people who watch the shows. The problem is people watching football no more than anything else will automatically have more respect for someone who is declared an expert.

For example, if someone was on one of those shows who wasn’t an ex-pro or a manager, you’d be way more demanding when it comes to them justifying their presence. Even if it wasn’t an ordinary punter, if it was someone like Miguel Delaney who is a football writer, you’d still be way more critical of their opinions. Look how people are forced to defend their opinions on here.

IT’s elitism in it’s purest form. It’s no different to how ‘expert’ economists or financial analysts get to deal out their opinions with little or no contradiction. If an ordinary punter does question them, the fall back line is that ‘this man is an expert’. Football pundits, due in large part to their history in the game, get away with half baked theories, shoddy research, and blatant inaccuracies because of the very same principle.


sure what would know about football punditry