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Why BBC’s Match Of The Day Is Still Relevant

match of the day logo Why BBCs Match Of The Day Is Still Relevant

There’s more in common between Americans and Brits than you may think. While many Americans still sit down on a late weekend night to watch NBC’s Saturday Night Live, the Brits have a similar tradition. But rather than laughing at comedians perform skits, they choose to guffaw at overpaid actors of a different variety — professional footballers plying their trade as shown on BBC’s Match Of The Day, the football highlights package.

During the past two weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to watch Match Of The Day from the comfort of my home in the States. The last time I watched it regularly was during the early 1980′s when I was a teenager growing up in Wales. A lot has changed since then, but the fact remains that most British football supporters form their views and opinions of the Premier League and its clubs from what it sees on that show.

As many of our regular readers will know, football supporters in the United States can view as many as eight live Premier League games each weekend with the remaining two fixtures shown on tape-delay. In comparison, viewers in Great Britain will be lucky to see three to four live Premier Leagues in the same weekend. So, it’s of no surprise that most Brits rely on Match Of The Day to see the highlights of what happened in the Premier League matches. And because the top Premier League clubs are more likely to be televised on British television first, it’s not uncommon for football supporters of smaller Premier League clubs in England to wait weeks before they can see their club play live on television.

Therefore, the role of a highlights package such as Match Of The Day in Britain is of much greater importance than a similar program in the United States.

Now if you’ve watched a lot of live Premier League games on television and you’ve watched the highlights of those same games on shows such as Premier League Review Show, Fox Soccer Report or even Match Of The Day, you may have noticed that the highlights package may not accurately portray what happened during the game. The producers can try their best to feature the near misses, incredible saves and wonderful goals, but what if the game was bogged down in midfield and one of the teams maintained the lionshare of possession yet wasn’t able to convert that into many goalscoring chances? If you relied on Match Of The Day for most of your football coverage, you may miss out on what really happened during the game.

A particular example was this past Saturday’s game between Portsmouth and Everton. Pompey poured their hearts out and maintained much of the possession especially during large spells of the second half. But after watching the highlights of the game on Match Of The Day, I felt that the BBC show failed to capture how Portsmouth played with such enthusiasm and controlled desperation in the second half and how the noise at Fratton Park increased to a crescendo in the latter 45 minutes. The Beeb showed the near misses and goal-line clearances, but the program didn’t capture how well Portsmouth played.

Of course, these are just two examples. But the reality is that most addicted football supporters in the United States and abroad have a much better concept of how Premier League clubs are doing on the pitch than supporters in the United Kingdom. If you’re a supporter of Chelsea and you go to every match at Stamford Bridge, for example, you have a good understanding of how Chelsea are performing at home. But you may not be able to ramble on about the fortunes or misfortunes of how the other Premier League clubs are doing on the pitch. Or if you are, your viewpoints are shaped by what Gary Lineker, Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson tell you every Saturday night.

Another interesting observation is how clueless most English football journalists are about what’s happening outside of the Premier League — from the Championship to League Two of the Football League. It’s embarrassing to hear how little the guests on The Guardian’s Football Weekly Podcast know about the Football League (thank god for John Ashdown; otherwise James Richardson and co would be hapless). Now if Match Of The Day featured highlights and analysis of the Football League in addition to the Premier League, I can guarantee that most Brits would begin to learn more about the lower leagues.

While most football supporters outside of the United Kingdom have an advantage over the residents of ‘Ol Blightly in the form of more coverage of live games, the quality of the Match Of The Day program is far better in its analysis than most other football programs on TV. One example was this past Saturday’s analysis of the Stoke against Manchester United match where Alan Hansen showed several clips of how Nemanja Vidic played in a central role in not only preventing Stoke from attacking but by playing a key role in creating several attacks for his fellow United players.

Sure, Match Of The Day can be too passive and lightweight in its delivery, but I find the low-key nature of the show quite refreshing as opposed to many American shows that are too full of insincere hype.

To me, Match Of The Day continues to have a massive place in the fabric of British society, but its influence needs to be taken with a grain of salt. It can’t be the be-all and end-of-all of Premier League football coverage. It’s just a highlights show with some expert analysis and a pleasant presenter. No more and no less.

Editor’s note: Just as Gabriele Marcotti of The Times is sworn to secrecy about how he’s able to watch so many Premier League games from his home in the United Kingdom with his magic satellite dish, I’m sworn to secrecy about how I’m able to watch Match Of The Day from my home in Florida. Sorry!

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About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
View all posts by Christopher Harris →

14 Responses to Why BBC’s Match Of The Day Is Still Relevant

  1. Paul Bestall says:

    I still get goosebumps when the MOTD theme starts, and it’s been essential viewing for me since I was about 11. Yeah, it’s not perfect and sometimes the panelist’s get on your nerves but it’s still the best highlights show out there.
    With the BBC gaining the football league this season, we now get 3 hours of football highlights on a Saturday night, as the Football League show follows MOTD now. It’s not a bad show and they’ve already shown ITV’s lack of enthusiasm up for how poorly they treated Football League supporters. In fact I never watched the FL programme on ITV, yet I’ve not missed it since it went on the BBC.

  2. the theory says:

    What is the necessity of having the Championship together with Match of the Day? I rather enjoy the Football League show that BBC has added to its lineup this year. It covers all the lower leagues just fine, which is an impressive feat in just over an hour.

    I’d much rather have it set-up that way than have the commentary and analysis of the BPL shrunken because they have to fit Championship highlights into the same show.

  3. timmyg says:

    What I find so refreshing about MOTD is how it portrays matches in a calm demeanor — complete opposite from the yelling, gimmicks, and perkiness of SportsCenter or any other ESPN highlight show. Oh, and they devote more than 30 seconds to recap a game. The job they did with the 2007/08 season relegation battle remains one of their best, in my mind.

    As you point out what is obnoxious about MOTD is the lack of real insight from a majority of the pundits, especially for clubs outside the top 4. Instead its the same cliches and platitudes you hear everywhere.

  4. Marshallin says:

    Well I’M not sworn to secrecy! there’s the maxxed football forums and thebox.bz to download it in torrent form, filmon HDi player to watch it live.. etc etc – plenty of ways!

  5. MUFC1964 says:

    I can often watch MOTD within a few hours via Torrents on UK Nova…that is probably how the gaffer does it.

  6. Leeboy says:

    I live in England and usually miss Match of the Day live and get a torrent from UKNova. There’s also live streaming from the BBC website if you know how to fool it into thinking you’re in the UK (Google it).

    “But the reality is that most addicted football supporters in the United States and abroad have a much better concept of how Premier League clubs are doing on the pitch than supporters in the United Kingdom”

    Fair point Gaffer, however many addicted football fans in the UK like myself will watch most of their clubs games somehow. More and more pubs are showing European feeds of the Saturday 3pm kick-offs than ever before, usually with English commentary. My local pub in Manchester shows every Man Utd and Man City game live regardless of kick-off time or competition. They have a European satellite sub, and a UK Sky/ESPN sub. Legally there’s not much Sky can do as they show the games they can through Sky.

    “Now if Match Of The Day featured highlights and analysis of the Football League in addition to the Premier League, I can guarantee that most Brits would begin to learn more about the lower leagues.”

    I don’t see the point of this seeing as The Football League Show [highlights] starts immediately after MOTD. The Premier League and Football League didn’t want their highlights on the same show. To be fair I support a Championship team, and most football fans I know have a decent knowledge on that divisin. Unless you support a team, or know someone who supports a team in a specific division, then your knowledge on that division isn’t likely to be great. Do most NFL fans have equivalent knowledge of the NCAA?

    • Gaz says:

      >Do most NFL fans have equivalent knowledge of the NCAA?

      Touche.

    • Dave G says:

      You have to remember that the UK Daily Newspapers devote a lot of pages to football (NOT the case here in the US) and while its mainly about Premier League, the Championship still gets a good roundup with the bigger matches scores and reports and the local newspaper will of course feature the local team from whatever division it’s in.
      Overall the football supporter in England might not get as many live games as we do here in the USA, but they have so many more “football/media hits” over the course of a week than any US resident can ever dream of.

      • The Gaffer says:

        True, but you also have to remember that football websites such as The Guardian get more visitors from the United States than the United Kingdom. Sure, there are more people in the US than in the UK, but it’s still an eyeopening fact.

        Cheers,
        The Gaffer

        • Dave G says:

          Point taken, and I visit that and many other sites daily for football news..but there is nothing quite like reading the papers over a cuppa and a chocky biccie ;)

  7. randomsausage says:

    I could never take MOTD style punditry seriously again after the Ron Manager skits on The Fast Show. All are classic but the Lineker one is a stand out:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4I1ye2gcEo&feature=related

  8. Kal says:

    Out here stateside..I watch my club games any way I can.(hope ESPN expand their coverage, since I dont get FSC)
    But, MOTD is a must..great recap show and I was giddy when I first learnt about it a few years back. Specifically, love the 2 good 2 bad on MOTD2.

  9. “Love is not a thing to understand.
    Love is not a thing to feel.
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    And eternally be. .”

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