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BBC Lost Its Sense of Perspective When They Ambushed Gus Poyet

gus poyet BBC Lost Its Sense of Perspective When They Ambushed Gus Poyet

Poor old Gus Poyet. The former Brighton boss must feel like somebody’s been sneaking into his world and pulling threads with the way his career has been unravelling lately. Since his side blew their favorites tag to go crashing out of the Championship play-offs to a Crystal Palace team in wretched form on May 13, the Uruguayan has been the football media’s number one fall guy, suspended from his job and panned by his club for failing to attend a disciplinary hearing into the undisclosed charges hanging over him. So when the BBC elected to broadcast Gus’s sacking as part of their coverage of Spain’s Confederations Cup match against Nigeria, it’s fair to concede that the look of child-like bewilderment that swept across his face as presenter Mark Chapman’s questions rained down on him was well warranted.

It’s an interesting new direction for the BBC, spearheading their summer schedule with live and exclusive prime-time sackings of people who presumably have bills to pay and would just as presumably rather receive such news without the glare of a nation bearing down on them. But who are we to question the producers at the Beeb when there are viewing figures at stake, especially at a time of year when big stories are thin on the ground. And let’s not forget the first rule of reality TV – the suffering of the star is only relative to the entertainment value generated.

At the game’s apex, there has always been a certain contract that demands access to private lives, and the reach of public curiosity, as well as the media’s capacity to satisfy it, is growing fast. But the BBC’s handling of the Poyet sacking marks a watershed in the changing landscape of football coverage. What until recently could be laughed off as a voyeuristic peep-show is beginning to feel more like a thinly veiled rendering of vulnerable people into slap-stick figures of fun.

Football audiences are greedy – inevitably really when you stop to consider the deluge of coverage that has poured out of our screens since the Sky revolution, but the dramatization of the game has seen us arrive at a place where the sport itself no longer satiates our demand. There is a craving to understand the game in its micro form and since Andy Gray’s stop-start machine with all its colored lines and thick-rimmed circles allowed us to pick apart every detail on the pitch from 1993 onwards, fans and media alike have plumbed deeper and deeper to locate the beating heart of the game off it.

Whether that’s what we found during the BBC’s coverage on Sunday is a matter for the conscience rather than the critic. Whether a man deserves more than 45 minutes to digest the news of his termination notice having had it delivered by a virtual stranger before being grilled for his reaction in front of a live TV audience all depends on how personally you respect the right to quiet introspection in times of crisis. But then football doesn’t do much quietly these days. And as the game’s movers and shakers take a more influential role in the moulding of a national culture there’s a school of thought that says personal space is a luxury left behind in a forgotten age.

So goes the theory. And yet Gus Poyet was, at the most basic level, a working man carrying out his duties as defined by a confidential contract – a condition of which must surely have been that changes to that contract be carried out by the involved parties before the world is invited in to poke its nose around.

There’s room for a wry smile here, not at the expense of Poyet but at the spirit-crushingly two-dimensional approach taken by the BBC these days towards its journalism. Poyet’s face is a study in incredulity as the same questions roll again and again off Chapman’s vidi-printer and glance limply off the tired Uruguayan’s increasingly lifeless brow. If Poyet states his intention to appeal the decision once he states it a thousand times, before Chapman rather curtly informs him with barely a hint of sympathy that it will be very difficult for him to manage Brighton again after this. One would hope that Poyet is keeping his options open when it comes to seeking legal advice.

It’s difficult to know exactly where the presenter expects his policy of circular questioning will lead him and his audience, but it seems a fair bet that there is a certain level of frustration as his guest stubbornly refuses to break his composure and submit to the kind of histrionics that would kick this back-breaking anti-interview up a notch. Not known for displays of stoicism, it’s tricky to say whether Poyet is humoring his tormentor or just plain exhausted by his banality.

The real nonsense here of course is that there isn’t even a story to tell in the first place. Somewhere within the creaking bureaucracy of the relationship between a club and its manager there has been a breakdown in communications, the memo that was to inform the outgoing manager of his fate presumably lost somewhere in the thick, greasy membrane of lawyers, agents and the people who deliver quill-written messages on horseback pressed with a wax seal. Or something. But in its relentlessly desperate scrambling to find something to fill the close season emptiness (presumably the match we were all supposed to be watching at the time wasn’t considered worth the production costs alone), the BBC have taken a pot-shot at a ‘real life story’ and struck Poyet squarely between the eyes.

But then maybe that’s the problem. The football media has seen the success of the reality genre and is rushing to fill a perceived gap in the market, but in doing so it is careering straight into a brick wall, with Poyet as its passenger an early casualty. A situation that could have been settled with a minimum of embarrassment and publicity by the relevant parties has been whipped into a tabloid frenzy by producers who want real life stories but without sticking around to deal with the human consequences.

And poor old Gus? The two-times Championship manager of the month is left to pick up the needle and begin the fiddly process of preserving a career that is suddenly becoming unpicked, only now there will be the complications of Sunday’s publicity night knotting the yarn. He never was a great one for controversy in his playing days. That may not be the case for much longer if his misfortunes continue to be treated as fodder for a lazy and opportunistic media circuit.

About Robert O'Connor

Robert lives and works in London, and largely follows football from the safe distance of the living room. Has been recently taking a growing interest in the semi-professional game as a perfect foil for his interests in the growing influence of digital media on football. View all posts by Robert O'Connor →
This entry was posted in BBC, Brighton and Hove Albion, Leagues: Championship. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to BBC Lost Its Sense of Perspective When They Ambushed Gus Poyet

  1. Angela says:

    Since when have the BBC started to care about the rights of individuals?
    “The BBC has learnt”???
    NUTHING!
    Even the language suits them!

  2. trickybrkn says:

    What am I missing here? You seem to place the blame on the BBC, no? They have the guy on camera as the news breaks, are they to tap dance around it? or give Poyet a public forum to discus it. Would seem to me the victim is Poyet, but the bully is Brighton NOT the BBC. Then again, there is so little context here, and way too much of the writers reading into things that might be.

    Anyway, will be interesting to hear the real story here.

  3. Wongo1 says:

    Sorry but Poyet created this entire mess when directly after losing the playoff against Crystal Palace, he said that Brighton had no ambition etc. What did he think was going to happen?

    Brighton chose to not be bullied into overspending by a manager. He got the boot as so many managers before him should have, yes Redknapp I am pointing a finger at you.

  4. Adam Heap says:

    Yeah, sorry, don’t buy into this article at all. When you have a breaking story on your hands – on live coverage no less – you break it. Any journalist anywhere in the world would have done this.

    That’s not to mention the sensationalist adjectives featured in this article – Poyet answered the questions fairly. Brighton and Poyet are the ones to be blamed, not the BBC for doing their job – reporting the news.

  5. GusWho? says:

    Robert,

    I think your own words hit the nail on the head, “The real nonsense here of course is that there isn’t even a story to tell in the first place.”

    Simply change those around just a bit for your article. “The real nonsense here of course is that there isn’t even a story to *write about* in the first place.”

    The BBC broke a story. Live in studio. That’s it. Happened in real time. Gus will get over it. So will the viewers, so will we, the readers, so will everyone. In a week no one will care at all. I don’t really think anyone does right now to be honest with you.

    ” …the memo that was to inform the outgoing manager of his fate presumably lost somewhere in the thick, greasy membrane of lawyers, agents and the people who deliver quill-written messages on horseback pressed with a wax seal…”

    Dude.

    lolol

    It’s just *not* that big of a deal. Conjuering up mental images of men on horseback and wax sealed messages is just a tad bit overdramatic for this particular story. Just a tad.

    Bottom line: Dude lost his job. BBC had him there. BBC asked a few questions. Dude answered them. *Game over*.

    Forgive me, but I must be off. My trusty steed and I are embarking on a journey, through the fog of night and into the breaking of dawn. We have a wax-sealed letter from The Unicorn Princess of WHOGIVESAFU#!%ville. She wants us all to stop being such vaginas about completely does not matter “news” stories. I’m supposed to deliver it to all of worldsoccertalk immediately.

    …trots into the fog…and merely the mist remains….

  6. Tony Butterworth says:

    Agree with the above. This article makes no sense. Your “Primetime” comments seem to imply that the BBC somehow planned this to attract an audience, which of course is not what happened. BBC3 Confed Cup games are not big events in the UK and the news happened while they were on air. They would have been panned for ignoring it.

    I heard the interview replayed on radio and to me it seemed all parties handled it well.

  7. Painful says:

    “There is a craving to understand the game in its micro form and since Andy Gray’s stop-start machine with all its colored lines and thick-rimmed circles allowed us to pick apart every detail on the pitch from 1993 onwards, fans and media alike have plumbed deeper and deeper to locate the beating heart of the game off it.”

    Either the site needs to (finally) get an editor, or stop paying by the the word. This flood of articles that rambles on without really saying anything is getting old. It’s even worse when making a mountain our of a molehill (as every other commenter here has pointed out).

    Beginning, middle, end. Done.

  8. Terry Harrow says:

    I think lots of the points made here are quite fair actually. It’d be interesting to know if the BBC checked with Gus beforehand as to whether he was happy to discuss the news on air.

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