Sky Sports Monday Night Football is the Benchmark for Television Sports Coverage

Most fans of English football in the United States have no clue what they are missing. Unless, that is, they are using alternative means to watch soccer matches broadcast on Sky Sports.

Sky Sports coverage is universally applauded for shows such as: Soccer Saturday, The Footballers Football Show, Sunday Supplement, and Goals on Sunday (I would like to add Soccer AM to this list, but I’m not sure how many people understand the comic genius of “The Hairy Strikers” and “Away Days”). But Sky’s most impactful show in recent years has been Monday Night Football.

Sports fans in the States are accustomed to the hosts and analysts on a show being frantic, argumentative, blustery, self-indulgent, and empty. Despite their wealth of coverage, ESPN and FOX have had a tendency to cater their programming to the lowest common denominator. To speak plainly, they dumb down the discussions and stick to tabloid topics. Sometimes it seems as though it’s more important for their commentators to divulge their personal Twitter handles than it is to actually analyze a topic.

There are good programs with solid analysis. ESPN’s Baseball Tonight is filled with frank discussions and solid opinions/analysis from former professionals. FOX’s NASCAR coverage is strong and really does a good job of reflecting the audience in a positive light (for those who are unaware, NASCAR audiences are huge in the US; NASCAR races are an event to be seen in person… they are breathtaking).

But Sky Sports “Ford Monday Night Football” is the benchmark.

The original show was broadcast from 1992-2007 and it was mainly shown on Sunday (Ford Super Sunday). It was revamped and reinvented, then brought back to life in August 2010. During the first few years, Sky tried different announcers in the lead chairs. Richard Keys, Andy Gray, David Jones, Ben Shephard, and Ed Chamberlain have all spent time in the studio. But in August 2011, Ed Chamberlain and Gary Neville took over the positions and flourished. Since then, the program has been a “must see” event for footballing fans.

Chamberlin is an ideal host and complements Neville perfectly. He raises the points of discussion, lets Neville talk, and asks appropriate questions to carry the discussions forward.

Neville has been a revelation to sports punditry. Who knew that the former Manchester United defender would be such a natural analyst? He will be the first to admit that he doesn’t have a face for television, but his opinions and analysis are second to none. He can break down situations on a telestrator while explaining his thoughts as clearly as a first team manager to a television audience. It is easy to see why Neville was snatched up as a coach by the English National Team.

Neville also has shown an ability to make statements that end up being newsworthy without coming off as an attention-seeker. His opinions are just that, his opinions.

“He plays football like he’s being controlled by a 10-year-old on a Playstation” – Neville was quoted as saying about Chelsea’s David Luiz.

“He’s not staring at him because he fancies him. Believe me.” – Neville was describing Nemanja Vidic’s stare at United goalkeeper David de Gea after he conceded a late-tying goal at White Hart Lane.

There is an ease to the program. Chamberlain and Neville complement each other and give the audience a feeling of genuine like between the two. At times they playfully jibe each other while giving the audience no indication that this jibing is forced fun…like many other sports programs.

This season, Sky added former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher to the studio. At first there was a concern that Sky was attempting to bring some fire to the studio by having two former rivals face-to-face. But that was quickly dismissed after the first show.

Carragher has been the perfect addition. The playful interaction between all three in-studio personalities has been turned up a notch while still maintaining a genuine feel. Neville and Carragher take quiet shots at each other’s career while also sharing honest opinions and having solid discussions. All this while Chamberlain leads them through topics, then sits back to let them do the work. Viewers get the feeling that Chamberlain is quietly smiling at how lucky he is to be hearing two former Champions League winners discuss their opinions in front of him.

Today’s show undoubtedly provided some more quality sound bites. Previous shows have never failed at this. For those of you lucky enough to view MNF live on your television, sit back and enjoy something that might never be duplicated (rumor is Neville may have to leave in a year or so because of his National Team duties). The rest of us will have to find “alternative means” to view the show or wait for clips to be posted on YouTube.

For those who want a taste, here are some YouTube clips (some of the quality may not be the best):

The “Scholes, Lampard, Gerrard” discussion

This season’s EPL Preview

The Gary Neville “masterclass” on Diving (quality not great)

21 thoughts on “Sky Sports Monday Night Football is the Benchmark for Television Sports Coverage”

  1. by light years the best football coverage from any country.if Fox would have used Sky they would never had lost the i said before NBC is 100% better then Fox but Sky shows you how good it can be,i am jealous.

  2. I couldnt agree more speaking from mexican amercian perpective, here in america with all the sports channels like bien sports , espn, fox unvision, gol tv and nbc none compare to the coverage that sky does.

    1. that is a great clip. the thing that gives GN credibility is that he was behind the closed doors and tells the truth about what goes on in the dressing room.get the hairdryer from SAF and the stare from RK.OUCH!

  3. My personal opinion is that the best studio analysts (any sport) here in the States are Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison on NBC’s Sunday Night Football and honestly I don’t think it’s close.

    1. NBC’s Sunday Night Football is the best sports coverage in the USA hands down. Nothing comes close, from the studio analysts you mentioned to the broadcast team of Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth to everything in between.

  4. I think the tactical analysis for football in the states has been so poor that it does make MNF look like a coach’s debrief, and they bring up some good points.

    From a pure analysis and discussion perspective there are two far superior analysis examples… this is not based on any love or affection I have for the sports but on the quality of the analysis and presentation of the product.

    MLB and NFL networks both have the entire spectrum of analysis for their respective sports from the argumentative opinion to the knowledgeable tactical and technical analysis with ex coaxhes and players really breaking down plays.

    The BPL could learn a lot from these networks in my opinion.

    I do not like baseball, and occasionally catch NFL games now after trying to integrate into american sports culture by being a season ticket holder and 49ers and the A’s.

    The one show MNF does not IMO come close to what is offered in the state for those two sports.

    NBC have done a great job so far, far better than Fox ever did. But they need to splash the cash on some more programing that is dedicated to tactical analysis and knowledgeable conversation with production graphics quality they use on their SNF not this iPod click wheel UI they use at the moment…

    1. Dust
      the only way they could do that was to base their production in London and i guess that was not a option.they will never get a GN GL or any top analyst to move to Stamford CT.

      congrats on your A’s making the playoffs.

      1. The area is full of positivity, amazing what a sports team can do for an area…ah yes, the Tottenham redevelopment project.

        I’ll be on a plane back to tottenham for the open top buss parade when we win the league this year..woot!

    2. Dust,

      Great points.

      I stopped watching baseball and American football a long time ago. Only on rare occasions do I watch a game and it’s usually only for a few minutes. But the MLB/NFL networks do a good job with their product.

      We’ll just have to disagree on Sky’s MNF. And like I said in the article, Sky actually offers a ton of football-specific shows despite the fact that they cover Formula One, Cricket, Rugby, NFL, and other major sports.

    3. Or College Football Dust…ESPNU’s shows break down every little nuance of every game. I don’t watch the MLB or NFL but I assume you are right on this because I have heard the same from those who watch those leagues.

  5. Great read Pete. It really is a top notch show. They both have an insight into the modern game that is unparalleled to some of the older pundits. Refreshing and compelling viewing.

  6. The article was a great read except for the premise that “Sports fans in the States are accustomed to the hosts and analysts on a show being frantic, argumentative, blustery, self-indulgent, and empty.”

    That is a phenomenon that started hitting American TV with the rise of radio sport jock shows making their ways to TV; and I can tell you lots of us fans have been bemoaning it. But there are some great analytic sport shows on TV in America that are of quality.

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