In the United Kingdom, the newspaper industry is extremely competitive. There are more than 11 national daily newspapers compared with just two in the US (USA Today
and Christian Science Monitor).

While the competition in print is fierce, the UK newspapers are also waging war online with their respective web sites having made significant improvements over the past few years. Now the battle has moved to the podosphere where publishers are trying to win the hearts and minds (and ears) of their readers, which brings us to today’s topic: The competitive matchup between The Guardian‘s Football Weekly Podcast and The Game Podcast from The Times.

Football Weekly by The Guardian debuted on August 29, 2006 after the success of The World Cup Show Podcast that provided a daily round-up of news, hilarity and observations from The Guardian crew of James Richardson, Barry Glendenning, Sean Ingle, Kevin McCarra, Paul Doyle, Sid Lowe and others. The debut episode of The World Cup Show from May 11, 2006, can be heard here.

The Game Podcast from The Times, meanwhile, launched on September 18, 2006 after Gabriele Marcotti and Guillem Balague brought the idea to The Times (as was revealed in this past Sunday’s EPL Talk Podcast). Hosted by Danny Kelly (former editor of NME and founder of Football365), he’s regularly joined by Marcotti, Balague, Bill Edgar, and recently Alyson Rudd as well as a different weekly guest.

When I checked the popularity of the football podcasts on iTunes one week ago, The Guardian‘s Football Weekly was number one. But personally, I’ve found that the quality of the show has decreased during the past several weeks, while The Game Podcast has significantly improved (especially by dropping the sound effects feature, which was incredibly inane).

Don’t get me wrong. Both shows are quality. Football Weekly provides listeners with a journey through the top European leagues which is extremely informative. The Game Podcast focuses more on the Premiership but has been focusing more on the European leagues as of late. But the biggest difference between the two shows is content. The Game Podcast is more of a debate about topical issues in football, while Football Weekly serves as more of a football news show, keeping you up-to-date and sharing views about certain players or matches.

The Game Podcast is as its best when Marcotti and Balague are on-air debating. The two of them rarely agree on topics, but are both very articulate and knowledgeable about the game. Balague, especially, enjoys revealing stories from the inner circles of football particularly about bust-ups behind-the-scenes (for example, Thierry Henry and Arsene Wenger). Unfortunately, Balague has been absent from the show during the past few weeks presumably because he’s been so busy working in Spain.

Football Weekly, unfortunately, has become stale of late. I think part of the reason is because the show isn’t the same when Barry Glendenning isn’t as involved as he should be. His off-the-cuff comments and features on interesting angles of the sport (“Sun-der-land’s recent home movie, for example) are hilarious. James Richardson, despite being eloquent, gets a bit old after a while with his clever puns. The rest of the cast are very engaging, but the whole show seems to be in need of a refresh. The production quality hasn’t been the greatest lately. The mashup jingles for each segment have become trite and aren’t funny anymore. Overall, Football Weekly has become too predictable.

What’s needed more than anything is for Barry Glendenning to have his own show. The man is a comic genius and – what is often overlooked – has a very good football mind. A no-holds-barred show from Glendenning would be an incredible podcast. But is The Guardian brave enough to put Glendenning in charge?

At the end of the day, both The Guardian and The Times provide quality shows on a weekly basis that enhance the game of football. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to either one, subscribe today via their respective web sites or iTunes.