The UEFA Champions League has always been a fascinating competition from a television viewer’s perspective. Because while it’s considered as the biggest prize in the domestic game, the group stages can often be a monotonous affair.
Sure, there are titanic tussles in the early parts of the tournament—Atletico Madrid vs. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund vs. Real Madrid stand out from this edition—but it’s rare the same cast of juggernauts don’t make up the last eight. Sometimes, games feel like games for the sake of games.
In the United Kingdom, BT Sport have done a fine job of invigorating this part of the competition for the television viewer with The Goals Show.
The show’s title simply sums up what’s included in the content—all the goals from the games on the Tuesday or Wednesday night.
James Richardson, who expertly anchored Channel 4’s Football Italia coverage and now hosts the Guardian’s Football Weekly podcast, heads up the panel. But those assessing the action aren’t ex-professionals wheeling out tired cliches attached to European outfits; journalists James Horncastle, Raphael Honigstein and Julien Laurens are experts in the field of continental soccer.
The fifth member of the team is former Premier League referee Howard Webb, who is there to offer an official’s slant on the key decisions.
And the format is straightforward. The action from one game kickstarts the night and as the games move on, there’ll be a cut to that clash and some words from the pundits; think Red Zone, but for the Champions League and a with lot more puns.
When BT first used this setup in the 2015-16 competition there were a few teething problems; a shout of “goal for Team X” would reveal the score in a match before the director had cut to the highlight, robbing the viewers of those few seconds of thrilling suspense. But into its second season, now the show is the perfect complement to the midweek action in Europe.
It’s provided the answer to a longstanding problem for those fans who enjoy the Champions League too. When settling down to watch a group stage game, in the past, as supporters we’ve had to make a commitment to that encounter.
So often you’ll have your selected fixture on the box, watching on intently and every so often, you’ll flick through social media to see goals flying in elsewhere.
A dilemma arises—stick with the predetermined contest in the hope it’ll spring into life, or move on to what’s been a more alluring encounter mid-match? Who realistically, wouldn’t have been tempted to turn over to watch Borussia Dortmund vs. Legia Warsaw on Tuesday as the goals flowed?
The Goals Show has allowed supporters to keep up in touch with every significant moment that goes on in the respective round of fixtures.
It’s also an education. Aside from the giants of the European game, the casual fan may not be too clued up on a lot of teams involved. Horncastle, Honigstein and Laurens evidently have a vast knowledge of the game and are quick to add color to the action with insightful analysis. Richardson, meanwhile, knits things together seamlessly.
The program has become the crown jewel of BT Sport’s Champions League coverage. The broadcaster paid a whopping £897 million to secure the television rights for the tournament for three years from 2015 and in Gary Lineker, Rio Ferdinand and Paul Scholes to name a few, attracted some huge names to the brand.
Of course, they were going to have to make a splash after such a significant outlay and those bombastic acquisitions have aided the process. But the Goals Show has given fans something refreshing to savor.
After all, there’s never been anything quite like this on British television previously when it comes to football. Sky Sports showed all the matches when they had the rights for the Champions League, but never condensed the best bits slickly into a live package. Their flagship show Soccer Saturday, meanwhile, lacks the live footage to be considered a complete product.
Honigstein recently summed up why the Goals Show is: “After 90 minutes you would have seen all the goals, all the controversial decisions, all the funny bits and it will be like you’ve watched everything.”
While Soccer Saturday has become almost a necessary part of the Premier League television experience come 3 p.m. on a Saturday, the Goals Show is reaching a similar point on Tuesday and Wednesday nights when European roll around.
The draw of the show is it has something for everyone. If you’re all about goals, you’ll see plenty. If you’re fascinated by the minutiae of European football, you’ll be enriched by the pundits. And if you’re fed up of seeing similar faces make similar humdrum assessments of European fixtures, your football appetite will be sated.
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