by Noel Draper
John Cobbald, who used to be the chairman of Ipswich Town, once said, when asked about the sponsorship money his club had just received, “It has been suggested that we’ll squander the sponsors’ money on wine, women and song. That is not true. We don’t do a lot of singing here at Portman Road”. I like that quote for two reasons. One is that it’s nearly funny and the other is that it was made by someone in charge of a football club.
Here’s another quote from Mr Cobbald, “There is no crisis at Ipswich until the white wine runs out in the boardroom”. I know that he’s beginning to sound like an alcoholic but I have quoted dear old John twice for a reason and it is this, football off the pitch has become boring and staid in the past ten years. There, I said it, because apart from the occasional outburst aimed at the BBC or Mr Wenger from the red nosed one just outside Manchester and the sometimes mental ramblings of a couple of other likely lads ( that’s you Mr Warnock and you Mr Holloway) nothing else much happens in the modern day football world. Mancini might wave imaginary cards at players on the pitch but off it he is saying how sorry he is.
Footballers are just as bad, toeing the line rather than being every so slightly outspoken. Sure they come out with comments that are, for want of a better word, stupid, but they are hardly ever interesting these days. Take Mr Beckham for instance. When he said “my parents have always been there for me, ever since I was about 7” he was being stupid but not in any way interesting. Remember Rodney Marsh? He once said “I wasn’t the white Pele, he was the black Rodney Marsh”. That’s interesting. Not stupid but interesting. So, who do I blame for this slow change from interesting to boring? That’s an easy question to answer because it’s Sky Sports.
When Sky started their football coverage they brought with them a razzmatazz that English football hadn’t seen before. Of course they had stupid ideas like cheerleaders and fireworks but they promised so much more such as interviews right after the game with player’s and manager’s alike and an in depth analysis from seasoned ex-pros. It sounded fantastic and it was for a few seasons right up until the clubs realised that Sky’s money meant that they would have to be a bit more professional. Gone were the Keegan style rants and finger pointing at the screen and in came a new style of interviewing technique and response. A boring style which follows the same format. “Thank you for your time”, the interviewer will say before asking the same questions over and over again.
What really annoys me though is that the interviewer comes across as though the viewer should be grateful for the footballer’s or manager’s time. This is plainly not right and highlights what is wrong with Sky and their broadcasting because they now pander to the whims of the club rather than the other way around. Football clubs are there for our entertainment, or at least they used to be but now it’s all about money, being a global brand and advertising their “product” and this is Sky’s fault. They started the ball rolling and it won’t be stopped just because of a few financial rules from Platini and his merry band of followers.
So, it’s time to make football less boring off the pitch and to bring back the fun to football television programmes. It’s time to have humorous and informative interviews and above all it’s time to engage the watcher. Do all this and you will lose viewers. Sorry, but you will, because they won’t sit at home and watch your broadcast but will have been engaged enough to get off their sofa’s and actually go and watch a live game. Surely that’s what football is all about, isn’t it?