by Noel Draper

“Football, it’s a funny old game”, muttered ex professional footballer Jimmy Greaves to his Scottish side kick, Ian St. John, in their weekly mainly football based television programme imaginatively entitled “Saint and Greavsie”. This was usually said after they had aired a weird and wonderful clip often showing a fantastic miss that would have been easier to score blindfolded. How the nation laughed. How the real supporter didn’t due to the fact that the show was aired at exactly the same time that most football fans were travelling to a match. In the days before Sky+ this seemed a little unfair but it gave an early glimpse into the wonderful world of sports coverage by the quite frankly amateur television channel that is ITV.

You see, I have always had a problem with ITV and their football offerings. It started in the 1970’s with the Cup Final coverage and the dulcet tones of the late Brian Moore. He wasn’t the problem. The dark picture was. Quite why the BBC managed to have a lovely and green pitch staring out at the viewers and ITV didn’t was a constant source of bemusement to myself, my family and my friends.

Throughout the 80’s and into the 90’s, under the guise of either Granada or Central Sport, they were the bane of my life but it was when they unexpectedly won the rights to the Premiership in 2000 that things began to really go downhill. Some bright spark decided to put the highlights package on at 7pm, which if you were an away fan, meant that you had no hope of watching. Weird as it was those type of people that the show was aimed at.

They also attempted to take on Soccer Saturday by copying the exact format, calling it a different name, The Goal Rush, and filling the guest spots with complete dullards like Clive “interesting” Allen and Paul “one syllable” Elliott. When Ron Atkinson is your “expert” you know you are going to be on some sort of slippery slope it just depended which one. What happened if all the games were 0-0? How was it then a “goal rush” ITV?

In 2008 they won back the rights to the F.A Cup thus rendering the whole thing unwatchable. People speak about the demise of the oldest club competition in the world and how some clubs don’t seem to be taking things too seriously. This is probably due to the lack of big prize money on offer but the reason the fans don’t seem so interested these days can be put down to IT bloody V. Do we really need a minute long cartoon before every broadcast? No. No we don’t, but we are going to bloody well get one anyway.

I have given up watching England games due to the inept broadcasting skills of ITV and I mainly ignore the Champions League as well unless a decent game is on Sky. ITV’s coverage seems to be based on sucking up to the format and loudly proclaiming that all of the matches are “must see’s”. Not in my house they are not. Football League games are more exciting.

This is all well and good I hear you say, everyone has things they dislike, so you must be wondering why I have opened my heart to you, the Cutter readers, about my hatred of all things ITV Sport?

It’s simple really. I suddenly realised that the up and coming Euro 2012 will be a joint venture between the BBC and ITV. Fair enough you might say and I would nod my head slowly in agreement before leaning closer to you ear, let’s say the left one as it looks cleaner, and whisper the following sentence.

ITV have the rights to show the first and, crucially, the third England game.

This means that Adrian Chiles will be sitting in front of the camera when Rooney plays his first game after his ban. This means that Clive Tyldesley will be commentating in his unusually high voice when Rooney comes back to save England. This means that Jim Beglin, Andy Townsend and/or Gareth Southgate will be chipping in with useless information, piss poor punditry and unfunny anecdotes about Mr Rooney days before the game actually takes place. This will, of course, be excruciating to watch.

It gets worse though as this also means that they will have an unlovely theme tune which will feature a Bandura. They will have an opening to the programme with rather unfetching graphics that will have nothing to do with the game itself and will go on for what seems like hours and hours. They will have a rather large sofa in a horrible and bright colour that will look tiny when Mr Chiles plonks his considerable behind on it. They will attempt to have some sort of pitch graphic to show player positions which will make noises as they are moved around.

They will, in short, completely mess it up which will mean that I won’t be able to watch it without screaming in a high pitched voice at the screen. Repeatedly.

God I hate ITV Sport.