by Liam McConville

Tuesday saw the grand unveiling of the esteemed BBC pundits Euro 2012 predictions. One that stuck out from the rest was that of Alan Hansen a man who reportedly earns £1.5million a year from his work on Match of the Day. Hansen in his infinite wisdom predicted the semi-finalists to be Spain, Germany, Holland and Portugal. On the face of it that would seem reasonable until you realise that Germany, Holland and Portugal are all in Group B and only two of them can progress beyond the group stages.

This glaring error was widely mocked across the internet as football fans struggled to understand the sheer incompetence of a man seen by many of the Beeb’s chief pundit. It really is hard to comprehend how someone who has been in the game for so long could make such an elementary error. It doesn’t take much research to look at who’s in which group before making predictions. Instead of doing his actual job Hansen has shown his arrogance and a scant disregard to the millions of taxpayers who fund his bloated salary.

The worst thing is that we shouldn’t be surprised. The 2010 World Cup appeared to be a real chore for the Scottish pundit come Nostradamus. He complained as he was subjected to watching Slovenia versus Algeria on his birthday (the horror!). Whilst most of us watching at home would love to be in the privileged position of travelling to the tournament and being paid to talk about the action on the pitch, it appears actual effort is beyond Hansen.

For a while now the men who sit on the sofa of Match of the Day have been far too comfortable. They rarely offer an opinion and are bordering on dropping to the ITV standard of broadcasting (how Andy Townsend gets away with offering such a lack of insight I’ll never know). Alan Shearer is another who is just incredibly tedious as a pundit and appears to have a lack of knowledge at times. Maybe the problem lies in that the BBC has so little live football these days. Apart from the rare Championship or Carling Cup game all that’s left in the Beeb’s football crown is tournament football.

With the need for budget cuts football has been a victim as ITV have snaffled up England rights in recent years where fans are subjecting to more dull coverage. ITV’s anchor of choice is Adrian Chiles, a man lacking in charisma and who surely after yet another inane comment will lead Roy Keane to explode with anger. Neither network has really evolved and have instead chosen to stick to the same tried and tested formula. Unfortunately for viewers this has now gone very stale.

Perhaps the executives at both the BBC and ITV should have a look at how Sky has changed their coverage in the last eighteen months since the now infamous sacking of gruesome twosome Andy Gray and Richard Keys. Of course Sky’s hand was forced following the duo’s sexist comments and the furore that followed but what they have done since has been very impressive. The likes of Graeme Souness and Gary Neville put most other pundits to shame with their insightful analysis.

They also have in their ranks a top-rate commentator in Martin Tyler whose commentary for the Sergio Aguero title winning goal was brilliant (I mean he exploded with excitement but I digress). What Sky also does so well is mix it up; pundits are rotated with many new faces coming in for guest slots to make the whole package feel fresh.

You feel a real enthusiasm over the game from those working at Sky and even if it does drift into hyperbole at times it’s still a refreshing anecdote to the cynicism of Hansen. Just because you’ve played at the highest level doesn’t mean you know it all and the sooner ‘top’ pundits realise this, the better. Let’s hope that this tournament proves to be a watershed for the men on the sofa and that after this gaffe they swot up and actually do their research.

However should Hansen and co choose to ignore this mishap they may well find that the BBC look enviously at Sky’s coverage and decide to make a change as well.