Saturday, 21 June 2014

Fans with microphones...a disservice to sport

We've been warned that if Scotland votes to go it alone in the September referendum the country may be unable to watch popular BBC television and radio programmes such as East Enders and The Archers.

I'm convinced this is another scare story put about by the No side, although I have to say I wouldn't mind having selected chunks of BBC output blocked by technology. In particular, the near fanatical English bias displayed by many of its sports commentators.

Perhaps you're old enough to remember the days when the chaps covering a Test match or a game of football were content to describe the action without forcing their views or prejudices down the throats of their audience. The likes of John Arlott could bring the cricket to life with his wonderful turn of phrase, and Peter Jones was my idea of a top soccer commentator.

The Scottish Borders gave the world Bill McLaren, the finest TV commentator bar none, who deserved the title The Voice of Rugby. He may have been a Scot with a fierce passion for his country's rugby team, but he never showed it on air, even when the Scots were competing for the Calcutta Cup against the Auld Enemy.

It is such a shame that commentators nowadays are allowed to blatantly support their favourite club or country. And when they lay down the microphone for their half-time pie and Bovril the viewer or listener is confronted by a panel of 'experts' who proceed to analyse and dissect every kick or handling move.

The BBC's coverage of the 2014 World Cup of Football has been completely ruined for me by the almost one hundred percent concentration on the useless, third-rate English team by a veritable army of posers and pundits, despatched to Brazil at huge expense to licence payers. I'm sure the bloated TV team from Gary Lineker down (or should that be up) were convinced Rooney, Gerard and company were coming back with the trophy.

Meanwhile Radio Five Live have been broadcasting twelve-hours-a-day coverage, much of it concentrating on England's team selection and subsequent failings on the field of play. The post-mortem which followed the defeat at the hands of Uruguay (population 3.5 million, or the same number of people who live in Wales) lasted several days.

Irishman Alan Green, one of the English fans with a microphone, seemed convinced there was nothing to prevent his favourite team from progressing into the last sixteen and beyond. He had strong backing from a support team which featured the awful Robbie Savage and the ranting Chris Waddle.

But even when it became mathematically impossible for England to get out of their group we continued to be bombarded with endless drivel by legions of presenters and their guests ensconced in a cafe-bar on Copacabana beach. Money no object it would seem when others are footing the bill. The entire motley crew should have been forced to watch a boxed-set of Bill McLaren commentaries to show them how it should be done.

The situation has been no better at the now completed three match rugby Test series featuring New Zealand and England. It was bad enough having to suffer another season of Six Nations matches listening to Brian Moore spouting his pro-English propaganda.

This month if we wanted to hear the match on the car radio it was Scotsman Ian Robertson screaming like a banshee every time England got anywhere near the try line. His biased patter even extended to goading his fellow commentator Murray Mexted, the former All Black, whenever England were ahead on points.

"You must be worried now Murray", Robertson quipped on more than one occasion. But, of course, Murray had no need to worry for New Zealand (population a mere 4.433 million) triumphed in every encounter, thrashing England by half-time in the third Test.

There isn't enough space here to discuss the shortcomings of Adrian Chiles and the other English fans covering the World Cup for ITV. And there are numerous examples of English bias elsewhere in the broadcast media.

Perhaps the Bill McLaren Foundation could sponsor or organise courses for budding sports commentators so that the highest professional standards as practised by the much loved and much missed Voice of Rugby might be resurrected and carried forward for the benefit of future generations of sports fans.

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