A Difference In Class

Posted: July 28, 2015 in TV Sports Coverage
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Let me start by saying that Sky TV’s coverage of sport is second to none. The effort and imagination, (not to mention the money), put into any given sport is commendable.

As soon as they won the contract to show Formula One racing, what happened? Sky F1 suddenly appeared. They were never going to be accused of taking it lightly and, as with most sports they cover, they have taken it to a different level.

They were the first, as far as I remember, to get ex-players involved in presenting and commentating. In the past, Match of the Day for example, would have footballing guests to talk about the game, but that was the extent of their involvement. Now they are present hours before the game and quite a while afterwards as evidenced by Soccer Saturday. They have ex-footballers at the matches to bring us up to date with the game and they seem to have cameras at every game.

One thing they can’t get away from, which is mildly amusing, is the good old British, (probably more correct to say English), class system. Whichever way you care to slice it up Football is still considered a working class game, as is Rugby League and it is no coincidence that both games, supposedly, originated in the North of England.

Tennis, Cricket and Rugby Union are ostensibly of Southern English origin, (unless you choose to believe that Tennis originated in France, in which case it was brought over to Southern England). These are games that were originally played by the upper classes. If you would like a career as a Tennis player, even to this day, it helps if you have money.

Comparing the coverage of just two of these games, Football and Cricket, is fascinating. Not because they are actually covered any differently, they both have lots of commentators and camera angles and high technology equipment, but because of the people involved in the coverage.

Cricket still has the “old school tie” stigma, although not as much now as thirty or forty years ago. International Cricket on Sky is presented by one of the best batsmen it has been my privilege to see in David Ivon Gower who just happened to attend University College, London. He is aided and abetted by Michael Atherton who attended Downing College, Cambridge, Nasser Hussein who went to Durham University, Nick Knight who attended Felsted and finally the two “commoners”, David “Bumble” Lloyd and Sir Ian Botham, neither of whom went to university, but this does not mean they can be regarded in any way as inferior to the others.

Football, on the other hand, with the exception of Gary Lineker at the BBC and now BT Sport, has failed to provide an ex-footballer they feel can be trusted enough with the presentation of “Super Sunday”, or MNF, (Monday Night football, for the uninitiated). They leave it to professional presenters who, unfortunately, generally know very little about football as was the case with Richard Keys, and is the case with Ed Chamberlain and one or two others. These presenters are ably assisted by the likes of Gary Neville, Jamie Carragher, Jamie Redknapp, Graeme Souness, Glenn Hoddle, (occasionally) and Thierry Henry, none of whom, to my knowledge, had a lengthy education. Granted, they do have immense knowledge when it comes to Football, but for anecdotes and general conversation when there is a lull in the game, give me the cricket boys anytime.

There are also two shows on a Sunday morning. One, during the Cricket season, is “Cricket Writers On TV”, the other, during the Football season, is “The Sunday Supplement”. The latter, presented by Neil Ashton of the Daily Mail, (again, no ex-footballer entrusted with the show), is attended by assorted hacks from, usually, the Daily Express, the Sun, the Daily Mirror, the Sunday People, etc. Generally speaking, tabloid newspapers. The former is hosted by Paul Allott, ex-Lancashire and England fast bowler. This is attended by similar assorted hacks but from the broadsheets. So the Guardian, the Times, the Independent, etc.

As I said the differences are fascinating but all point back to the way the sports were promoted in school. I went to a grammar school in Manchester, we never had a Cricket team to my knowledge, we only ever played Football and Rugby. I’m sure this changed as you went further South.

Nowadays, of course, the two sports are played at most schools, so eventually the difference in class between them will disappear. Will this be a good thing? Well, yes and no. Yes because you never want to see class distinction privileging some and not others, and no because, like it or not, it has produced some great characters who can’t be held responsible for being born where they were.

Golf, by the way, was invented in Scotland and is, therefore, classless, (even though I have many Scottish relatives who would disagree).

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