Commentators – The Football Fan’s Nightmare

Posted: October 21, 2015 in Commentators, Football, Opinion
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


Are they really necessary? Assuming that blind people don’t watch television, what is the point of a commentator?

I can go back as far as Kenneth Wolstenholme commentating on the 1966 World Cup final and his now immortal lines, “some people are on the pitch, they think it’s all over……………it is now!” All said to the accompaniment of Geoff Hurst booting the ball past a startled Hans Tilkowski for England’s fourth goal. The thing was, Wolstenholme didn’t actually tell us anything we didn’t already know. We were sat watching the game on TV.

Ever since the inception of televised football, the TV companies have thought it necessary to treat their audience as bumbling, infantile idiots. Where else do we accept the notion that, while we are actually watching something we know inside out, we need somebody to tell us what is happening

How many times does your partner point out something to which your answer is, “I know, I can see” or “I know, I’m not blind” and we get even more exasperated when they continue to point out what we have already declared as seen?

In this day and age there is even less need for a commentator. Picture quality and sound are better than ever. All this means for a commentator is that we can hear his inane waffle even more clearly.

As part of their “treat the public like bumbling, infantile idiots” policy, the TV companies didn’t even see the necessity to employ commentators who actually know anything about the game. Did they ever think that it might make sense to have an ex-professional footballer commentating on the game? No, through the years we have had the likes of David Coleman, Brian Moore, Gerald Sinstadt, Barry Davies, John Motson and a few others whose fame did not quite reach the height needed for a mention in this article.
There was even Idwell Robling! Now, some of you may remember him, I certainly do. He became a football commentator by winning a competition to become a football commentator. It could only have happened in Britain in the 1970’s. What did he have to do to win the competition, I wonder? Mispronounce a few names, call an offside when it obviously wasn’t, the mind boggles.

Now we have the likes of Alan Parry commentating on Sky’s live football. The only thing surprising about this one is when he gets something right. Gems include, “and that’s a brilliant ball,” as it sails over everyone into row Z. “What an excellent interception,” as a misplaced pass goes straight to one of the opposition. This is what we endure because some bright spark, many years ago, decided that we bumbling, infantile idiots needed somebody to tell us what was going on right in front of our eyes.

There are plenty of people who will watch a live game on TV, turn the sound off, and listen to the commentary from the radio. It’s still a commentator but I can understand their logic to an extent. Radio commentators have to assume that we are not watching the game so they have to keep to what happens on the pitch, so at least we are spared a lot of the opinions, anecdotes, useless facts and trivia that the likes of Martin Tyler think are so relevant. The problem with the likes of Tyler is that they actually believe they are interesting and that people want to listen to them. Again, I can remember him from his days at Granada TV, long before Sky ever appeared on the scene. He was awful then, over the years he has become better at being awful.

There was a time when, by pressing the red button on an interactive TV, you could choose your preferred commentary. I seem to remember the choices being, the original match commentator, the radio commentary or nothing. Whatever happened to that? I am sure that the “radio commentary” and “nothing” were selected much more frequently than the original commentary.

My suggestion would be to just have a couple of ex-footballers making comments and offering professional expertise at relevant moments during a game. BT Sport are close to this formula. They have two ex-footballers and access to an ex-referee, then they spoil it all by sticking a know-nothing commentator like Ian Darke in the middle of it all.

The advice that football managers all over the world give to their teams before going onto the pitch for a game seems very relevant for the TV companies also, “keep it simple.” Will the penny ever drop though?

  1. Tony says:

    I used to like the ‘nothing’ option though it wasn’t strictly nothing. You got all the crowd noise, whistles, payers shouting, everything but the commentary. It was brilliant.


  2. I agree Tony, it was the best option. I think it was a BBC thing during the World Cup whereby you could have John Motson on TV, Alan Green on Radio 5 or nothing. Given that choice I would think that “nothing” was the selection of the vast majority!


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