Euro 2012: #6 Television Coverage Review

‘Inventive, Thoughtful Viewing vs Bland, Boring Cliches’ 

“It’s good to dream” [Euro 2012 on ITV promotional advert] 

“Any football programme that can get Roy Keane turning around in his chair smiling from ear to ear waving deserves some sort of credit! Nice ending to a good tournament and coverage!” wrote royal99 on the Digital Spy broadcasting forums as the curtain came down on another international tournament. This European Championships was the most enjoyable and entertaining from a personal perspective. I wasn’t interested in football when Euro 96 was here in England, which I’d imagine would have been incredible. But there was something special, perhaps unexpectedly so, about this year’s tournament. From start to finish I enjoyed the lot.

As usual I wouldn’t be attending any of the matches in person or travelling anywhere near the host cities so I was relying on the broadcasters to convey the atmosphere and showcase the spectacle on my television. ITV did not let me down. I’ve always been a big fan of ITV’s coverage of football, and sport in general, for over a decade. Most of this time I’ve been alone in my praise, with the majority preferring their terrestrial rivals BBC. When Premier League highlights transferred from Match of the Day on BBC One to The Premiership on ITV1 there was uproar. People hated it. I really enjoyed it. Advertisement breaks don’t bother me too much, particularly in football. When watching a game in a pub that final break just before kick-off really adds to the excitement. The majority of the time the adverts are about the game or about the sport anyway and it only lasts for about a minute. In general people don’t like ITV’s football but there was a sense during Euro 2012 that opinions were changing slightly.

The ITV Sport Channel will always live long in my memory. The Football League will never enjoy the breadth and depth of coverage ITV gave it during the 2001/2002 season. Ten years later only a handful of the talent on display for ITV were on show during the Euros. Matt Smith, Peter Drury, Jim Beglin, Jon Champion and Ned Boulting were all still on board, and Guy Mowbray was leading the BBC’s commentary line-up. Proof that form may be temporary but class is permanent.

Ahead of the Euros there wasn’t the same sort of excitement and hype we normally see. Very few Euro-themed programmes, no post-match spin-off comedy show, no celebrity bandwagon jumping. Even not all the adverts had some sort of tenuous link to the tournament. The reason? Probably because there wasn’t much belief the England team would go very far for the first time in my life

Seemingly the only ones that had faith in Team England was ITV. Their pre-tournament promo had the theme ‘Dare to Dream’. It was a very clever campaign in which famous moments in England’s footballing history were reimagined and, with a bit of technical editing, we came out on top. Gareth Southgate scored his penalty against Germany in 1996. Phil Neville’s last-minute tackle against Romania in 2000 was a clean one. Scott Carson saved the Croatian shot in 2007. The full-length advert, hyperlinked at the foot of the blog, had England unbeaten in over 500 games, winning every trophy in sight. “What if?” they asked. That inventive promo set the tone for ITV’s tournament coverage. Unfortunately for the BBC’s effort, their advert also summed up what was to come from them.

The BBC promo, whilst visually quite nice with animations and the same dramatic music Brighton use in their pre-kick-off video, was exactly the same as their title sequence. Not a big point for anyone but I was kind of disappointed, particularly compared to ITV’s effort. It smacked of laziness. The BBC decided to base themselves at home for the first half of the tournament and only fly out for the last quarter final onwards; which equated to four games. It felt like just another MotD broadcast. The same old faces appeared, the same old clichéd lines were trotted out and there was very little to indicate this was a major international tournament. It lacked atmosphere, colour, and excitement. Their tournament only got going in the knock-out rounds; which was the exact opposite of the competition itself strangely. The football during the group stages was fantastic, even England were playing well.

It wasn’t all bad news for the BBC team. Gary Lineker held the front line well and is a reliable pair of hands. Lee Dixon was as usual the best of the regular Beeb pundits, ignoring the apparent unwritten rule by engaging in a bit of research. When Jurgen Klinsmann and Gianluca Vialli appeared for a couple of games late on they dragged the coverage up to a different level and put the British pundits to shame. Alan Hansen may as well tweet his contributions in nowadays; a once great pundit reduced to lazy, generic pre-conceptions. Commentary wise it’s still solid if unspectacular. The weakest are by a million miles in the co-commentators. Mark Lawrenson is such an irritant he should have an orange sticker on him, constantly sniping and belittling the game. Go home then Lawro if you don’t like it. Mark Bright is actually rhyming slang and is unbelievable to think he’s been a BBC regular for a staggering 12 years. McCarthy and Keown weren’t too bad but suffered from the curse of Twitter; everytime they were on they would be trending. Rarely is that a good thing. The highlights shows with Colin Murray were ok, he’s an interesting host and is well suited to this sort of lighter style of show. Pitchside, Jake Humphrey continues to appear on every sport and has come a long way since his terrible debut shows five years ago. The BBC does sport so fantastically well but their football continues to let them down. It appears outdated, too familiar and offers very little insight or excitement.

Contrast that to ITV who I have got nothing but praise for. From Adrian Chiles, through Roy Keane and Jamie Carragher, onto Clive and Andy, Peter and Jim and Jon and Craig the line-up was strong in all areas. Chiles has really grown into his role as football anchor, despite some thinking that’s rhyming slang, and steadied the ship, keeping conversations flowing expertly. With the advert breaks the flow isn’t the same as what he enjoyed on MotD2 but he’s been reunited with his old pal Gordon Strachan and the pair always ensured that light-hearted, enjoyable side of the game was present and it made for excellent viewing. The ITV pundit line-up was fewer than in recent years but much, much stronger; quality over quantity. Roy Keane made for fascinating viewing and Chiles even managed to crack a few smiles out of him! Roberto Martinez provided fantastic tactical insight and great knowledge in every appearance, even making it onto the final show due to his countrymen’s victory. Newbie Jamie Carragher was also very engaging and was surprisingly (and refreshingly) honest, unafraid to criticise current and former teammates. Gareth Southgate bowed out to step-up his full time FA role with a solid tournament too.

ITV can be very proud of the studio stuff, situated in a beautiful location in Castle Square in Warsaw. It felt like the coverage was sponsored by the Polish Tourist Board because it really made me want to visit the place. I’m looking at flights as I type! The commentary was faultless too, with three settled pairings who all work so well together. The graphics were nice and shiny and new; always a bonus. The ‘I’m A Celebrity’ style name tags were pleasing. My highlight of the coverage was definitely on day three when the build-up to Spain vs Italy (a rehearsal for the final as it turned out) was presented from a café in Castle Square and they were joined by the delightful Emiliano from Milano, an Italian fan. It had that retro Football Italia feel to it and was a lovely change to the norm.

For that and all of the above I can’t praise ITV highly enough. They enhanced my enjoyment of this great tournament immensely. The BBC did a good job too, but this time they were overshadowed by their younger rivals. It’s back to domestic stuff for the two soon; ITV will continue the big events with England games, Champions League, Europa League and the FA Cup. BBC will pick up the bread and butter grind of the Premier and Football League highlights and the Olympics of course. I hope the high standards continue there and beyond as we look ahead to the next international tournament and Brazil 2014. Ooh I can picture it now!

HYPERLINK: ITV’s ‘What Dreams are Made Of’ promo

About Mark O'MEARA
I am Mark O'MEARA.

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