A whole new ball game

Monday, August 13, 2007 by

As I mentioned a few months back, all I ever watch on telly these days is football, and so I was certainly excited to see the new graphics, title sequences and theme tunes this weekend on both Sky Sports and the BBC. Most exciting of all, though, was the arrival of a brand new channel for Premier League football, as Aston Villa vs Liverpool was the first ever live Premier League match not to be broadcast on Sky Sports, but on new boys Setanta Sports.

There’s always a danger when sporting contracts change hands for the new incumbent to try too hard to stand out and stuff their coverage with gimmicks. Setanta certainly haven’t gone in this direction, and indeed it looked very much like you’d expect it to look – perfectly professional and adequate, it did what it had to do and that was about it. There were no real innovations but, in the end, all that matters is the 90 minutes.

One thing that might need sorting out is the opening of the show. The build-up to the 5.15pm kick-off begins at 4.30pm, while the rest of the day’s matches are being played, so the first half-hour intersperses the features with a scrolling vidiprinter and match reports. Sadly, host Angus Scott was unconvincing at this when he was alone in the studio on ITV’s unlamented results service The Goal Rush, so to expect him to try and link a live game from a stadium at the same time was asking for trouble. Given 99% of fans will be watching Soccer Saturday or Final Score, it might make more sense just to assume viewers can get this info elsewhere and just start the build-up at 5pm, or have someone in a studio monitoring the scores alone all afternoon, rather than this rather awkward compromise.

Still, it was nice to hear Jon Champion for a full 90 minutes, as he’s a fine commentator and has been inexplicably marginalised by ITV (who apparently he’ll continue working for throughout the season). Interviewer Alex Hayes was a bit at sea at the end (“Steven, you’re the Barclays Player of the Week, er, game, er, Man of the Match!”) but he’s a print journalist first and foremost so let’s give him time to get used to it.

In the end, Setanta made a decent start of it, and there was enough professionalism to make it look like their 101st Premier League game rather than their first. It doesn’t have the glitz and glamour of Sky Sports but it’s no England vs Poland on Channel 5-esque disaster either. And because I’m on Virgin, I’m getting it for free, so how can I complain?

However, Sky aren’t resting on their laurels and have amazed us all in the new season by … putting the commentators in vision at the start again, after an absence of many years. I always love seeing this sort of thing, and what better way to emphasise the dynamism and razzmatazz of the Premier League than putting ugly, balding sixtysomething Alan Parry in vision?


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