Wednesday 4 February 2009

Can we trust ITV with the FA Cup?

Began this morning taking part in an interview on England and Englishness with Michael Kenny of ippr, for a very interesting project they are doing on English cultural and political identities. This evening, had to scarper home sharpish after catching most of a very interesting Friedrich Ebert Stiftung event involving two of continent's the best social democratic thinkers - Erhard Eppler and David Marquand - to commune with that greatest of all English institutions, the FA Cup, hosting a Merseyside derby no less.

But unfortunately not on that greatest of British institutions, the BBC.

Did the Football Association know what it was doing when it sold the rights to an ITV/Setanta consortium, after the sterling service done recently (and especially during last year's roller-coaster tournament) by the BBC, in its partnership with Sky?

Tts a bit predictably Fabian to assume the BBC does these things better than its commercial cousin.

But the fact is that it does. And ITV should be sick as a parrot about its amateurish performance so far.

They got a lot of flak for their terrible highlights coverage of the 3rd round Saturday - where they gave about 2 minutes to Nottingham Forest's victory at Manchester City, so as to make space for extended highlights of a nil-nil draw between Hull and Newcastle.

With first pick of the games in this round, they passed up the Liverpool-Everton game the first time around, to show what turned out to be a reserve fixture between Spurs and Manchester United, in Alex Ferguson's continuing efforts to undermine our great footballing traditions.

But they surpassed themselves tonight, when accidentally cutting to an advertising break and so missing the winning goal at the end of extra time. Never has the case for having the Radio 5 commentary on been better made, though ITV cut back in time to see some celebrating players.

Most amusing was the wording of one of those non-apology apologies - "sorry, if you missed the goal due to technical difficulties". Well, it was a bit difficult not to if you weren't going to show it.

Still, its the winning that counts. This corner of next left - having grown-up in the north-west - has lost its scouse accent, but remains blue, not red, when it comes to football. No complacency or gloating here (but rather a particularly heartfelt word of condolence to our new Fabian chair Sadiq Khan MP, a Liverpudlian like so many of his Tooting constituents), but the winner of the Everton-Villa tie in the next round must have a great chance of getting to Wembley.

Perhaps ITV could keep its eye on the ball too.


Calix said...

Mr Katwala is clearly infruirated by a perceived injustice, but I feel moved to correct him on one point.

Manchester United vs TOTTENHAM (bless their cotton socks) is not a second rate fixture, but one between the two clubs with the greatest cup tradition in England. Most of us would far rather see this fixture than watch a local free for all, even though I must admit that Manchester United/Tottenham proved a rather limp affair.

Sunder Katwala said...

Well, there is no such thing as impartiality. But Calix is wearing his White Hart Lane blinkers here.

I myself have the greatest respect for Tottenham Hotspur. They are - with Arsenal, Aston Villa and Everton - among the great football clubs of England, even if that is not recognised by the more recent upstarts of Anfield and Old Trafford, to say nothing of the Chelski oligarchs. The very first FA Cup final I remember was the truly amazing centenary final and replay of 1981, with Ardiles, Ricky Villa and all of that, which I was able to stay up and watch as a 7 year old.

But a Merseyside derby is always one both sides will want to win. And when Harry Redknapp is picking a weakened team, and Ferguson is trying to find some corner of the rulebook to get out of playing a replay, it was a bad choice. Man Utd have done more to undermine the traditions of the cup than any other club by far.

ITV have done it again in the first choice of game: Derby v Man Utd. There is no point even giving them the draw - they just want to show Man Utd (Reserves).