The Football League has undergone numerous facelifts and rebranding projects to rid itself of old pre-cursors such as the ‘basement’ or ‘the graveyard of ambition’.
The Championship (formerly the second division) is no longer solely associated with the top division’s title chase, and League One and League Two are deceptively elevating pseudonyms for what are actually the third and fourth tiers of British football.
Whereas the Football League has been innovative with its reinventions, though, the BBC’s coverage of it has been a little less than imaginative. The catchy name for its weekly, post-Match of the Day slot? The Football League Show.
And while the BBC’s coverage, despite its less than eye-catching branding, has still increased viewing figures for the divisions in question, its peculiar underground studio does create a basement feel.
Every Saturday night, we’re taken into the depths of a cold, bare warehouse, with only presenter Manish Bhasin and an analyst, usually Steve Claridge, for company. Claridge, having played for most, if not every one, of the football clubs in the United Kingdom, is the ideal man to guide you through the efforts of Gillingham’s John Nutter or Morecambe midfielder Emmanuel Panther.
Meanwhile, another of the BBC’s (un)memorable creations is the title of its League Cup programme… The League Cup Show.
This competition has also had its image tarnished by indifferent managers and belittling media coverage but, like the Football League, it has consistently reinvented itself as, among other things, the Milk Cup, Worthington Cup and now the Carling Cup.
It may only have rebranded itself for financial reasons but attendances are up, big clubs are all taking it seriously and, judging by the BBC’s decision to call in the big guns (well, Mark Lawrenson) for its coverage, the Carling Cup appears to be in rude health.
There is viewer interactivity in both programmes, with Jacqui Oatley and Lizzie Greenwood-Hughes fielding emails from fans. Although a little tedious, it does spare us the aural ordeal of a radio phone-in ‘debate’ between Alan Green and ‘Dave from the Wirrall’.
One facet of the footballing media circus the BBC has disappointingly overlooked is Andy Townsend’s Tactics Truck, last seen on ITV’s ill-fated Premiership highlights package. The nearest thing we’re treated to is the expert Leroy Rosenior chatting excitedly about the ‘total football’ on display at, erm, Huddersfield Town.
The BBC also has coverage rights for football’s truly unfashionable competition, the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. It remains unconfirmed, however, whether there are plans to broadcast The Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Show.
As written for Leeds Student 30/10/09