Tuesday, 29 November 2011

BBC Sport: Will Normal Service Ever Be Resumed?

How ironic that the BBC's coverage of the 2011 Formula 1 season ended with the above image. Viewers of the Formula 1 Forum, following the Brazilian Grand Prix, were treated to the only semblance of an apology that the BBC have offered to it's millions of Formula 1 fans for the decision to abandon any sort of serious commitment to the sport. The fact that this apology came about as a result of a Brazilian power cut rather than any sudden attack of decency from BBC bosses only serves to highlight the irony.

Formula 1 coverage, as we have known it, is no more. Despite previously committing to a five year contract to provide it's customers with live coverage of the full Formula 1 season, the BBC have bailed out of that commitment two years early. You may think that is fair enough. In these difficult economic times is it not right that the BBC should seek to make necessary cost savings just as every other public corporation is required to do? After all, when the original commitment was made nobody could have foreseen the tumultuous economic upheaval that the whole world has had to face up to. Surely Formula 1 fans should take this one on the chin and recognise that we all have sacrifices to make in these austere times?

On a personal level I have no dispute with the BBC for seeking to make such cost savings. As an avid Formula 1 fan I am disappointed that the BBC should choose to end it's full season coverage of the sport because it's coverage is very, very good. However, I recognise that savings do need to be made and I am willing to accept that this is one way that the BBC can make significant savings. What I do take issue with are the lies and smokescreens that have been proffered up by the BBC as they seek to mislead their customers regarding their motivations for the actions they have taken. The BBC has shown a complete disregard to the interests of both the sport and it's customers.

The word customers is an interesting one. We used to be viewers but now we are very much customers - or consumers. However, we are no normal customers. Normal customers make an informed decision on whether or not to purchase a product or service based upon whether or not we believe that product or service offers value for money. With the BBC we are not given that choice. For those of us living in the UK we are forced to purchase this service whether or not we think it is value for money and whether or not we have any desire to use it. The BBC has a captive customer base, and with that should come responsibility.

So what exactly is it that the BBC have done wrong? If savings need to be made then why is there such uproar among Formula 1 fans for the way that the BBC have gone about their business? What is it that is causing Formula 1 fans to claim that the BBC have shirked the responsibility that comes with their position?

In truth, there are a number of issues with the conduct of the BBC. All of these issues go to the heart of the matter of whether the BBC is providing a public service or is in fact serving it's own selfish ambitions. I believe that the overwhelming body of evidence is that the BBC shows very little regard to it's public responsibilities and is far more concerned with serving it's own interests rather than those of the people that are forced to pay for the inflated salaries of it's executives and presenters. The BBC has become a business that seeks to exploit it's customers in every way possible - not unlike the media outlet that it has decided to get into bed with for next year's Formula 1 coverage.

Next year the BBC have decided that they will be showing half of the Grand Prixs live while Sky Sports show the other half. For the races that will be shown live on Sky the BBC will be showing delayed extended highlights. The extent of these 'extended' highlights is not yet clear. The corporation is sending out extremely mixed messages that often contradict themselves. They have already shown that the statements they made immediately following the announcement of the deal were nothing more than outright lies. The promise that the BBC would be showing the races in full on a delayed transmission are already well and truly out of the window.

The first real issue that I have with the deal that the BBC have struck with Sky is simply the fact that is it with Sky. The BBC have done a very good job of attracting new fans to the sport of Formula 1 in the three years that it has had the screening rights back. Before this, the excellent work of people like Murray Walker and James Hunt converted others, including myself, to the excitement of the sport. It was a shock when the BBC first lost the screening rights for Formula 1. A shock but not a disaster. None of us lost the ability to watch the Formula 1 season. We simply had to turn over to ITV and endure those irritating adverts. However, this time the BBC have ensured that many of it's 'customers' will no longer be able to watch the full season by doing a deal with Sky.

There are two big problems with Sky. One is moral and the other is economic. Anybody who now wants to watch all of the Grand Prix live are now being forced to line the pockets of the Murdoch family. Many people will have a major moral aversion to doing business with such loathsome characters. This is the family who oversaw the News of The World hacking the phones of not just celebrities but also missing children, victims of crime and sufferers of personal tragedy. These people are the lowest of the low. The BBC may have no moral scruples about dealing with the Murdoch family but many people will find that their conscience does not allow them to do so. I don't have the luxury of making this moral choice, which leads to the second problem. Sky subscriptions are expensive. Many people cannot afford the hundreds of pounds a year required to watch Sky TV. It may well be the way of the world that the pleasures in life cost money, and if you can't afford them then it is simply tough, but the BBC should not be dressing this up as anything other than a deal that will cut off thousands (perhaps millions) of viewers from the sport they have come to love.

For many, that last statement may sound a little extreme. How can we possibly be cut off from the sport we love when the BBC will be showing extended highlights of each race that they are not showing live? For many people the thought of watching an entire Grand Prix is a dreadful one. Lap after lap of cars in procession, going around in circles with not much happening. Surely a highlights package that showed the 'interesting' bits but saved you from the tedium of uneventful laps would be an improvement? Not for the true Formula 1 fan! For those who understand the intricacies of the sport, those 'boring' laps are full of latent potential. You never know when a gearbox will explode, when a tyre will fail or when a backmarker will take off a leader for no apparent reason. We may be displaying trainspotting tendencies, but Formula 1 fans enjoy watching those cars go round in circles. It is the not knowing what will happen next that makes a full race so enjoyable.

In his end of season blog even Jake Humphrey acknowledges that "One of the things I've loved about the coverage we've provided since 2009 has been the genuine human emotion that only live sport can deliver." Live sport! Highlights simply do not offer anywhere near the same level of enjoyment. Without the full coverage you miss so much of the event and the intrigue. There is a solution however. Even on a time delayed transmission it is possible to watch the race as if it were live - provided that you get to see the race in full. Bernie Ecclestone has confirmed that this option is available to the BBC. The BBC has chosen not to take advantage of this. So much for its commitment to offering fans the very best coverage available!

Another issue with getting the most of next year's highlights on the BBC will be the ability to watch the Grand Prix without knowing the result. Will the BBC be respecting this fact by delaying showing any race results on it's website until after the highlights have been shown? I very much doubt it. The BBC has shown no signs so far of being willing to make any sacrifices on behalf of the fans. So the BBC, which says that it seeks to promote sport and it's coverage, will be giving Formula 1 fans the choice of watching the race already knowing the outcome or avoiding all other sports online on a Sunday. Its not as if a lot of sport takes place on a Sunday!

For all of the complaining, and putting aside the issue that the BBC is choosing not to show the race in full, all of the above can be justified under the banner of cost cutting. We all know that the BBC has to do everything that it reasonably can to cut costs. So bearing this in mind, why on earth is it sending a full team of presenters to every Grand Prix that it wont be showing live? There is no need and doing so is a slap in the face for everyone who is losing out on the ability to see the races. I have nothing against Jake Humphrey, David Coulthard or Eddie Jordan. Indeed I have greatly enjoyed their coverage of the sport. However, I have no desire to see my licence fee being used to pay for them to attend events that will not be made available for my full enjoyment when their is no practical need for them to do so. They could provide just as informative a discussion on the race from a studio in Manchester. The Match of the Day presenters manage it so why not the Formula 1 presenters? One or two interviewers, along with the technical crews, would be enough to provide all the footage we would need for highlights. Let us hope that the BBC see sense on that issue and do not throw that insult in our faces next year. The cost of sending them there may not be huge in terms of the overall budget, but how many Sky subscriptions for less well off viewers could be bought with that money? How many unwanted licence fees for that matter?

Perhaps I am being harsh. Perhaps it is unfair to be so critical of the BBC when there was no alternative faced with the need to save money. No alternative? That is the biggest issue of all. There was an alternative. I am not referring to the possibility of cutting costs on some of the more ridiculous projects that the BBC indulges in instead. I am biased and couldn't provide a balanced argument when it comes to that. I love Formula 1 too much. I am referring to the fact that an alternative - a much better alternative for Formula 1 fans - was available. Channel 4 offered an alternative that would have matched the package offered by Sky and would have allowed the full season to be shown on free to view television. Every race available to every viewer. Imagine that! The only difficulty? The BBC would not have been part of the deal. Channel 4 would have taken over the full coverage.

That left the BBC with a decision to make. A decision about what it exists for. Does it exist to provide the very best for it's licence fee payers or does it exist to serve itself. If the BBC was indeed interested in the welfare of both the sports it covers and the viewers of those sports it would have allowed Channel 4 to take over the coverage so that everybody could see every race. We got our answer. The BBC does not care about the viewer. If it gave up coverage rights then it wouldn't have clips to show on its website or highlights to show on the iplayer. The decision, in the end, had nothing to do with savings as the total savings would have been far greater. No crew or presenters to send to any race. They could even have invested those savings into covering another sport properly. However, they chose not to and showed us that they are happy to provide half-baked sports coverage.

There are a lot of Formula 1 fans saying that they will never forgive the BBC for this decision. Never is a long time in coming though, and sports fans are particularly fickle. The BBC can rely on the fact that our love of sport will always outweigh our dislike of how they have acted. If they ever see sense and decide to cover the sport properly then people will come back. They should not be complacent though. I, for one, will be exploring every possible alternative to watching Grand Prix on either Sky or the BBC next year. I doubt I will be the only person searching for live streaming. Perhaps of more concern though is the fact that I have always been opposed to abolishing the licence fee. I believed the BBC was worth protecting because, as a public service, it served our needs. I no longer think that. Politicians have a funny habit of taking advantage of fickle public opinion. Don't get too cosy in those fancy new Manchester offices!

Normal service will resume shortly? Normal service may never resume again!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

10 Maddening Football Cliches That Won’t Die

This article was sent in to us by Jena Ellis from Online Certificate Programs. At Its Not Life Or Death we may know that this article isn't about football at all, but seeing as they call football soccer we'll let them off. We are grateful - honest! Thank you Jena....

With the average football game lasting more than three hours, it's not easy for play-by-play men and analysts to fill air time. Think about it — the average broadcast pairing calls 16 games per season, working in the neighborhood of 48 hours. They witness different sequences of the same events, dispensing essentially the same overused analysis as each play unfolds (see Madden's maddening cliches during his heyday in the booth). That's why smart football fans appreciate the supremely talented guys who don't spare the details and don't conceal their honest opinions. They typically don't rely on the following tired cliches that you've undoubtedly heard over and over again on fall Saturdays and Sundays.

  1. He's a high-motor guy

    Peyton Hillis is a "high-motor guy" for the Browns (or was until this season). David Pollack was a "high-motor guy" at Georgia. See a pattern? This describes a player who is thought to lack athleticism, but exhibits a lot of heart. He's more likely to truck multiple defenders while fighting for a two-yard gain. He's more likely to run down a ball carrier after a missed tackle. He's more likely to make a great play on special teams. On the other hand, the exceptionally athletic tend to not work as hard, according to those commentators, which couldn't be further from the truth.

  2. He's a throwback

    Like the "high-motor guy," a "throwback" player "gives 110%" each time he takes the field, proving that "he just wants it more" than his opponent. He'll play with a broken femur or with blood gushing out of his forehead. He'll spend late nights studying film, as opposed to womanizing at the local bars and clubs. His coaches love him. In fact, he'll probably end up being a coach after he retires. Modern players, for the most part, have been characterized as selfish and not nearly as devoted to their craft, despite the fact that they spend many, many more hours preparing physically and mentally than in the past.

  3. He's deceptively fast

    He's either fast or he's not. You can't be "deceptively fast." Again, making generalizations about players based solely on their appearances isn't wise. The aforementioned Peyton Hillis, a "high-motor guy," may weigh 250 pounds, but he also ran a 4.5 40-yard dash. Overshadowed by Darren McFadden and Felix Jones at Arkansas, he quietly punished opposing SEC defenses by both pounding the ball and breaking long runs. General Managers took note, and the Broncos made him their third-round selection in 2008. He had a breakout season for the Browns in 2010, and now is on the cover of Madden NFL 12. This season, nobody is deceived by his fastness, however, which might explain why he's averaging fewer than four yards per carry.

  4. He left it all on the field

    In most cases, this one is used to describe a player on an outmatched team who performed well despite the loss. He demonstrated "the heart of a champion," expending all of his energy in pursuit of that elusive victory. Here are a few examples of players who did just that: Thurman Thomas during Super Bowl XXV, Jake Delhomme during Super Bowl XXXVIII, and Kurt Warner during Super Bowl XLIII.

  5. They'll have to play all 60 minutes

    Just to be dense, imagine if a team stopped playing after six minutes had passed in the third quarter, meaning the players were on the field for 36 of 60 minutes. That would be something, right? Forfeits don't happen in modern NFL games, though they happen all the time in college football — several years after the games had been played (see USC, SMU, etc.). Every team plays 60 minutes. Not every team plays hard during the entire 60 minutes. Even still, everyone knows that a team can't take a siesta during the third quarter if they hope to win.

  1. That's a costly turnover

    Is there ever a time when a turnover isn't costly? Of course, some turnovers are more costly than others. It stings much more when your team's running back fumbles the ball on his opponent's three-yard line during the waning moments of a closely fought AFC Championship Game (sorry, Browns fans) than when your team's backup quarterback tosses an interception when he's overseeing a five-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter. So, instead of stating the obvious, play-by-play men and analysts could say "that was the worst possible time for a turnover."

  2. They were out-talented

    "Out-talented" is a new term that has emerged in recent years, probably created by a fatigued sports announcer during the conclusion of a mind-numbing blowout. When Houston obliterated SMU 95-21 in 1989, the Mustangs were "out-talented." Actually, they were out-talented a lot that season, their first after the devastating death penalty. There really isn't a more concise, politically correct way to say a team is bad, though an announcer could always just say, "they had less talent." It's not difficult, and sounds much, much better.

  3. The best defense is a good offense

    The idea is that a team overwhelming its opponent on offense is enough to reduce the harm the opponent can inflict on that team's defense. That strategy has been successful for college programs such as Hawaii and Houston, each of which has shattered passing records en route to winning seasons. However, on higher levels of football, teams simply can't win anything substantial without having at least a mediocre defense. The 2009 Saints, for example, ranked 20th in scoring defense and 26th in yards allowed per game, but had 41 takeaways. Their defense gained more possessions for their incredible offense, enabling the team to win the Super Bowl. As any Saints fan, Steel Curtain fan, or SEC fan will tell you, defense matters.

  4. Either team could win in overtime

    Or something to that effect. Who knew? The cliche essentially means that both teams are capable of outlasting the other in extra time, but that was already proven in regulation. This cliche is especially useful during college overtime, when the outcome is guaranteed not to be a tie. Spouting it during pro overtime could leave egg on an announcer's face since there's a possibility the game could end in a tie.

  5. They're better than their record indicates

    Bill Parcells killed this one when he said, "You are what your record says you are." Winning games requires more than just compiling gaudy stats during games and through the course of a season. Turnovers and special teams — just ask Alabama about the latter — are parts of football, too. These teams typically are capable of "out-talenting" their opponents, but lack the skill, coaching, or execution to do it consistently.

You can see the original article here.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011


Please accept my apologies for the lack of contributions over recent months. Unfortunately blog writing has had to take a back seat recently due to heavy work commitments.

More articles will be appearing soon...

Saturday, 11 June 2011

What Makes Us Real Football 'Fans'?

On the penultimate day of the Premier League season I sat down on the sofa, drink in one hand and feet up ready to watch my Chelsea team take on Newcastle United in a pointless, nothing to play for match at Stamford Bridge. The mood in the stadium seemed a little subdued, and the match proved a perfect opportunity for Chelsea to model their new home shirt for the next season. This game never had the makings of being a thriller, effort levels were low, bodies were drained from the long disapointing season and Newcastle came away with a deserving point.

After the game I studied a few match reports as well as comments on forums from Chelsea fans disapointed with the performance and decided to air a few of my concerns and views in a sensible fashion about the following season, something I feel I am entitled to do through following my team since the earliest of memories and spending a sizeable amount of money each year on attending home and away matches. However some of the responses I (as well as others) were given were quite rude and unreasonable and one even questioned my loyalty to the club questioning whether I was a 'real fan' due to not attending the match. This led me to think and made me pose the question what constitutes a 'real fan'?

I don't feel like I am in any position to answer this question emphatically, nor do I think anyone else can, but what I can do and what I can appreciate is the commitment and sacrifice some fans make for their club, and it is a far cry from some fans who are in it for the glory, have divided loyalties and switch between teams at the off chance of being touched by the hand of success. Being a Chelsea fan from the age of 4 I can appriciate the amount that supporting such a team costs and how it takes over your life in a religious sense more than anything. Having your heart broken by last minute Iniesta strikes, Champions League final penalty misses, derby losses or even title winning successes are enough to make any man cry but what happens after these season defining moments, in my opinion, makes a fan. Personally, the feeling I have after every Chelsea match never differs, it is not affected by the result, the performance or the views of others, it is simply the pride I have for my team. This pride however isn't a measurable trait, which makes it understandably hard for us to understand the loyalty others have towards their clubs.

Having seen Chelsea experience success after success in recent years it has made me feel rather defensive towards others whenever I am asked that million pound question 'why do you support your team'. In response to this question many feel the need to answer with technical reasoning relating, for example, to their great grandfathers neice who went on holiday to Manchester once... (hence them supporting Man United) or a relationship with an ex player who graced the field 25 years prior. All that I know is that I am the only one who is aware of the loyalties I have towards my club and the affect it has on my life, and neither I or nobody else should feel the need to justify the decision to support their team.

Real fans aren't the thugs of the football club, they aren't the people that hurl abuse at the opposing fans with racial slurs and chants relating to disasters relating to the clubs, nor are they the ones who try and spread their beliefs on others and do not accept anything but the views they hold about their team. In my opinion a 'real fan' constitutes fans like me, the ones who will go to as many matches as possible and stay positive in adversity. Ones who show commitment to their team and see their club as part as their identity, and ones who live and breath their club and are always in the know regarding club goings on. See it in comparison with the love you have for your partner, you love them but you shouldn't feel the need to tell others why and how much, make others love them as well or disrespect your friends partners to make yours feel superior. You should be content in knowing yourself the love you have for them and why you love them... the same with your football club.

Being a football fan can be considered as being part of a tribe, it being your religion, it being your love... but there is a fine line between this and extremism, something that isn't a desirable trait of a fan. Win or lose, stick with your club and if your loyalties are ever questioned, you know within yourself how you feel.

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