Having chucked in my BeIn Connect subscription in the last few weeks, and as the Winter Season closed, I’ve been reacquainting myself with a footballing institution. Match Of The Day has been running for 58 years now and, while it has undergone many changes throughout its run – it had become embedded in the footballing culture from the jaunty horn threaded theme tune, through to the time-slot – 22:30 – which allows supporters to get home from the match, or the pub, to catch the day’s action over some takeaway before falling asleep on the sofa and awakening midway through the NFL show that follows it.
It’s a simple format. The games of the day are presented with commentary, and then key moments of a few selected games are given closer scrutiny – while others are packaged up and given a more cursory discussion. The pundits are ex-professional footballers, who use their knowledge of the game to go over the goals and other key in-game moments. And that’s pretty much it. That’s all it needs to be.
In the past three seasons we’ve had variations on the coverage of the National League. In 2015/16, New Zealand Football Weekly covered match highlights but also included short feature player profiles, skill challenges and even some Football Ferns coverage. The following season, New Zealand Football Weekly moved from a studio to a live broadcast following Sunday’s feature game (and credit to all those who pulled that off, bloody hell) interspersed with pre-recorded segments. The same again last season, although there’s no evidence available on YouTube
The thing is, football coverage has changed and a lot of the pre-recorded segments from 2015/16 that you can see on YouTube are probably better suited to that platform now. Things like a crossbar challenge, skill shorts are made for sharing. Short player profiles that clubs can promote on their social media channels? Ideal video content. Channels like Copa90 and even Major League Soccer are doing a fantastic job of providing highlights and other related content – even Match of The Day are getting into it.
Of course, as always, the question is about cost and benefit. Sky get paid around $250,000 by clubs to film games, present one live, and then create additional content to fill in the gaps. But what if that wasn’t Sky’s job any more? What if their remit was to provide a clean, simple programme analysing two of the five men’s games per week and one of the three women’s games. The rest get highlights and commentary, as they do now.
This would also mean getting the National Women’s League televised. After the amazing Kate Sheppard Cup final the other Sunday, I think there’s an argument to be made in favour of that. Oh, and it’d be handy if the seasons started at the same time too. Would give the women’s players a rest as well.
I asked online who’d be the dreamcast for this new show, which can stay as New Zealand Football Weekly. Overwhelmingly, Jason Pine was seen as a natural presenter with Gordon Watson not far behind him. Pundit choices ranged from Sarah Gregorius, last seen out-performing Harry Ngata on Cup final day, through Ivan Vicelich (because he’s got to be involved in everything) and even, friend of Enzo Giordani, Martin Devlin. I’d also argue a case for some of the 1982 All Whites (don’t boo) for that furious denunciation of modern football that entertains, but also makes you want to throw something at the T.V.
An hour and a half each week, focusing on match highlights and analysis of the ISPS Handa Premiership and the National Women’s League matches each weekend – perhaps with one focus game. Say on a Wednesday night, giving time for footage to be cut, edited and reviewed by the pundits – while also bridging the yawning midweek gap between Saturday and Sunday’s matches.
This would require something of a re-negotiation between New Zealand Football and Sky Sports, but with the current review process and future appointment of a new CEO, we’re approaching the time when things will be up for discussion. It would also require New Zealand Football and the ISPS Handa Premiership clubs to establish some sort of expectation regarding promoting the league via social media and their own content. Given the output of some clubs, that wouldn’t be a bad thing either.