I am sure I was not alone in reacting with pure ecstasy at the thought of the Football League highlights leaving the BBC. Don’t get me wrong, I still watch it every week but the prospect of having no more Claridge, no more Clem, and just maybe, a more balanced show is something to get at least mildly excited about. It has become clear over the five years that the show has been running that the Championship is the show’s prize winning horse; the grand old mare that brings in all the money. Whilst Leagues One and Two are the little donkeys that stand next to the big, amazing horse to make it look even better! I should clarify now, I have no problem with the Championship, I merely have a problem with the lack of respect that has been shown to the lower leagues by The Football League Show. It is like a reverse concert. You have your headline act, and then the little support groups get trotted out hoping to make a name for themselves, but of course the crowd has already left, and they miss a brilliant show.
During last Saturday’s show the entire first 46 minutes of an 80 minute show were dedicated to one league. Can you guess which one? Of course it was the Championship. Every preview for the show was Championship orientated. I understand that a large portion of the show’s viewers will be fans of Championship clubs. So in a way it is understandable that they receive the greater emphasis. But there has to be a limit. Being given over half the show when there are 48 other teams to get through is ridiculous. It is incredibly feasible that a show which covers three leagues can be split evenly.
But I felt it important that this piece does not just come across as one fan of a League One club having a rant at a show. Maybe everyone else loves it? To find out, I put the question to the wonderful world of twitter and asked fans of all three divisions what they think of the current show, and how it could be improved whether that is in the immediate future or after the rights are handed to Channel 5 next season.
League One and Two fans all seemed to join together on one thing. The even treatment of teams. Sheffield United fan Steve Watts argued that the show is “totally biased towards the Championship” and that the other two leagues are merely “added in”. Bradford City supporter Mark ‘Bantam Taylor’ poked holes in the shows planning around international breaks, in which Championship fixtures are postponed whilst there is near enough a full fixture lists in Leagues One and Two. He wrote “the fact it isn’t shown if there are no Champ[ionship]games is infuriating”. Mark Halliwell continues the theme of displeasure at the lack of focus on League’s One and Two. The Cheltenham Town fan wrote that he would like “more even-handed coverage” and that the lack of show when Championship fixtures are postponed shows “contempt” towards the fans of the bottom two leagues.
This appears to be a factor which has grated on most fans. Why do two-thirds of the Football League not appear to matter? They seem to think that they would lose a monumental amount of viewers if they aren’t showing the Championship highlights. Granted they would lose some, but they would also gain a plethora of fans who NEVER tune in because they can’t be bothered to stay up until one in the morning to see 20 seconds of their teams highlights. And who can blame them? It isn’t like they are being treated to top-class, detailed analysis from absorbing individuals, is it?
But how do those atop the prize winning horse view the men who walk the donkeys? Well with sympathy actually. Wolves fan,
James Wynn feels that running orders should be picked after the full-time whistle. This has been an ever-present feature of The Football League Show. It has always been very hierarchical in that the teams at the top get their matches shown first and in significant length, whilst those at the bottom must wait their turn. This is something I believe Channel 5 should look to change; tear down the hierarchy. Nottingham Forest supporter Michael Day also believes that the show’s spotlight should be better distributed: “Maybe once a month choose a game from League One or Two as a featured game”. But why only once a month? Why not have one feature game from each league every week? It would be far more interesting than seeing extended highlights of a game already seen on Sky on the Friday or earlier that day.
A fabulous suggestion came in from Will Ash. The Exeter City fan says that they should “mix it up and show the best games first across all leagues”. The reason this is such a brilliant idea is, that it will not only give the fans of teams in Leagues One and Two more kudos, but it will help to bridge the gap between the fans of those teams at the top of the Championship, and those at the bottom of League Two. I would much rather see a 3-3 draw between Hartlepool and Carlisle, than Bournemouth and Ipswich play out a 1-0 victory which features two shots on target. There is a possibility that doing this could also boost the attendances in the lower divisions. Fans may see a team fairly local to them, for example, a Derby fan may see Burton Albion win a thrilling match and play brilliant football. He or she may feel like going to see Burton play, whether it be during an international break or whenever.
I also feel that there are too many fans in the Championship who feel their team has a divine right to be in the Premier League. Showing the best matches across all leagues first will help drag these fans into reality and help them face the facts that they are a Football League team, and will continue to be for at least another four months. Just ask the fans of Portsmouth or Wolves, who dropped from the Premier League down to League Two and One respectively.
So, my advice to Channel 5 when the Football League Show is dropped on their door like a poor orphaned baby, is to not follow the BBC’s horrendous blueprint. I feel it is summed up best when the most favourable replies I received from my tweet was that the show is “adequate”. You don’t want to just be adequate, do you? I therefore implore you, Channel 5, to freshen it up. You are already broadcasting the show at nine o’clock, which is already brilliant! But please remember to employee some decent pundits and show some love and nourishment to League One and League Two, after all, it’s far better to have three thoroughbreds in the Grand National, than one.
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