Simpson’s Soapbox: A fine ‘save’ from the BBC

The Match of the Day presenter team. Left to right: Alan Shearer, Gary Lineker, Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson.

The Match of the Day presenter team. Left to right: Alan Shearer, Gary Lineker, Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson.

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THE BBC have made the latest ‘save’ from their sporting portfolio.

Since the demise of Grandstand, Match Of The Day is the longest-established sports programme on the box, and it will continue until at least 2017, as well as celebrating its 50th anniversary along the way, after a new, three-year deal was struck with the Premier League.

Indeed, the programme, which has had various presenters over the years – David Coleman, Jimmy Hill, Des Lynam and now Gary Lineker – is old as BBC2, starting off in 1964 when it lived up to its billing and only one match was shown, Kenneth Wolstenholme doing a double shift of presenting and commentating.

The cost in those days, in terms of cash rights, must have been negligible.

The programme holds a worthy place in the schedules and even in a field dominated by live action on Sky, it still has its place.

But is £180m value for money for recorded action on Saturday and Sunday nights?

Everyone knows the results by then, though BBC News still goes through the ridiculous charade of warning those viewers who don’t want to know the results ‘to look away now.’

It has to be extremely debatable whether the outlay is worthwhile in monetary terms, particularly when it was reported that there was no other bidder for the contract.

Indeed, £180m would have paid for an awful lot of live sport, a couple of flagship events on golf’s European Tour, such as the soon-to-be axed PGA Championship and Scottish Open, which are being screened live for the last time on the BBC this summer.

There would still be plenty of change – and value for the licence-payer – if some of the cash had been thrown at bidding for live Premiership rugby union.

Certainly, there would be no reason to lose high-profile horse races like the Derby, the Grand National and the Cheltenham Festival.

In fact, in one fell swoop, there would be a case for re-instating Grandstand, though as it stands there is as much chance of the BBC bringing back Muffin The Mule, Torchy The Battery Boy and Compact.

Sometimes, when it comes to sport – and other sections of their output – the BBC don’t make the most of the material that they have got.

For instance, BBC Scotland excelled themselves with an excellent hour-long documentary on the tangled financial affairs of Rangers Football Club and their on-going fight for survival, which seems to have a different twist every day and reads much more of a soap opera than ‘Take The High Road’ ever was.

The exhaustively-researched programme entitled ‘The Men Who Sold The Jerseys’ was available for a time on the BBC i-Player, but deserved a nationwide slot, certainly when you consider the number of repeats that clutter the day-time schedules on BBC2.