Simpson’s Soapbox: BBC winning 1-0 in TV wars

ITV Euro 2012 team: Gareth Southgate, Patrick Vieira, Adrian Chiles, Jamie Carragher and Roy Keane.
ITV Euro 2012 team: Gareth Southgate, Patrick Vieira, Adrian Chiles, Jamie Carragher and Roy Keane.
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EARLY days yet to decide which channel has the superior TV coverage of the Euros, but the BBC have stolen an early march.

ITV have made a serious mistake in having their panel on a balcony in Warsaw with plenty of accompanying noises off, both musical and vocal, in the background, almost threatening to drown out what the pundits are saying.

But that has been no big deal as they generally have so little of worth or note to say.

What we need on both sides is some fierce argument and debate among the panellists – after all, there’s potential with erstwhile rivals Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira employed by ITV.

After all, football thrives on such debate and many hours are spent on the bus, or in the pub and club having a good, old-fashioned set-to and difference of opinion.

Soccer has never been higher profile on TV or radio and yet pundit panels have got blander and more predictable.

The theme music can set the tone for a football programme too. The Match Of The Day theme was first used by the BBC for the 1970 Mexico World Cup, and it has not been changed for more than four decades.

Nessun Dorma will forever be linked to Italia 90 and the haunting melody that started every BBC programme at that year’s World Cup.

The contrast in the theme music by the two channels covering this year’s Euros could not be more stark.

It’s to be hoped that you have not got surround-sound for your telly as it may well annoy the numbers when the BBC opening credits start for Craig Armstrong’s anthem Escape is full-blooded and takes vacant possession of the ear-drums, filling them to maximum capacity.

ITV have gone for the far gentler tones of Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter And The Wolf.

It is a lovely piece of work, quite soothing if you are in that kind of mood, though whether it is suitable for a football programme is another matter entirely.

n NO matter how England fare at these European Championships, there will be a lengthy, detailed post-mortem about the performance of Roy Hodgson’s squad and lessons to be learned for the future.

The FA have sought to pre-empt this somewhat by announcing well in advance several changes in the structure and organisation of youth football.

To enhance skills levels, it will be mandatory for under-sevens and eights to play five-a-side matches – under-11s and under-12s will play nine-a-side. Importantly, the pitch size and size of goals will be appropriate to the age group, so resisting the temptation for teams to lump it upfield on full-sized fields.

One proposal that will be the most difficult to implement will be the drive to encourage parents and coaches to drop a win-at-all costs approach to children’s football.

Having seen at first hand the way some parents behave, screaming and shouting on the touchline as they act out their own sporting life through their sons or daughters, that is going to be the hardest of all to implement.

And saying what constitutes ‘win-at-all-costs’ is hard to define.

For instance, what is a young golfer doing trying to sink a 30-foot putt – he is trying with all his might to get that little ball to drop below ground.

Surely that in its all small way is attempting to win at all costs, as his an 13-year-old making a conversion attempt on the rugby field, trying with every fibre of his being and using all the powers of concentration to get the ball between those two sticks.

And, after all, a winning mentality is what separates a champion from an also-ran.

But by the same token, sport should be something that is enjoyed by all, not just the elite. Soccer – as with all other sports – has a difficult balancing act to service both needs.