Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Cliche Is The Limit

For 'Cliche' read 'Sky'; I just hadn't the stomach to use it in the title. So if I'm talking Sky I'm talking Cliftonville versus Linfield. Being as I was in transit - returning from a weekend of research in Stockholm - I didn't catch the live offering on Monday night. To my delightment there were extensive highlights on the mother of all sports channels the following day at 3pm.

Is there something that reaches deep into our inner child when it comes to English football commentators? I don't mean to be unpatriotic, nor do I seek to undermine the efforts of our native commentators, but it just sounds better with an English accent. I was weaned on English football; when we mimicked our heroes as we played ball outside the local nark's house, our volleys and jinking runs were always accompanied by our own commentaries with English accents. Brian Moore, John Motson, Barry Davies and their ilk were the combined voice of my football schooling; broken only by the sometimes strange contributions of Jimmy McGee. In the same vein, I wouldn't be able to listen to a GAA commentary with an English accent. As for Jackie Fullerton's efforts....

With such baggage I tuned into Climville and Linfield. The boys had done their research. Their slick presentation skills, combined with the financial might which allows for multiple camera angles - 'here's how that shot looked from the goalkeeper's hole' didn't descend into the annoying gadgetry that their hype is often responsible for. In comparison to TV3's wooden efforts for insomniacs this was orgasm territory. It has not been difficult to hold my tongue regarding the inadequacies of the coverage we endure on a weekly basis - whether it be live or highlights - but sixty minutes with Sky has left me green with envy of our Northern counterparts.

The satellite demigod has agreed as part of their coverage of the NI national side to cover 5 domestic games during the new season. Certainly, they will handpick the creme fraiche of what is on offer - the equivalent of the Bohs / Rovers derbies down South. I suggested recently that the extensive live coverage of the eL may actually be undermining our efforts to promote the home league. Empty stadia, with all their warts on view as a result of the dearth of fans and poor camera positions serve only to provide ammunition for the common barstooler. What is there to lure this creature to a live game experience?

Around three thousand professional karaoke singers created a fantastic atmosphere at Solitude on Monday night. They sang lustily from beginning to end adding to the cup final atmosphere which the players were feeding off. Every tackle, every pass was greeted with such fervour I was transported back to the drama of the Chippy Brady Cup FA Final of 1979. The efforts of TG4 in this regard stretch to the commentator shutting up for a moment whilst they turn up the volume on the pitchside mics. Suddenly the crowd are loud and raucous, then they disappear. While their efforts are noble it does feel a little like being helped onto the toilet - I imagine.

So less may well be more. We should laud the work of the IFA and follow in their tracks. A select handful of live games, covered in a professional manner - by commentators with English accents - and crowds corralled into appropriate areas for maximum viewing effect and atmosphere. If there are any casualties, so be it; they will be worshipped as martyrs for eL football and their deaths will not be in vain.

Essentially we will be showing our best side to those whom we seek to attract - teams will even wear their own kits when in opposition. It is certainly easy to deride the swoosh, hype and soundbite sexy of Skysports, but it's done because it works. Even if it doesn't put seats on bums it attracts viewers, who attract sponsors, who invest money, which improves squads, facilities and grounds.

Footnote: Those of you who are rushing out to purchase FIFA 08, check carefully for any player who looks even vaguely like John Delaney; I have my suspicions.

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