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Monday, June 28, 2010

How the BBC can start saving English football. Today.

While we wait - probably in vain - for the people who run football to take the measures that should be taken to improve our national game, there is one thing that could be done which might make a far-reaching difference to football in this country and it could be done by the BBC before lunchtime today.

They should change Match of The Day.

Obviously MOTD was not responsible for yesterday's mugging but it does set the critical climate in which football is judged in this country. In this it has been responsible for encouraging complacency. Match of The Day is contractually obliged to say that the Premier League is the best in the world but its editorial stance could stand to be more sceptical without over-trying the patience of the armchair fan.

Are these handful of home-grown players the programme scrutinises every week really "world class" or are they just good players made to look better by the foreign players alongside them? Why can none of our honest yeomen midfielders beat their opposite number? Why don't we have defenders who can go forward with the ball? Why do so many of our top players seem so frightened? Shouldn't we be looking at the number of successful passes players complete in the course of a game rather than making an assessment based on one telegenic moment?

The guys who currently appear on MOTD could be sent round the world for a year to broaden their horizons and improve their golf. They could be replaced by pundits who:
a) have something fresh to say
b) will say it without worrying about being cut dead at the next football managers dinner
c) have played the game as it is played today
d) are capable of getting indignant about something other than Sepp Blatter and the introduction of goal-line technology.

What these people say and, more importantly, don't say has an effect on what the average person thinks. This particularly applies to all those football-mad kids who get their idea of the gold standard from its analysis. Yesterday was not just a question of a few great players performing under par. It was more like an entire star system being, in the words of the Nick Lowe song, nutted by reality. The people who helped create that star system should be brought to account.

Danny Baker's guest appearance on the programme during the World Cup was very amusing but mainly notable for the way the rest of the panel sucked in their breath as if he had been guilty of breaching parliamentary privilege. "It's all right," he said to Shearer. "It's football. You can say what you like."