Last week's review on Reaction.Life.
The Return of Premier League Football, Sky Sports, BT Sport, BBC1
Back in early March I remember saying to a colleague that I wouldn’t be going to the London Stadium to see West Ham v Wolves on 17 March because of Coronavirus. This was on the day 3000 Spanish football supporters had descended on Anfield to watch Liverpool play Athletico Madrid, a game which, like the Cheltenham Festival, should never have been allowed to go ahead. The West Ham v Wolves game didn’t go ahead and nor did any other match on 17 March. It was only on June 19 that football resumed. Well, I say football… It was football, James, but not as we know it.
All the broadcasters did their best to hype up the return of football. For the BBC it was their first opportunity to broadcast a live top-flight match for 32 years. And the poor sods got to broadcast Bournemouth v Crystal Palace, a match which if it had taken place 32 years ago would have been in Division 2. It attracted a rather measly audience for a prime time Saturday night slot of 4.3 million, although that’s the highest ever for a live Premier League game, given they’re normally on a Satellite channel. However, that was easily eclipsed the next day by Sky Sports’ Everton v Liverpool audience of 5.3 million.
I’ve watched six or seven of the games so far and it’s not been a rewarding experience, especially given West Ham have lost both their games. More generally, it’s a very sterile and bizarre event. You think you’re going to watch a normal game of football, but it’s anything but. The absence of fans in the stadium brings it home to you just how important we fans are to the whole experience.
However much fake crowd noise your TV pumps out, your eyes don’t deceive you. It’s as if the players aren’t as pumped up or committed. It’s no surprise there have bene quite a few 0-0 draws and low scoring games. It’s like watching your team play a pre-season friendly against SV Obersdorf in the Austrian Tyrol. You are desperate to find the live stream because you’ve gone months without football, but when you do eventually find it, the end product is incredibly disappointing.
It’s not the fault of the broadcasters. They’ve done all they can to ensure the experience is as genuine as possible, but if you haven’t got a premium product, no amount of marketing will convince anybody to be a repeat buyer.
The first few matches were notable for the players ‘taking a knee’ in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter protests. Sky Sports, in particular, went out of their way to employ black pundits at their games. All it did was draw attention to the fact that they don’t actually have any black presenters. One match I saw featured former Wolves goalkeeper Matt Murray and former Juventus and England women’s team member Eniola Aluko. Now, I hold some pretty unreconstructed views on female football pundits, and indeed women’s football more generally, but for the record, I also don’t want to listen to Robbie Savage or Danny Murphy pontificating on the women’s game.
I regard women’s football as an altogether different sport, played at a totally different speed and level of skill. It’s like watching normal football, but at 33 1/3 RPM. However, Aluko was the first woman on a football panel who not only held her own, but excelled. Stand aside Alex Scott, Rachel Brown-Finnis and whoever else. Eniola Aluko could be the Alan Hansen of a new breed of pundits. More please!
The sooner this season is over the better. In my view it should never have restarted.
Mahyar Tousi’s Youtube Channel
Mayhar Tousi is a young British Iranian, who just happens to be a Conservative. And there aren’t many of them to the pound. There also aren’t many successful political Youtubers, but he is one of them. He’s incredibly eloquent and tackles some pretty controversial subjects with his daily diet of political guests, most of whom are on the Right. The weakness of videocasts like this is that they can tend to preach to an echo chamber of devout fans, without being very challenging. Tousi avoids this rather skilfully and it’s rare for the casual viewer to get a headache from nodding too much. He’s also good at letting a conversation flow, a rare gift in an interviewer. He once wrote: “People need to get that Tories don’t look like ruddy-faced old white men in exclusive clubs. They look like me.” He recounted going to a Labour students meeting which had a revelatory outcome for him.
“I spent the whole night listening to the students talk about my own heritage and how the Tories are worse than the Iranian regime and that the Labour party will protect me. It was precisely because they were so patronising towards me – and knew so little about what they were talking about – that a few days later I proudly joined the Conservative society. There my ethnicity was never mentioned. They respected my right to wear a poppy as they respected my right not to. They simply discussed ideas and that weekend’s football fixtures. I was treated as an individual and someone who had a life outside of politics. What I had to say – even though it did not always chime with others’ views in the party, which is a big tent – seemed to matter.”
And that’s what matters on his Youtube Channel. The left will dismiss him as a Milo or Katie wannabe, just because of the medium of which he broadcasts. Unlike them, though, he hasn’t shown the propensity to self-destruct. The right needs eloquent voices like his. You’ll hear a lot more of him.