CRAIG HOPE: The BBC can LEARN from Saturday’s soulless Match of the Day – the format of the show has become TIRED and is in need of reform… front-loading it with goals and action felt fresh and it won’t be protected by its cherished status forever

  • Saturday’s episode of Match of the Day was limited to 20 minutes of highlights
  • It raises the question of whether the BBC can learn from the different format
  • The show is much-loved by millions but it has failed to evolve over the years

For all the talk of Saturday’s 20-minute Match of the Day being soulless – and it was – is there not also something the BBC can learn from the format and reaction to it?

Half a million extra viewers tuned it. And yes, that was in part motivated by a fascination akin to rubbernecking. We all wanted to gaze at the self-inflicted wreckage of a public corporation so out of touch with, well, the public.

But that lack of awareness brings us onto this – much of the audience would have been drawn by seeing their team before their eyes closed.

This is not a slight on the presenters and pundits, but read the volume of social-media posts – freedom of speech, remember – which celebrated not falling asleep long before the show’s end. I make no apologies for the pun, but the show’s current structure has become tired. While our children have Twinkle Twinkle, we have the Match of the Day theme.

Front-loading it with goals and action felt fresh. Let us not discard this version as a freak show. Why not dedicate the first 40 minutes to highlights, followed by half an hour or more of in-depth discussion?

For all the talk of Saturday’s 20-minute Match of the Day being soulless – and it was – is there not also something the BBC can learn from the format and reaction to it?

The BBC’s flagship sports show hasn’t evolved enough over the years and is in need of reform

At present, Match of the Day’s analysis, in newspaper speak, is like that of a Sunday edition match report – it’s all headers and volleys. Producers clip up the key moments – invariably goals and chances – and we relive them with the help of a pundit’s voiceover. Do we really need this from every game, having already watched the match package and replays? It is that repetition which induces fatigue.

The challenge should be, again borrowing newspaper parlance, to return the sort of verdict you would read on Monday’s pages. Pick a more nuanced subject, or even a wider one, and tell us why, not how. Let that content run, give it space to breathe. To be blunt, much more like Sky’s Monday Night Football, or even BT Sport’s Champions League Tonight, another show which rattles along with energy and insight.

The BBC’s stable of pundits are more than capable – listen to them on radio or the excellent podcast series they produce. For me, they, too, are handicapped by the format – here is every match and every goal, guys, and you’ve got 30 seconds to tell us something about each of them. It too often feels rushed and shallow.

Scrap that. Give us the games and goals from the outset and then relax into a more informal debate. Make Gary Lineker part of that, instead of just a witty link-man. He’s not short of an opinion.

During the outpouring of love for Match of the Day over the weekend, the elephant in the room was that the show is in need of reform. But you can’t really say that, can you? Now there is an irony, given the cause of this whole furore in the first place. But look at the elephant, guys, he’s fast asleep.

It is time for the BBC to wake up and realise, among many things, that their flagship sports show has not evolved. They are in dreamland – much like too many of their viewers beyond 11pm – if they believe Match of the Day will forever be protected by its cherished status.

The Match of the Day pundits are more than capable of providing more nuanced analysis

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