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Is it time for the BBC to discontinue their coverage of football?

Filed: Friday, 28th October 2016
By: Kit Robinson

The rights of the vast majority of live televised menís football matches are claimed between Sky and BT Sport whilst commercial radio stations are able to commentate on live football.

Highlights of matches are obtainable elsewhere after Match of the Day is broadcast, so the BBC are limited to almost exclusively spoken word only content, filling an increasing number of shows. Are the BBC still justified in demanding by law that licence fees be paid so that football fans are allowed to watch other subscribed or commercial channels who do supply the live content they want to watch, not just people talking about football?

At the start of this season the BBC asked 30+ pundits to predict what would happen in the Premier League. Some of the same pundits and presenters which appear on many of their programmes across all media are now seen on other channels football programmes. Much of the BBC radio content is supplied for free by fans ringing in to express their views and live coverage of the menís game on television is now limited to the odd cup match (having also already pulled out of Formula One) with ITV covering internationals.

So should the question now be asked, in a similar way to what are our taxes spent on if everything has been privatised? What is the BBC supplying to the predominantly male audience who are football fans? Pretty much all the BBC supply is people talking about football.

One might almost feel that if they could, the BBC would be happy to get rid of football because they seem to dislike it and the people involved in it so much. That would be if it wasnít for the fact that because fans pay such a large wedge of their funding through the licence fee and that they are supposed to cater for two genders as a public service broadcaster. Something which is questionable with the rest of their output and investment being in anything other than programming for men.

The BBC seem to have a fixation that menís programming is almost solely football and if football went elsewhere the BBC would struggle to supply any male orientated programming at all. Or certainly little which was positive or helpful.

The BBC seems to insist on a daily basis that social issues are forced into their football content across all media platforms, be it an offensive comment made, rape, LGBT issues, sexism, racism, the promotion of womenís football, dodgy dealings within the game, violence etc.

This is not just due to filling airtime or column inches, it seems that the BBC has a big problem with the menís game from the sociopolitical standpoint of their programming and editorial staff. The agenda and viewpoint for every subject matter is negative towards football and the vast majority of men who are fans.

This wouldnít be so bad if the outcome of some of their talking points didnít still continue to be negative towards football even when it is found to be or proven positive. A typical example was the survey conducted by Radio 5 concerning attitudes towards gay players which they broadcast on 26 March 2016.

The main finding was that a negligible 8 per cent of 4,000 fans had a problem with gay players playing for their club. I should think that would be quite a favourable result compared to if that were a survey taken with non-football fans and a similar scenario, given that some people are intolerant towards gay people based solely on, for instance, their religion's attitude towards homosexuality. Yet the BBC stated that there was still a big problem in football.

Another area is race. The vast majority of the team who played against Chelsea on March 26th were non-white. No fans had a problem with this, or probably even noticed it, but is that fact celebrated by the media? No.

West Ham have brought the ladies team in-house after accusations of sexism. Manchester United donít even have a ladies team which was a specific business decision. I cannot help but feel that the great bulk of the negativity towards the club (and football in general) is actually that with a lot of the social issues which the likes of the BBC like to accuse football of, the game has largely got its house in order, not perfect, but miles better than in the past.

But the dislike of the game is based on the financial and emotional investment of almost wholly men over the past 100 years, during which men have been criticised, ridiculed etc for that investment. And now itís a huge multi-billion pound industry which on the whole, only one gender can profit from, it is to be criticised. I doubt that were football the size of menís hockey, the BBC would have a problem with it.

The current all-out negativity towards West Ham since they moved into the London (nee Olympic) Stadium is chronic and has reached fever pitch. The BBC are running three stories online as I write about football violence involving an eight-year-old girl, homophobic chanting and closing the ground for matches.

I am not condoning the behaviour of those fans at the Chelsea League Cup match on 26th March but letís have a bit of perspective. Seven arrests, including one who was a ticket tout, in comparison to Notting Hill Carnival with four people being stabbed (including one teenager who was disembowelled which didnít even make it onto the BBC news), 45 police officers injured and more than 450 arrested.

BBC journalist Richard Conway's timeline included more than 20 tweets from West Ham v Chelsea - only one of which concerned the match itself

I had the BBC ring me on my way home from the game against Chelsea asking if I had seen anything and requesting that I go live on Radio 5 to talk about it. I said I went to a great match with my 15-year-old niece. In other words I should be the ideal football fan to them. From the other end of the stadium we saw a few people lobbing things at each other, but of course the BBC researcher was not interested in that but they were struggling trying to find anyone who witnessed the "violence".

All I saw was a stand-off or confrontation and the police and stewards actually doing a good job. And it is ironic that when the BBC can capture a huge male audience that they refuse to ever cover any menís issues. This coming from the broadcaster who constantly claims that "men donít talk".

But what shouldnít be forgotten is that the BBC is by far the biggest influence on society in the UK, above newspapers, politicians, online media, everything. But this is beyond solely West Ham, it is about all football. So maybe it is time for the BBC to admit that it dislikes football, it no longer wants to supply football to its licence fee payers, or that a huge quantity of substandard content and opinion is not actually supplying what those licence fee payers want ie; live matches. They are no longer fit for purpose.

Alternatively maybe it is time for football fans to see what little the BBC supply or which can be supplied elsewhere, that they consistently depict those licence fee payers with contempt and that they should simply not bother with the BBC anymore and start boycotting it?

Paying for Sky but having to pay for the BBC by law is like saying you buy the Independent but have to by law pay for the Daily Express. I am sure that most football fans, male or female, would rather discuss or debate societal issues without them being constantly and incorrectly attached to football.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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