On Friday afternoon I received a direct message on Twitter telling me that BT Sport’s European Football Show was due to end after the last games of this season. I was shocked.
Let’s get this right from the start: This is fantastic television that entertains, educates, informs and treats its viewers as sentient beings and as such is the absolute jewel in the BT Sport crown. To watch it is to feel like you are amongst your cleverest, funniest friends. It is warm, it is comforting and those of us who love it look forward to it every week.
Axing it is a frankly bizarre decision. It is a fantastic magazine show, presented with a unique mix of wit, informed insight and intelligence. It looks great. It has lots of great little graphic features. There’s music, nostalgia, quiz questions to answer, old Panini stickers, old strips and more and that’s before we get to the goal clips from across the continent. It has obviously been put together by people who really know how to make a great TV show. Why is that not required any more? It’s hard to do shows really well and so having climbed the pinnacle, so why abandon it?
For two years it has been compulsive viewing on a Sunday night and the perfect programme to prepare viewers for the following live European game. It was also an absolute groundbreaker in that its host and pundits were all journalists. Not an ex-pro in sight this season. It fundamentally embraced the idea that having bright, interesting people who know what they’re talking about and who are specialists, will be a thousand times more valuable than having an ex-pro whose degree of knowledge is in inverse proportion to the volume of voice he makes. Let’s not forget that two of the four are talking in a second language.
Yes it was proudly informed and articulate. No it didn’t appeal to the slack-jawed or the tabloid-minded. But that’s a good thing. BT Sport should be striving for that, not getting rid of it. So why on earth would they make this decision? If it’s a financial issue, I suggest not paying the lavish money demanded by the aforementioned ex-pros. I very much doubt any EFS contributor is on anywhere near the kind of money paid to the other pundits.
No it may not have had a huge audience, but then BT Sport don’t get a huge audience for anything. We’re talking tens of thousands or less for much of the output. And the infuriating thing is I that I vaunted BT Sport for not aiming for the lowest common denominator, for doing great programmes like EFS and the Saturday night live show. They’re easily the most innovative broadcaster and I’d have thought it was a commercially terrible decision to cast adrift the sort of educated audience that EFS surely pulls.
Is it possible they don’t know how loved the show is? Has there been a change of policy? Are we to have BT Sport go downmarket, go tabloid and be more shouty and less clever? If so, that is nothing short of a disgrace. You are letting us all down. There is plenty of base football broadcasting for the intellectually undemanding and incurious. Excellent writer Rory Smith sums the situation up concisely: “Don’t understand this at all. One of the best things about BT’s coverage, if not the best. Sad, baffling news.’
This isn’t just me moaning because my favourite show is being axed, because the social media response has been almost universally one of outrage. These are your customers, BT Sport. Listen to them because, if you don’t, you will lose them.
John Nicholson (but thoughts shared by us all)