Magazine article The Spectator

Football Overload

Magazine article The Spectator

Football Overload

Article excerpt


Football overload

Michael Vestey

When a reviewer in the Radio Times suggested recently that listeners might wish to escape from coverage of the Queen's Golden Jubilee it seemed to me that he had his priorities wrong, if not his readers. Instead, listeners were more likely to be fleeing the extraordinary hype and promotion of the World Cup.

One can understand why commercial radio and television companies scream at us to pay attention to football, which many of us loathe, in the hope that they'll profit from anticipated advertising revenues which slumped last year. But why should the BBC, particularly Radio Five Live, think we are all obsessed by football and David Beckham's damaged left testicle. Ah, I stand corrected: I misheard the radio announcer; it was his left metatarsal, a hitherto widely unknown bone in his foot which greatly exercised the media a fortnight ago, and which, before each England match was expected to be broken again by some thuggish defender whose thoughts of sport were far from Corinthian even if he knew what the word meant.

Just as I had been wondering if there'd ever been an opinion poll calculating the ratio of football fans to those who either hate it or who are indifferent, Stephen Glover provided the answer in his `Media Studies' column in The Spectator. He noticed a recent opinion poll revealing that more people would change their viewing and listening habits for the Golden Jubilee than the World Cup. Twenty-five per cent of respondents would go out of their way to follow the World Cup while 40 per cent said they would do the same for the Jubilee. And he made the point that women and older people were less interested in football, with younger people under 25 preferring it, which is probably about right.

Five Live, of course, is striving for listeners in their twenties, hence the endless drivel about football that permeates all this network's programmes, even during discussions about serious subjects, many of which have been put on hold during the World Cup. It did, I know, also cover the Jubilee celebrations but football has dominated. To get some idea of Five Lives real audience, though, one needs to listen to the phone-in elements of its various segments and here a different picture emerges. I'm often struck by how many older-sounding listeners, some in their seventies, call, say, Nicky Campbell in the mornings, and other programmes later in the day or at weekends. Campbell has been in Japan and South Korea boring us to death about the World Cup but the same applies to his programme with its stand-in presenters while he's away. …

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