ITV have spent so much of the season so far shouting about the FA Cup, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Champions League meant nothing to them.
Clive Tyldesley himself said in an interview earlier this season that the FA Cup was more exciting last season than the Champions League and the World Cup Finals put together. They clearly love it and have an almost obsessive devotion to it. I don’t know what leads such rational people to become so addicted to the FA Cup but you won’t find any of that sort of behaviour on this website. Oh no.
Given the way they approach their coverage of potential giant killings, for them it’s all about the underdog. During their replay, every Leeds attack on the Arsenal goal was greeted with hysterical shrieking which was thrust into stark contrast with the resigned mutterings we heard when the Gunners finally won through. They love an upset, do ITV.
Unless the upset doesn’t involve a team that plays its league football in the Premier League, that is.
There will have been many fans of Crawley Town, Leyton Orient and Brighton & Hove Albion who forced themselves to stay awake until Saturday had nearly become Sunday so that they could revel in the highlights and the memories of their Cup successes earlier in the day. I fear that only the Crawley fans will have avoided disappointment.
In a programme that lasted the same time as a standard football match, there were no fewer than 5 advert breaks of around 4 minutes each, leaving 70 minutes for the actual football. Still, that’s not so bad – we, the viewers, are still left with an average of nearly 8 minutes per game. That’ll do fine. Especially since two of the games were live on TV anyway, one of them on the very same channel that the highlights were on, and surely don’t need repeating.
And yet, due to the fact that we have to listen to Chris Hughton and Chris Coleman telling us that certain goals were “good” goals and defenders will be “disappointed” when they concede, some highlights had more cuts than the average local council library budget.
We began with Crawley, who didn’t come out of it too badly, with 5 minutes or so. They were followed by the O’s who had travelled to Wales to take their Championship opposition scalp count to 2 for the season. This not-so-shabby effort was rewarded with a measly 3 and a half minutes worth of highlights. Given the fact that there were 3 goals in the game, it amounted to barely more than a minute per goal. Disappointing.
But it was the Brighton fans that must have struggled to sleep despite the late hour, their boiling blood coursing around their angry bodies into the early hours. Despite the fact that the Seagulls are top of League One, a victory away at Championship was a superb effort and one that, given its placing as 3rd in ITV’s line-up was obviously deemed in some way, to be noteworthy. And yet when the schedulers met to decide how much of the 3rd most important game of the day to show, they settled on an incredible 29 seconds. The fans got to reminisce about the goal they scored and a half-chance for Watford. That was it.
Soon after, there was an advert break so that those on the South Coast could come down from their adrenaline high. Then it was straight onto Southampton v Manchester United – a match that ITV had shown live 5 hours previously and which ended with the Premier League side winning 2-1. We were shown nearly 6 minutes of that. Just in case we’d forgotten.
By the time the programme was done, we’d seen more footage of Everton and Chelsea players coming out of the tunnel and warming up than we’d seen of the entire Watford/Brighton game! Even Bolton’s no score draw at home to Wigan got twice as much coverage than the Seagulls’ “giant” killing.
It’s not as if ITV didn’t have enough money to send a commentator to the game – you can watch a fully commentated 9 minutes of footage on their website if you like.
I will leave others to speculate on their reasons for doing so, but it seems very clear to me that ITV is much more interested in Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal than it is in the FA Cup. It may well be clinging onto phrases like “The Magic Of The Cup” and “Old-Fashioned Giant Killing” but deep down they’re obviously pining about the loss of the Premier League highlights to BBC.
On this showing, they shouldn’t be getting them back any time soon in my opinion.