Blow the whistle on Football Focus. We used to love it… but now it’s an irrelevance

  • Football Focus’ future is hanging in the balance amid poor viewership figures 
  • The programme has lost more than one third of it’s audience in the last four years 
  • Click here to watch the IAKO Battle of Old Trafford YouTube Special from the Mail Sport Studios

When did you last watch Football Focus? When did anyone?

It was a staple of growing up for many of us, providing an insight into the day’s matches when there was nowhere else to turn to. Its only rival, and a brilliant one at that, was Saint and Greavsie, at a time when you watched that channel or the other one – or Open University.

It is a statement on the way we consume TV in the current age that Football Focus has become an irrelevance. It seems buttressed to survive by BBC mandarins, seemingly keen to keep it, while they merrily carve away at local radio.

Watching last Saturday’s edition, it was a far cry from the days of yore. I was brought up on Bob Wilson, a solid performer, though in truth the Beeb kept their top stars for Grandstand (Wilson included, in fact) and the late-night action, Match of the Day.

Des Lynam never presented Football Focus, as far as I know. He was the best on TV sport after David Coleman — ever. Steve Rider, also of the very top rank, did so for two years in the mid-Nineties.

Des Lynam (left) listens in while Bob Wilson and Jimmy Hill lead Football Focus back in 1979

BBC officials are set for urgent talks over Football Focus, currently presented by Alex Scott

BBC officials are set for urgent talks over Football Focus, currently presented by Alex Scott 

Lynam once told me, tongue in cheek, that there were two things that riled him about his pal/ possible rival Rider: ‘Steve never fluffed a line… and he never had a hair out of place.’ They were consummate professionals in an age when the BBC was the zenith of sports broadcasting.

Last Saturday’s show, anyway, was fronted by Alex Scott, today’s ubiquitous host. She conspicuously held a mug, shades of Tony Blair in Downing Street, circa Labour landslide, and weren’t we all meant to get down with the kids?

It wasn’t the worst of programmes, actually. An interview with Phil Foden was worthy of the airtime, and it was certainly contemporary A-list fare, but it was not as brilliant as Dion Dublin, who conducted it, was led to believe by Scott. One old BBC hand told me yesterday: ‘Why don’t they do away with Football Focus and Match of the Day? Both their viewing figures are falling to the floor.’

The decline of Football Focus is an emblem of our age. We watch sport differently from how we used to, and the BBC isn’t to be blamed for that. The multiplicity of channels dictates it. You can keep up to speed with your team on any number of channels.

Dan Walker spent 12 years as the show's presenter before stepping away from the role at the end of the 2020-21 campaign

Dan Walker spent 12 years as the show’s presenter before stepping away from the role at the end of the 2020-21 campaign 

That much is true. But need the Beeb have dispensed with such good broadcasters as Mark Pougatch and Cornelius Lysaght, men of a certain age? Pougatch is younger than Lysaght, who was an outstanding racing correspondent, much-respected and liked by listeners on Radio 5 Live. Both went to public schools, which is a manslaughter crime right now on the Beeb.

There remain other outstanding contributors, led by superb sports editor Dan Roan, but their numbers are dwindling. John Murray on football is another supreme exemplar, an heir to Peter Jones, no less. There are many more.

There are abominations, too. Too many to mention on Test Match Special, where only a few survivors, such as Vic Marks (the cultured man with whom Henry Blofeld wanted to share his last broadcast) and Jonathan Agnew, and Simon Mann and the newly retired Alastair Cook, as a trainee in this broadcasting department, set a high standard.

They remain beacons in a minefield. Don’t start me off! What future for Football Focus? Frankly, as a licence-fee payer, I think time is up. We loved it then; we think it redundant now.


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Source From: Football | Mail Online

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