A letter from a Bradford City fan


To: BBC Sport, The FA, BT Sport

Re: Decision not to put Bradford City on TV

January 2015

Dear Sirs

I feel angry and upset. The Magic of the Cup is an illusion after all. After a few days of borderline hysteria – the BBC, BT Sport and the FA have brought me and thousands of football fans back down to earth with an almighty bump. A system that ignores the actions of David and throws every advantage the way of Goliath is alive and well, and it stinks.

My evidence for this accusation follows.

Just a few days ago Bradford City pulled off what was described, in the words of the thousands of people who voted on the BBC’s own poll, the ‘biggest ever giant killing in the FA Cup’. Your own MOTD pundit, Robbie Fowler, called it the biggest FA Cup shock of all time. The public spoke, as did your own analysis team.

‘Brilliant Bradford’ the commentator watching the game for the BBC screamed, as a team costing £7,500 put the mighty Chelsea to the sword. For once, the description of the club was correct – it isn’t often you see brilliance at Bradford City but a few thousand people stick with the club through thick and thin. Honestly, people do support teams like the Bantams however your decision makes me think that you have forgotten that in favour of the need to continue satisfying the thirst of the mighty.

It was a courageous and gutsy performance – the kind a team like Bradford City need to beat a team like Chelsea. Surely it was a lucky one too? No, it wasn’t. The Bantams fully deserved their victory. Ask anyone who watched the game. Despite being 2-0 down, a team from League One stormed back to beat possibly the best team in England 4-2. ‘Unbelievable’ cried the pundits, commentators, media, politicians, fans, players and coaching staff. The fans of Bradford City pinched themselves, in shock at what had just happened. Tears fell down cheeks, grown men hugged each other.

Our reward for this has been miles and miles of positive press coverage. A so-called ‘small’ club who have survived administrations, countless struggles to stay alive, and battles to stay in the football league would surely get their just deserves and be rewarded with a day out on the TV. In this age of Premiership ubiquity where clubs such as Bradford struggle to cut through against the all-pervading Chelsea’s, Man Utd’s, Arsenal’s and Liverpool’s the ‘biggest FA cup shock of all time’ would surely be rewarded with the chance to shine in front of the nation?

No. Nothing of the sort. Collectively, the FA, BT Sport and the BBC have – to your eternal shame – thrown your full weight behind the Premiership clubs and given two-fingers to the so-called ‘magic of the cup’. If that magic exists within any of your organisations, I beg to suggest it is now screwed up in the bins outside the offices right now.

Liverpool will once more be on TV should they beat Bolton and meet Crystal Palace – an all Premiership tie if it happens. West Bromwich Albion’s home clash with West Ham will also be aired live, as will Aston Villa v Leicester. Both Premiership ties.

Manchester United have been presumed to overcome Cambridge at Old Trafford ahead of a trip to either Preston or Sheffield United. Manchester United on TV again. As predictable as night follows day.

Arsenal’s home tie with Middlesbrough will also be shown. Fair credit to Boro after what they achieved.

Many of these clubs receive millions of pounds in TV rights every year thanks to their elite position in the Premiership. This rewards them for their aptitude on and off the field. Reaching and remaining in the Premier League is no mean feat, so the rewards are more lucrative and that is well deserved. I don’t argue that point, although whether or not the division of financial rewards throughout the leagues is fair or not is an argument I won’t go into here.

That aside, the FA Cup – the so-called ‘magical’ competition – is the chance for the smaller clubs to thrust themselves into the publicity and cash frenzy that is football today. Once every season, the smaller clubs dream of the big ties, the big day out, the big upset, the day on TV, and the big reward that a cup run provides. The magic of the cup infects us, but today when I think of the word ‘infection’ in relation to the FA Cup, it’s something a bit grubby.

You have planted a huge ‘do not dream’ sign in front of one of the smaller clubs who dare to do so. A day in the limelight offers a club like Bradford the chance to demonstrate a local alternative to the all-shiny, brilliantly marketed Premier League clubs. The children who live in the area and claim an allegiance to a top four Premiership club they’ve almost no chance of seeing live, could well say to their parents ‘I want to go to Valley Parade’ on the back of a TV appearance and the publicity that goes with it. This rule doesn’t just apply to Bradford, it’s a problem faced by clubs up and down the country. The pull of the Premiership is a problem for many smaller clubs, one which you’ve disregarded today.

There’s the obvious financial impact. Clubs in the lower leagues face ruin all the time. Bradford City is no different. We nearly went out of business a few years back, and clubs in the lower leagues have to scrap for every penny.

The prize for being televised in the next round of the FA Cup is about £250,000 – 0.05% of Man Utd’s revenues (£433.2m) and 0.2% of West Ham’s (£114.8m). For a club like Bradford, £250,000 isn’t a mere fraction of a percentage point. It’s a major impact on the balance sheet. It can make or break a season. It can make or break a club. So, when a chance comes, forgive me for thinking that a club who has just beaten Chelsea away from home should be given its chance to make some big impacts on its balance sheet.

I have nothing against their fortunes of the other teams who will be on television. They too have supporters who follow them passionately, and good luck to them. My complaint is that, having acknowledged the biggest FA Cup shock of all time, you have taken the magic of the cup that came with the Bradford victory, placed it on the penalty spot and smashed it into Row Z. Shame on you.


James Pieslak

Categories: Opinion

Tags: , , , , ,

41 replies

  1. The BBC and the rest of the national media are contemptuous of smaller clubs and not interested. They can’t even get the club’s name right. We are Bradford CITY, Bradford FC is, and always has been, a different club. The fact they can’t pay attention to the detail speaks volumes.

    • The only reason this match isn’t on the box is because of the state of our ptich – neither TV company could spend time and money setting up TV cameras and TV paraphernalia, paying hotel accommodation, (selling advertising in the case of BT) only for the game to be postponed due to a slight rain shower on the day of the match. The blame and loss of £250,000 rests squarely with our board and the decision not to invest in the pitch.

  2. Superb and completely correct in sentiment

  3. I couldn’t agree more. Think it’s such a shame that people won’t have a chance to see the magic behind Bradford City and children will continue to think that only the ‘big’ clubs are worth supporting.

  4. Agree 150o/o…that figure does not exist , sums up though my feelings of television programmers wretched decision re: not to televise Bradford City

  5. While I under the frustration and can`t argue that the money would come in handy, I think we need to just take this on the chin and get on with it. At least we are at home so the majority of fans can go watch. Forget the BBC and BT. They will do what in the interests of themselves.

  6. Brilliantly written, I think a lot of us have tried to put our feelings forward on various social media outlets, I just hope the said recepients have the bottle to reply.
    One paragraph resonates for me. As a football mad kid growing up around fans of the all powerful L**”s in the 60’s (no one in Bradford seemed to follow City) my Dad could have taken me to L**”s but as a Villa fan he did’nt thankfully.
    I was allowed one January evening to stay up and watch Match of the day as Bradford City were playing Spurs in the FA Cup. We drew the game and I begged my Dad to take me to City. We went the very next week (10th Jan 1970) to see City demolish Bournemouth 8 – 1 and a love affair was born, 45 years later I am still here and was one of the lucky 6000 last week.
    So yes, seeing City on TV in the FA Cup would hopefully see those Kid’s allowed to watch and maybe beg their Dad’s to take them down “Midland Road” and find their ‘Home’

  7. Wow, over reaction to your team not being on TV. How can you be so biased to think they never show ‘the magic of the cup’ when they show Cambridge drawing to Man U? And if Man U go through to the next round, then it’s another magic of the cup clash between them and league 1 outfits.

    They’ve showed so many games last weekend, so it’s just the bad luck of being the minority not shown.

    Only part I agree with is the all premier league ties being shown.

    Stop trying to make a fuss over nothing and enjoy a good period for your football club, or have you forgotten already we all watched you 2 years ago in a Wembley final, on tv?

  8. I think the key to this is to take your allegiance to your own side out of it and think of what the neutral would want to see. The FA Cup is about shocks – a small club upsetting a big club. The BBC were all over this at first but suddenly by Round 5 there are few small clubs left. City and Sheff Utd/Preston are the only ones I think outside the Premiership.

    So we look at the ties. Number one draw has to be the Man Utd one – huge club drawn away to the League One sides with huge tradition – cup shock in the making. That’s a no-brainer, that is the no1 tie of the round.

    Any more like that – oh yes, Bradford City conquerors of the mighty Chelsea are drawn against Sunderland, Premier League, or Fulham. If it’s Fulham, they’ve knocked out half of London in consecutive rounds, if it’s Sunderland, that’s a huge tie. Shall we take the risk on it being City v Fulham – we have to make a decision now!

    That will be their excuse – City v Fulham would draw a low audience and if the draw was that for definite, to be honest I could understand it but if that is their reasoning, then the choice of Preston v Cambridge and Palace v Bolton is invalidated.

    The choices that get me are Aston Villa v Leicester and WBA v WHU. Villa hadn’t scored for 8 games until Saturday and are dire. Both they and Leicester will not put full strength sides out. WHU are awful to watch and WBA will be after Pulis has been in charge for a few weeks – two uninteresting ties that wouldn’t be an attraction in their normal Premier League schedule.

    But we should not be surprised, we know the BBC are clueless. This is the station that complains about losing cricket – when they had it they used to share coverage with show jumping! And last week we were again subjected to the Wimbledon beating Liverpool is the biggest shock in football history tale. For those too young to know, Wimbledon finished 8th in the top division that year. I know Liverpool were the best team by a mile, but it wasn’t even the biggest Cup Final shock never mind the biggest shock of all time. Southampton were old 2nd Division when they beat the mighty Man Utd, I think Sunderland were too when they beat Leeds and I’m sure there are plenty of other examples too.

    I think in general there is just not enough thought about the choices, as I said the two all premier selections above are dire and the fact is they haven’t learned from their mistakes. Arsenal v Hull in the 3rd Round had to be the biggest home banker of the round – Hull were always going to put a weak side out and they did. I know it was last year’s cup final but that was last year and the fact it was a good game was because it was the final.

    I understand that City’s consolation prize is that Football Focus will come live from Valley Parade. I’d suggest that City charge them £250k for use of the facility and when they turn it down, tell them where to go.

    The consolation is that (hopefully) we get to play at 3pm on a Saturday, one of only (a maximum of) 3 ties that will do so.

  9. There has been a perceptible change in policy of the FA/BBC/BT for the fifth round of the FA Cup. The fourth Round saw televised matches at Cambridge (v Manchester U),Bristol C (v West Ham), Brighton (v Arsenal) and Rochdale (v Stoke) – oh and Liverpool (v Bolton) who get the reply re televised. Notice the general theme of little v large. Now look at the fifth round ties on tv. The firm Arsenal v Middlesbrough just about sneaks into this mould and either Preston or Sheffield U v Manchester U (presuming Cambridge succumb to claiming their toilet money only rather than bettering City’s performance). The other three ties are Premier League v Premier League – ie 60% of the live tv coverage. This after the great weekend of Cup football (see http://www.thefa.com/news/the-fa-cup/2015/jan/fa-cup-fourth-round-viewing-figures).
    There are questions to be answered by the three bodies (other words come to mind) responsible for tv coverage. Why this policy change? what consideration for demand for tickets from the away team’s fans? (clearly none in our case but could be significant from both the NE or London). How do they anticipate “good tv”? Is there any value to fixtures that would not normally take place? How do they anticipate their audiences preferences for matches?
    So after the big hit last weekend what chances over the weekend of the fifth?

  10. And all that aside, let’s not forget that that we’re bloody good to watch. We’ve scored 17 goals in our 5 FA Cup games this season. Sunderland or Fulham, we will provide an entertaining game. The same cannot be said for Villa-Leicester who will, in all likelihood, put the audiences to sleep after their Sunday dinners.

      Get over it lad. It might actually be a blessing and all the bandwagon jumpers will go to the game instead and fill the ground for once. No doubt on Saturday it’ll be back to normality against Colchester and they’ll be back in the woodwork!

  11. In the interests of efficiency I think I should find a way to automatically comment on every article posted on Width of a Post that just says – Couldn’t have said it better myself.

    Although this is article is written about City, the issue is not just about us, the media’s bias isn’t necessarily towards bigger clubs but seems to be against smaller clubs. Small clubs beating clubs which are multinational corporations with almost unlimited funds isn’t what makes the FA Cup a great competition, it is what what makes football the best sport in the world.

  12. Great letter James, I think it says what we all feel here at Bradford City.
    I would be very interested in their collective responce…please post it if you get chance.

  13. As one fan of Liverpool i wholeheartedly agree with James M. But try and change our Londoncentric media’s opinion of what people want to watch not a hope in hell. Good luck to the City i hope you have a great cup run and prove the television companies were out of order not showng the ‘smaller’ clubs

  14. Who picks the games for tv , bet Mr Harvey has something to do with it

  15. Well atleast the consolation of being snubbed by the media whores is a Cup Tie to be played at the proper time of 3.00pm on a Sauturday.
    Oh hang on on – L66ds are at home to Millwall and we’re now being relegated to a Sunday or midweek KO. What an effing joke!

  16. I agree with james
    lower leagues get nothing
    premier leagues get plenty
    all about money

  17. I am what some folk call old school still foolish enough to believe the FA Cup competition was all about David v Goliath.
    How times have changed, it’s now all about making sure the fat cat teams get the cream at all costs leaving the underdogs feeding on financial scraps.
    Great article with lots of valid points.

  18. Imho there’s nothing worse than a one-eyed fan, and that includes our own. We have the lowest crowds and would generate the lowest viewing figures so why the hell would the BBC and BT want to show our game? The revenue generated would have been nice for the club but if City fans want to see the game ‘live’ go to VP and watch it! Who knows, if we win you might be able to use the ticket stub that will enable you to queue for seven hours in the freezing cold and miss out on a ticket for the next match.

  19. Great article.

    Thing is, whilst it is a bit of sour grapes, if it hadn’t have been city involved beating Chelsea I would certainly have been questioning why the conquerors weren’t on TV in the next round.

    The magic of the cup, as the author has said, is an illusion and if city don’t make it to the final, I hope the FA and everyone find its someone like West Ham vs Aston Villa, which would bode to be a boring game.

    Long live the Capital One Cup – properly celebrated by Sky Sports, the proper football people.

  20. I bubbled with pride when Bradford beat Chelsea. I am not a football fan. It passes me by. But. Were Bradford not the leaders of the first division when they were hit by disaster? Ok, so the players of the field have moved on and been refreshed over the years. I feel the pride of those players will always be at the heart of that club. And the nation of football players and fans will surely be behind them forever? I hope so. I am still bubbling with pride and await the next round, what ever the outcome. Come on you very proud and loved Bantams x

  21. Iv supported Bradford City for 48 years.I have been through thick & thin.this was a once in a life time feat perhaps never to be repeated in near future. HOW on earth can the t.v moguls snub us from TV explosion? Shame on b.b.c. typical.

  22. I am a supporter of a so called big club and I think it’s a disgrace Bradford City have not been given top billing after their exploits in the last round.

  23. we beat the best team in the country at the moment and yet Bradford still do not get a live game seriously same teams always get live games ex Man united liverpool arsenal west ham funny they are all premier teams so much for Bradford’s biggest shock in the fa cup does not count for anything shame on the tv companies maybe it is time to think there is more teams to show live than the premier league teams think tv companies are biased to top teams never mind when Bradford win and get to the quarter finals maybe the TV companies will sit up and listen to the out cry

  24. I think you really have to step back from this and imagine your feelings if it was not City, but another club at our level that had beaten Chelsea.
    We see the Premiership Clubs week in, week out, and to be honest no matter how the various presenters dress it up, the Premier League is boring to genuine football fans. There are only a very limited numbers of clubs who can realistically win the PL, the rest are there to provide them with somebody to play and generally beat. Whilst the media have orgasms about how good Chelsea, Man United/City etc are, the fact is that its become predictable and boring..
    Given the choice of a PL game on TV or one from the lower leagues, we often opt for the latter and its often the better game.
    The nations media should be shouting to the world about how we have four professional leagues and the quality throughout is incredibly good. That is proven when lower league team often give PL teams a run for their money.
    In Spain and Italy, once you get below Serie A and La Liga, the quality dips, and teams are often part time or very poor standard. We dont make enough of it as a nation.

  25. James, a very well written letter and you say very well the feelings of a vast number of City fans, the thought of watching Villa v Lecister or WBA OR WHU is awful. MOTD viewing figures nearly doubled on Sat night Why? its rubbish and i hope something can be done but i dont think it will. so lets fill the ground it now looks like Sunday cos some very very big game 10 miles away is bigger, another load of rubbish.
    Come on city CTID

  26. i as a Leeds fan of forty years would have loved to have watched City do Chelsea and i am very disappointed that City are not on the tv against Sunderland. City are currently the pride of Yorkshire,and as a Yorkshireman i want to bask in the light of that pride and say that in regards to this years FA cup i am a City fan

  27. IN our opinion we are always the pride of Yorkshire.
    As a youngster in the 60s, I loved Chelsea, and the team that beat L666s in the 1970 FA Cup Final in particular, although over the years I have modified my views on them, as other Premier League Clubs. FOr instance I was a great admirer of the Joe Mercer Manchester City team which included Lee, Bell and Summerbee. Both Manchester City and Chelsea played exquisite football fairly in those days.
    Now they are both cash cows full of foreign players and I have as much regard for them as all other clubs apart from Bradford City.
    On Saturday an highlight for me (if there could be any more highlights on a day like that) was seeing Ron Harris, John Hollins and in particular Peter Bonetti on the pitch at Stamford Bridge.
    It really added to a great day.
    They showed the goals from Chelsea beating L666s in the replay, whilst introducing them to the crowd. I think they were surprised that they got such a great reception not only from the Chelosea fans but from the City fans too, and when they realised we were all chanting “We all hate L666s” they came over laughing and then bowed to the City end.
    It was a throwback to me to a great era as a young fan.

    • Mark Neale. ..You might regard yourselves always the pride of Yorkshire and last weekend city was, but in a lot of football fans eyes, the chairman and the club will be remembered for not wearing a poppy on the their shirts!!!
      Mark Lawn is joke of a man and if he was known to the public eye, he’d have been rightly ridiculed by the press. So he should thank his lucky stars for being a no-one!

      • The point I was trying to make was irrespective of which Yorkshire team you support, your club, Bradford City, Halifax Town, or even L665s, you will think of your team as being “the pride of Yorkshire”. I dont really see where the poppy thing comes into this. We (City fans) voiced our opinion at the time, and although Mark has his shortcomings, he is a genuine fan, has done some incredible things for our/his club and its fans, and at the very least is not some Italian madman who thought he could buy a football club, throw some money at it, and make immediate success. I know who I would rather have running my club.

  28. For all the nice talk of the glory of the cup and plaudits we have received the reality for the broadcasters is always money and competition for viewing figures globally. As the premier league is such a huge cash cow around the world these viewers may well only be aware of what they are fed through this channel. (Although if they are that interested in English football in general there is this thing called the “Internet” where more information is available “at the click of a button”)

    After having a major splurge on the Sunday papers this week, I read an article in one of the broadsheets on how intense the pressure on the broadcasters in the bidding for the rights to the premier league is going to be, with the likelihood of Discovery Channel (owned by the same people that own Virgin Media) joining the bidding as a major player as well as BT wanting to break more into SKY’s market share.

    I would be interested to know if high up in BT and the BBC (holding FA Cup rights) they feel that an FA Cup could actually damage the image of their premier league product (BBC only having radio commentary and showing highlights).
    The premier league is marketed as “THE BEST LEAGUE IN THE WORLD!!!” so will they be happy having smaller clubs beating their golden boys and denting the image they are trying to peddle? If these are such great teams how do they lose to lower league opposition?
    As football fans we generally see this as a great thing (and let’s be honest I’m sure fans of the other big clubs thought Chelsea and Manchester (I am calling them just Manchester as all media outlets just call us Bradford) had a great laugh at their expense too) but do those who have another agenda see it this way?
    I have no idea of viewing figures for or interest in the fa cup around the globe, but those abroad who see English football will generally know the premier league, so may be more likely to watch if they see names like Aston Villa or West Ham as they will recognise then from when they have been on their screens (Plus most established premier league sides tour these markets to built their brand presence in these markets). The potential total global viewing figures will be greater than those in the UK, so in selling rights to these regions the broadcasters here want to have as recognisable product as possible.

    In monetary terms, the broadcasters would love to have the premier league teams in the fa cup 5th round every year (with maybe a juicy, sacrificial Man U v Liverpool type match in rounds 3 and 4).
    I do believe most people in the UK would look at the tv schedule and go “Ooh Bradford! well they battered Chelsea in the last round, I want to watch them play to see what they’re all about and if they beat Chelsea then they could upset someone else” but globally they want the premier league teams (just as long as they are premier league) to bring in the money.

    Well that was all very depressing to write, our only solution is just to keep on winning, knock everyone else out, get to Wembley 3 times in 2 months this year and book a pre-season tour to the US and Far East!

  29. I can only reiterate the points raised by other comments. This is a disgrace, and yet typical of those organisations supposedly running the FA Cup and the TV coverage. The FA is supposed to represent all its member clubs. Are all clubs equal? Seemingly not! The BBC was all over the team and joint chairman whilst trying to overcome their stupidity in not showing the Stamford Bridge history making giant killing act. They had Mr Parkinson on MOTD2. Their news summaries, both national and local, carried items involving City for the next couple of days. Look North broadcast live from Valley Parade on Monday evening. It is anybody’s guess what BT Sport is playing at. Either way it did not take them long to slip into the easy decisions. Let us have Manchester United on every time. West Brom v West Ham? Who decided that this game was more attractive than the history makers at home to a Premier club or Fulham. Who decided that Aston Villa v Leicester City would attract more neutral viewers than the team that has scored most goals in the competition so far. The decision not to award the Bantams a televised match was an insult to all the lower league and non-league clubs who dare to dream. It is an insult to the team and management who executed that surprising victory in sensational style. Most of all though it is an insult to the FA Cup competition and its traditions. MAGIC of the FA Cup? From where I stand It seems more like SLIGHTof hand!

  30. An ugly article

    I’m just relieved you stopped short of using the “I pay my TV licence, I pay your wages” cliche.

    We’re blessed to still have a football club let alone the magnificent moments of the last few years. We should celebrate every second and use our time in the limelight to portray our club, and our city in the best possible way.

    The BBC has no mandate to ensure the even distribution of money within football and I think it’s wholly unfair to blame them for the current environment where clubs who have worked their way up the league pyramid over the last 100 years receive more revenue than those smaller down the ladder.

    Not being on telly is a huge opportunity to pack out Valley Parade to the rafters and create yet another one of those ‘hairs standing up on the back of your neck’ moments before giving Sunderland/Fulham the game of our lives.

    Be positive, stay humble, enjoy every minute of this journey with Phil Parkinson

  31. Says it all, the BBC should be ashamed of themselves. I for one will not be watching any of the televised games. Won’t make a difference but I’ll feel better.

  32. I think it stinks!
    After the incredible achievement Bradford managed, The whole ‘football scene’ have been thrilled by this club, and eager to see them progress.
    Not televising their onward journey is shameful, and the TV execs should hang their heads in shame.

    C’mon Bradford ! [And this from a diehard Chelsea fan – who was at the game]

  33. It is a shame that we can’t see on the TV. The TV companies will look at the ratings but BBC sport, shameful as we pay license fees. This is the FA cup!!!

  34. Just got in after the Colchester game and I’m frankly relieved that the FA Cup game won’t be on the TV because the pitch is frankly a huge embarrassment which we would be wise to keep ‘under wraps’.

    Come on Mark, get us a new Lawn!

  35. start a petition!

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