Why Bradford City fans deserve to feel disappointed by BBC’s latest FA Cup ‘snub’

Image by Thomas Gadd (thomasgadd.co.uk)

Image by Thomas Gadd (thomasgadd.co.uk)

By Jason McKeown

“Are you watching BBC?” boomed out of Valley Parade during the closing stages of Bradford City’s superb victory over Sunderland on Sunday. It was a rhetorical question, posed after Auntie Beeb snubbed the chance to cover the Bantams’ FA Cup exploits – but it is one the corporation opted to answer anyway.

Via Match of the Day that evening, via Gary Lineker on Twitter, and via this blog post, the BBC defended their decision to favour the live screening of an uninspiring all-Premier League clash between two strugglers over City’s latest giant killing.

They couldn’t be sure Sunderland would win their FA Cup replay with Fulham – and who wanted to watch City-Fulham? It was the FA’s fault for forcing the BBC to decide their live TV choices too quickly. Or the police and the clubs for wanting to fix a firm date for the game with more than 10 days’ notice. The BBC even claimed they were going to talk to the FA about changing the rules over TV selection.

All of which might have been intended with sincerity from the BBC, but feels somewhat hollow as news emerges this evening that they have apparently passed up the opportunity to cover City live again. The Bantams vs Royals is going to be shown live on BT Sport. BBC had first and third-choice picks of the four quarter final ties, and have opted for Man United vs Arsenal (understandably) and Aston Villa vs West Brom (eerily similar to Villa vs Leicester).

Let’s be frank about this. The BBC’s stance on Bradford City vs Fulham/Sunderland was entirely understandable to anyone who can see beyond their own partisan viewpoint. Would we Bradford City supporters have felt upset about TV coverage if we were not the League One team involved in the cup run, and instead it was Rochdale or Crawley Town possibly playing Fulham? Would we have cared that they missed out on £250k TV money? Perhaps, perhaps not. Either way, the logic from the BBC is not impossible to understand.

And in the cold light of day, Bradford City vs Reading is the least attractive of the four quarter final ties that the BBC and BT Sport spent Tuesday afternoon fighting over. If it is ratings that matter, Aston Villa vs West Brom has greater appeal.

The whole fall out over the City-Sunderland non-TV show either galvanised the club or made us look silly. Just because we defeated Chelsea, it should not bring an entitlement that City had to be shown live on the BBC in round five, or have to be in the quarter finals. I enjoyed the campaign led by Mark Lawn and some excellent points were made that didn’t reflect well on TV companies, but more crucial was the game itself. With no TV, Valley Parade was sold out and the atmosphere was amongst the best the ground has ever experienced.

The bottom line is that, financially, it matters not whether City vs Reading is screened live on BBC or BT Sport. The cameras will be at Valley Parade on the day and the payout is assured. That is the most important aspect.

But still, it is very disappointing to be overlooked by the BBC. And here’s why: to paraphrase Ron Burgundy, the BBC is kind of a big deal. And for a football club that – to the best of my knowledge – has never had a game screened live on national terrestrial TV in its history, the level of exposure they would have experienced through being live on the Beeb would have meant a lot.

Sure, BT Sport is a national audience. But it is a national football audience. It is a channel for sports fans; largely sports fans who are devoted enough to pay a subscription (or who happen to have BT broadband). A seven-figure amount of people will tune in to Bradford City vs Reading via BT Sport, but these people will be the sort who tune into most football matches shown on TV.

BBC One is mainstream. And if City were shown on it, millions more people would have tuned in to their game. An audience that goes beyond football fanatics (who will still tune in), to people who hold a casual interest. And being stood inside Valley Parade singing our hearts out during the match against Reading, it would have felt extra special imagining just how many people were hearing the noise you were making through the BBC cameras capturing your world.

The TV viewing public would have been wide-ranging. Family members who normally wish you well on your way to the match, never fully understanding just what Bradford City means to you. Work colleagues, who typically have only heard of the Bantams because you talk about them in response to that widely-used Friday afternoon question: “What are you doing this weekend?” People in Bradford and West Yorkshire, who usually care little about the local football club but are amazed by all the headlines they are making. Young children getting into football, who up until now may not fully realise that there is more to it than the Premier League.

We have never had that opportunity before, and it’s difficult for football fans who routinely get that exposure to understand how special it would have felt.

Imagine the benefits of showcasing the noise and passion of us Bradford City fans to a national terrestrial TV audience? People watching might have sat down to watch the whole game, or even glanced over it for 20 minutes. Most would have little relevance to the long-term good of Bradford City Football Club, but others may enjoy what they see enough to look into going to a Bantams match. This is already starting to happen, at least judging by the number of people who have asked me about how much it costs to watch Bradford City over the last couple of days.

In his blog piece defending the BBC’s non-selection of Bradford City vs Sunderland, Mark Cole wrote “For those who can’t afford subscription to sports channels, it’s been great to be able to see live international stars like Alexis Sanchez, Angel Di Maria, Steven Gerrard, Ron Vlaar and Alex Song, all as part of the licence fee.” A fantastic point (although citing Ron Vlaar is stretching it a bit), but in our partisan world we wanted licence fee payers to see live Bradford City’s own stars like Rory McArdle, Billy Knott, Jon Stead and James Hanson. These guys deserve it.

It’s just really disappointing that we are denied that opportunity to be in the brighter spotlight. The logic over another ‘snub’ is undeniable, but the FA Cup is supposed to be about magic and dreaming and – to use the BBC’s hashtag – getting carried away. And it would have meant the world to appear live on BBC One to the nation. It would have been the biggest audience to ever watch a Bradford City match.

BT Sport is great of course, and the exposure they will provide the club should not be dismissed. But on Sunday nobody one was chanting “Are you watching BT Sport?” There’s a good reason for that.

Categories: Opinion

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15 replies

  1. Spot on Jason. It’s the bigger picture stuff that’s the issue.
    Real football for the masses to see.
    Would be a great advert for non-prem football, a showcase for potential fans, potential sponsors, potential players etc….
    League football needs proper coverage and this decision hurts.

    Also Villa v West Brom is a fixture on Tues 3 March so BBC will be covering it in their MOTD programme on Wed night anyway.

  2. As usual Jason you are spot on. City v Reading isn’t a glamour tie. City at Chelsea should not have been chosen, it was a home banker. City v Sunderland should have been and the excuses were poor.

    The truth is also though that the BBC have been using City to get people carried away with it and to prove the magic of the cup and yet they continue to pick all premier league ties.

    Reading havent been on at all and have been barely mentioned.

    I don’t want to watch it on TV, I want to get tickets but the point is that some people can’t be there and also more to the point, people (outside Bradford) have been getting carried away with it. They want to watch the team of the cup so far.

    I live in Salisbury, hardly a hotbed of BCFC support but BCFC are the hot topic.

    I went to my son’s parents evening and the maths teacher shook my hand and said 4-2 – fantastic, I was listening to it, it’s the best thing I’ve ever listened to. I went to a cricket net for another son and a father hustled over to me “Brilliant it was brilliant”.

    The truth is that the BBC don’t understand sport they never have. They shouldn’t be allowed to show sport because they belittle it. Gary Lineker with his smirking smug comments is the latest. I will never forget his contribution to the swimming analysis at the Olympics when after one of the greatest Olympians of all time – Ian Thorp – had given his expert analysis, Lineker’s contribution was ‘nice jumper’. The look of contempt from Thorp spoke a thousand words and it was noticeable that he was replaced by a serious commentator after that -Clare Balding. She is wasted on the BBC.

    I have gone off at a slight tangent because its not Lineker’s fault but they do not understand sport. They whine about not having test cricket but they used to take the mickey when they had it – interrupting to go to Hickstead.

    BBC Radio are different.

    The BBC were never going to put us on this round. They wanted to prove a point that they’re the boss and the draw gave them a great excuse.

    And finally we are not he first and not the first this year. Blyth beat Hartlepool , they were all over it and then the BBC did not choose Blyth v Birmingham. Another duff choice. I have no affinity to either club but this is the FA Cup and that was the game I wanted to watch.

  3. This is the most honest balanced bit of punditry I’ve heard / read on the issue http://www.thefootballramble.com/show/audio/kevin-frenemy1 If links don’t work in these comments then Google the football ramble and listen to the latest episode from about 10 minutes in. These are 4 blokes who live in London, nobody knows who the presenter supports, the Geordie is a Hartlepool fan, the most outraged guy is a Pompey fan and the other guy is an Arsenal fan. No affiliation to Bradford City whatsoever and all pretty much in agreement that the FA cup has little to do with Villa vs Leicester or other ties of this nature. Some really good points made in this little chat by complete neutrals.

    I for one would far far rather see Rochdale or Crawley or Preston or whoever on TV than a bang average premier league tie, especially if any of the above had just beaten Chelsea away in the previous round. No bias at all but we are the FA cup this year, just as we were the league cup 2 years ago.

  4. Great article. Small correction, in about 2002 we were live on itv1 against Man City in a div1 clash

  5. Jason Good article and I have a similar view. But until the official announcement is made we are pre-empting their decision. Nothing we say or do is likely to change their approach. But I think they should be reminded of their own Editorial policies, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/editorialguidelines/page/guidelines-editorial-values-introduction. These three pages make interesting reading and one could raise issues of partiality, lack of regional representation, lack of originality etc I believe we put ourselves down by saying prem v prem are more attractive than 1st v Championship. That assumes too much about the quality of football to a neutral audience. I was bored to tears with the Champions league match on ITV last night and my observation of some premier league games is that they fall into the same trap of negative possessional football. Chelsea and Sunderland games were far from that (MOD/media comments to confirm as well as our own views). It would not be daring to use the evidence of these games to show lively, enticing and pure gutsy performances, and no little great football, of two teams of whatever division at each other to win as it would mean so much to each one rather than “oh well onto the next £10m game”. This is why the BBC would be so wrong in choosing not to show the Bantams. Of course we would benefit vastly from the exposure and perhaps its for others to raise their disappointment at not seeing another cracking tie

  6. The bureaucrat will never accept he is wrong, and will never give in to pressure. The BBC is a bureaucracy, and cannot therefore accept they were wrong. They will not show the Reading tie, because by not showing it they show their power.
    As a matter of interest, has anyone noticed how poor the BBC presentation of football is when compared to Sky.
    Weaker commentators, fewer cameras, poorer analysis, poor camera work. It is the same with their golf and rugby league coverage. Second-rate.

  7. Whilst I agree with the latter points of your article that any promotion through the spotlight of national TV would be a great thing for our club, I do think that we are at risk of losing sight on what is important with this whole situation with the BBC/TV coverage.

    The last time we played in the Quarter final of the FA cup I wasn’t born, if we have to wait as long again I’ll be 71 – And when I am 71 (if I am lucky enough to live that long) I wont be remembering whether or not it was on the BBC, but will be thinking of the cup run itself, the game and the sense of occasion which it brought.

    The fact that the Sunderland game wasn’t on BBC TV was baffling but to our credit we used it to our advantage – selling out the stadium and making it Bradford City Vs The World and ultimately we succeeded and we made history in doing so!

    Parkinson, the players, the club and us fans should do exactly the same again. This is about Bradford City in the Quarter Finals of the FA Cup for the first time in 39 years – 90 minutes away from a Semi Final Wembley appearance. No amount of TV Coverage will change that – Screw the BBC, they deserve no more of our attention or time.

  8. Great article Jason as always. The two disappointing aspects of the BBC’s stance regarding City are that – a) after a huge spike in the usual Saturday MoTD audience on the night our amazing victory over Chelsea was shown, the BBC were salivating at the “romance of the cup” and the excitement of City’s (and to be fair Boro’s) amazing wins.They asked viewers to vote on whether City vs Chelsea was THE “biggest FA cup upset EVER”, but then did not follow up our story with live coverage of the next tie (whomever we were to play) which smacks of hypocrisy when the actual chosen game was an all premier league snooze fest involving the anchor presenter’s own club. It had no “romance” in it whatsoever; and
    b) the lost revenue to us from both BBC and BT snubbing the tie, when we could desperately use it.
    The answer to how do we achieve the “biggest audience to ever watch a Bradford City match” (by having it live on free-to-air terrestrial TV), is actually quite simple. We bludgeon Reading out of the way and if the semi final is STILL not chosen by the BBC as their live game, we do the same again.
    BBC will have to show the final even if it is “only” Bradford City !

  9. BT Sport have announced that the Reading game will be (effectively) free-to-air in the UK via btsport.com and BT Sport on Sky:

    Their comments are interesting:

    “This will be the second time that BT Sport have shown Bradford City in this year’s FA Cup and because Bradford City Football Club have been very passionate about the UK seeing their amazing club run, BT Sport have decided to make the game against Reading available to everyone to watch, online, via BT TV and Sky.”

  10. Its a shame the Beeb have snubbed us again as the Sunderland game should have been shown.

    This time around i can understand why the Beeb would choose Villa v West Brom as its a local derby with plenty at stake .

    BT sport are allowing it for free to people with sky sports so it will be widely available to millions of people and i’d just like to thank BT for how they are showing this game

  11. Jason normally love your articles.But can we please stop bleating on about the BBC. Leave finance to the directors as fans, 10 years from now we will not care that the BBC showed midlands teams instead of bcfc however we will never forget Chelsea, Sunderland and definitely not an FA cup semi final or final! Just love what’s happening and don’t cheapen it.

    • Hi Andy

      With respect I think you are blaming me for a wider narrative that clearly annoys you. This article actually defends the BBC rather than attacks them over not covering the game. Beyond that, we have published just one article on the lack of TV coverage of the Sunderland game which didn’t single out the BBC over BT Sport.

      I appreciate that a lot of comment has been made elsewhere, led by the club, and perhaps that is not to your liking, but we have been far from leading that. We have said relatively little and focused on other, more important things. If anyone is cheapening things, I’m not sure it is us.


  12. Fair point Jason, it was the latest of many articles on this subject which I feel has overshadowed a wonderful few weeks for PP the club and fans. Its not WOTP (sorry for venting my frustration) Just want us to all enjoy this moment without feeling bitterness outside parties. Keep up the good work.

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