Early Doors

BT Sport must stop persisting with disastrous and unpopular on-field presenting

Early Doors

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It was easy to imagine the idea coming up in a comfortable meeting room at BT Sport's Olympic Park base and even easier to predict the self-satisfied stubbornness that would inevitably follow.

The 'innovation' of forcing TV presenters and pundits to produce their usual fare from the awkward and uncomfortable platform of the pitch was never going to be a successful one.

As recently as the weekend the strategy that is deeply unpopular with fans and experts alike produced another comical but cringe-worthy disaster.

Host Jake Humphrey and pundits Gary McAllister and Jens Lehmann were - very predictably - subject to loud abuse from spectators passing their platform at the Emirates Stadium after Arsenal's FA Cup win over Liverpool.

Foul-mouthed chants and derisory comments abounded as the trio battled to be heard and to make their rehearsed views audible amid the chaos that surrounded them.

This was just the latest example of the strategy backfiring quite spectacularly and it will not be the last. Indeed, the odds are very much on a repeat scenario when it comes to the next occasion BT Sport attempt this strategy.

But no matter: this is a modern-day football broadcasting innovation that must be persisted with. Why? Because someone in a suit clutching a croissant and a macchiato decided that it would be different.

That seems to be what it is all about for BT Sport right now: to be different. This is in spite of the fact that even their own 'talent' are criticising the whole idea on social media - to the delight and reassurance of everyone consuming it.

BT's Danny Baker tweeted, to wide acclaim: "I have never met anybody ANYBODY who has ever said, 'You know having match pundits on the pitch and in crowd is a GREAT idea!' #TVFantasy.

"Ha @btsportfootball panel having to fight sweary supporters now. Modern idea to be "among" fans is bulls***. Born of boss-eyed meetings."

He quickly added: "If you talk to any football presenter they will say the 'being on the pitch' thing is ludicrous. Fans don't like it. So who is driving it?"

Here is his rant in full:

So presenters don't like it; pundits don't like it; players don't like it (apart from when they can aim 'miscued' shots at said pundits and presenters - as Martin Keown is fully aware after being the recipient of a stray ball to the side of his head); and fans certainly don't like it. So why the dogged and painstaking persistence?

BT Sport has spent a fortune on their state-of-the-art presentation studios complete with artificial pitches (for demonstrations, we should explain) and Racing Post papers for Michael Owen - yet all of that is not enough.

Despite having such an expensive and grandiose base, BT Sport still deems it necessary to send their presenters and pundits out shivering into the night to be drowned out by the abuse of bored fans.

It's all because it is different to what Sky Sports offers. Yes, that really is the key. But maybe there is something in the fact that for all these years a simple set of couches in a warm studio suffices quite well.

Yes, it really does seem as though there was no need to deviate away from the humble sofas (or swivel chairs in ITV's case) after all. Who would have thought it?

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But BT Sport are determined to carry on, because its different and 'innovative' approach must not be undermined by any hint of a U-turn despite the weight of opinion in opposition to such stubbornness.

Pundits and presenters will continue to risk being struck on the head by immature footballers, they will have to accept not being heard above the pitchside racket, but worse still, TV viewers will have to hear more expletive-laden chants from fans who there is no need to hear from before or after a big match.

Alas, this is the fiercely competitive world of sports broadcasting and BT Sports have a war to fight with their Sky Sports rivals.

Fans may just have to put up with innovation for innovation's sake and accept that they are sitting ducks amid the raging battle of egos.

That is, until another Tuesday morning meeting produces a new idea.

Are pitchside broadcasts the way forward or a sorry attempt to be different? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

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