Pitchside Europe

TV cookery fans dish out ultimate insult for England team


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Best insult yet dished up for England fans

Best insult yet dished up for England fans

Just 40,000 fans turned out at Wembley to watch England's friendly match against Norway on Wednesday night - the lowest since the stadium was re-opened in 2007 following an £800m rebuild, and a figure so low that the entire upper tier of the ground was roped off.

But as humiliating as that was for Roy Hodgson's men, the ultimate insult was yet to come. It duly arrived early on Thursday morning when official viewing figures for the match showed that just 4.5 million people tuned in to the match on ITV - compared to the 8.3 million who watched the Great British Bake Off over on BBC 1.

That's right: watching a septuagenarian cookery writer and a grey-haired philanderer discussing the merits of scones, pies and lavender meringue was apparently the big draw for a quiet night in early September.

Even celebrity football fans decided they'd rather watch Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood and the gang:

It's the first time that an England match has been trounced by the cookery show sensation - but only just. In 2011, England's Euro 2012 qualifying clash against Poland was up against the grand final of GBBO.

[Bake Off: No sur-PIES as Norman Calder is finally banned]

[Bake Off: Did Iain deserve to go for his meltdown?]

Thankfully, for those whose fandom Venn diagrams intersect bakery and international football, the Poland match was postponed due to freak weather conditions.

MY VIEW – Football fan and Bake Off obsessive Alex Chick

Not only am I totally unsurprised that Bake Off crushed England v Norway in the ratings, I’m amazed the margin of victory wasn’t higher. The football world can be peculiarly insular, and the assumption that anyone would watch a nothing friendly ahead of the nation’s most talked-about TV show demonstrates this.

Bake Off this year moved to BBC1 and is coming off the greatest controversy (no, really) in its history. Iain’s ruined Baked Alaska – a victim of global warming after rival Diana removed it from the freezer – was one of the biggest news stories of last week (again, it really was) and generated over 800 complaints to the BBC. I’d be amazed if there were 800 people still awake at the end of England-Norway.

What makes shows like X-Factor, Strictly and Bake Off work is that they transfer sport’s framework to other spheres of life. Bake Off isn’t about the cakes  – it’s about competition and personalities, which it presents in a far more compelling way than a turgid friendly at a half-empty Wembley ever could.

People will watch England if there’s something at stake -  the World Cup defeat against Uruguay peaked at 20.3m viewers. But nobody should expect the nation to submit itself to a drab side going gutlessly through the motions against Norway when they have the unadulterated human drama of Norman’s ill-fated lavender meringue on the other side.

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