The insufferable nature of sports commentary


“Is there a world beyond the tired television pundits and loud-mouthed social media stars?”

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Image by Flickr | Creator: Simon Yeo

By Jack Bleksley

After ten long and arduous years of toil (for the viewer, that is), football’s David Brent, Jake Humphrey, has finally stepped down from BT Sport. Don’t cheer too loudly. He led BT’s dismal coverage of the Champion’s League Final, during which I wondered, why is football punditry so poor? Surely, we don’t have to settle for Mario Balotelli looking like he’d rather be literally anywhere else and Humphrey’s attempt to make Alan Partridge look like a respectable broadcaster. What do Sky Sports have to offer? It’s the same old drivel from former players in expensive tailored suits playing caricatured versions of themselves to please producers. Sky Sports’ edgy alternative is Rory Jennings and glove-stealingThogden. There must be better out there. I want to watch people who actually gives an insight into the game, not just a former player who happened to have played for both teams and YouTubers who are only invited onto shows due to their follower count.

Ever since AFTV (formerly Arsenal Fan TV) was launched in 2012, they have led the way for a plethora of fan-led social media channels. Many claim to be airing the voices of the fans and represent a break from the same pundits in their thousand-pound suits. Real fans, real voices and real emotion. This is far from the truth. There are some channels that I rather enjoy, although this is purely on entertainment value. Reactions are over-the-top and forced, with the aim of making a viral clip to garner views. Although not the exciting punditry revolution that it could have been, I do not have a huge problem with these channels. I enjoy an AFTV meltdown as much as the next person. You know what you’re getting. At no point do I expect Mark Goldbridgeof The United Stand to come out with words of footballing wisdom. But that’s fine because he is, in most part, still confined to social media and amusing TikToks. It’s when these online football jesters are treated like proper pundits that it is frustrating.

On 6 August 2022, whilst appearing on Sky Sports’ Saturday Social, former Eastenders actor turned social media football “pundit” Rory Jennings made one of the most ridiculous statements in the history of western civilisation. Drawing on all of his football wisdom, Jennings stated that Manchester City’snew summers singing Erling Braut Haaland would struggle in the Premier League. According to the Jennings it was “disrespectful to the establishment” to suggest that Haaland would win the golden boot in his first year. Haaland scored 36 goals in the Premier League this season, breaking the scoring record at the age of 22. Rory’s “establishment” was very much disrespected. I hope he’s doing ok.

At least his bank balance is. With a regular spot on TalkSport and many appearances on Sky Sports, he is making a decent wage out of spouting utter nonsense and is being treated like he is a serious football pundit. He is living proof that you really can fake it 'til you make it.

So, what is the alternative? Is there a world beyond the tired television pundits and loud-mouthed social media stars? Yes, there is. There is away to do punditry properly without the shouting and ridiculous predictions.

The Ashes is coming up this summer and I cannot wait to watch Nasser Hussain, Michael Atherton and IanWard discussing the day’s play with expert and easy-to-understand analysis with sprinklings of wit and humour.

Sky Sports’ Cricket coverage has long been incredibly popular with cricket fans. The shakeup that saw Ian Botham, David Gower and David Lloyd depart was originally met with mixed reactions but has proved to be successful.

The newer, fresher line up is a model example of how punditry should be done. No shouting to be heard like school children in the playground. No stupid predictions by people with little to no expertise on their sport. Reasoned debate with clear explanations and demonstrations about the game gives the viewer an insight into the sport at the very top level. The post-match interview with Test captain Ben Stokes after the win against Ireland is incomparable to Humphrey’s shambolic attempt to interview Jack Grealish after City’s win. Humphrey wanted to speak about Grealish’s dad driving him to matches as a child instead of providing anything of substance.

There is hope for football fans. Sky Sports Cricket has shown how to do punditry the correct way. I long for the days when a post-match discussion doesn’t involve an exaggerated Roy Keane rant or pundits shouting over each other just to get heard. There is an appetite for a new style of broadcasting in football. You only have to look at Twitter to see a whole host of tweets from frustrated sports fans, sick and tired of poor punditry. I, along with many others, am pleading with the broadcasting establishment to do better.