Channel Five experiment fails to hit the mark

150810-football-leagueIt was with great delight that I discovered over the summer of Channel Five’s plans to bring us the Football League goals at the pre-snooze time of 9pm of a Saturday evening from this season. But like we’ve become accustomed to over the years watching the Cobblers, anticipation in pre-season can quickly be dissolved once the season actually starts. In this case, Football League Tonight was the highlight show equivalent of Norwich City losing 7-1 at home to Colchester United on the opening day of the 2009/10 season.

It’s typical of a ‘trendy’ new show these days to go with the set-up of including a live audience with the Wimbledon highlights show over the summer trying out the same format before phasing out the crowd members until they were being chased up Henman Hill with their tails between their legs. Until someone convinces Jeema to go on, there’s no need.

I did feel for the presenters, particularly Kelly Cates, a hugely knowledgeable and decent front woman, who were doing their best to accentuate the positives of what became a real cluster mess of a show.

Firstly, I like order. I’m weird like that, I like to see one division after the other all the way through. On Saturday we were given Sheffield Wednesday’s highlights and then for no reason other than being in the same city (but, crucially, different divisions!) we were then shown Sheffield United’s. For casual fans trying to get into the Football League for the first time, no explanation was offered before we headed back to see more Championship action, the rest of League One, quickly through League Two and then back to more Championship at the end. Now I’m all for mixing it up and changing the order of the league’s appearances but at least show every game in that division. Please.

Finally, the league tables were presented in the ‘league ladder’ format that I swear I used to produce when planning a season with Shoot magazine as a young whipper snapper:


When you start thinking that an appearance by Martin Allen rescues some credibility of a show then you know you’re onto a bad thing but that’s what happened here. Allen at least seemed to know what he was talking about and brought some insight into Barnet’s promotion before being sent on his way, presumably in utter bemusement.

There is, of course, time to rescue the format. I’ve not seen reviews as yet but with the season just a week old I hope for their sake as much as ours that some re-evaluating is done in the coming weeks. Our clubs and fans deserve better and deserve a show that gives us a rare platform for the nation and Channel Five have a big opportunity to draw in a previously unreached audience.

Just keep that audience in their homes, not smiling nervously in the background wondering where on earth they are.

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