One of Sky Sports’ greatest accomplishments is polishing that Premier League turd to the point that if it shined anymore you’d be seeing your own reflection in it. BT Sport decided that its own brand of polish could not only match Sky’s glitzy and sparkly brand, but beat it. Now here we are, two mega-corporations battling it out to see who can sell the most glamorised turds.
It’s a fascinating battle between the old stalwart veterans and the audacious rebellious newcomers. Sky already have an overwhelming advantage in the shape of Super Sunday and Gillette Soccer Saturday, two staples of football viewing. The UK absolutely love tuning in to watch two relegation candidates play a pub-standard match in front of 40,000 people. These matches are so “Super” that the word “Super” is no longer sufficient to describe the really big matches. “Red Monday,” “Mersey Monday,” “The Return,” “The Reunion” – take your pick from Sky’s newly found habit of giving WWE pay-per-view names to its matches.
Actually, if we’re being honest, we’d all pay good money to see Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho go at it in a “Hell in a Cell” match, with Arsene Wenger as special guest referee.
“Red Monday,” in particular, sounds like the name you’d give to a tragic massacre rather than a football match. And indeed, Liverpool vs Manchester United did manage to massacre any interest and hype Sky generated for the match. But nevermind that, at least there’s still Soccer Saturday. Much loved for its banter and unique commentary on the Saturday matches you never get to see, Soccer Saturday remains compelling viewing. It’s also the only show on TV where you can hear Charlie Nicholas moan as if he’s having an orgasm and Paul Merson fail to pronounce more than half the words in the English language.
If that’s not doing it for you, there’s always “Friday Night Football,” Sky’s latest method of screwing over stadium-going fans, where you can see four men doing their utmost to avert their eyes from Rachel Riley’s latest form fitting outfit. “Monday Night Football,” meanwhile, continues to be one for the intellectuals, as it continually poses the question of how we can take Gary Neville seriously after his disastrous attempt at managing Valencia.
How are BT matching this? Well, for starters, they’re offering the expertise and charisma of Michael Owen, Owen Hargreaves and Glenn Hoddle, the liveliness of Robbie Savage and sporadic helpings of dourness from Chris Sutton, in case you weren’t suffering enough already. It used to be that any one of these fine pundits would co-commentate on the game, but now you get the pleasurable experience of hearing from any two of them at the same time.
I’m not sure who came up with that idea but I imagine it’s the same person who thought BT should create their own version of Soccer Saturday and match Sky stride for stride. At the moment, this is akin to Everton rocking up at Stamford Bridge with a 3-4-3 and being hammered 5-0. It’s brave, but ultimately foolhardy to do without the proper resources to do it successfully. Having a group of guys lounging on a sofa while watching the games on high-tech monitors may give BT Score a more casual, relaxed look, but at the same time misrepresents how people actually watch their football on a Saturday. Perhaps BT’s attempt would be more successful if they had a group of guys watching Premier League matches on disintegrating, chugging internet streams instead, complete with the avalanche of ads for dubious dating sites.
Nothing sums up a faulty yet compelling product quite like Sky’s and BT’s clumsy offering of entertainment and insight into that very product. Their attempts of one-upping each other are part of the overall Premier League package, and is becoming the train-wreck sideshow we all can’t keep our eyes off.