Saturday evening bought to the forefront a discussion that has been ongoing for a while, do football pundits have a responsibility to be better informed than the average fan? Alan Shearer displayed an incredible level of ignorance on Saturday when he asked Alan Hansen & Gary Lineker if either of them ‘knew anything about this guy’ with the player in question being Hatem Ben Arfa who had just scored the winning goal in a tricky 1-0 away win at Everton.
Ignoring the fact that as a fan and ex-player Shearer should probably be a bit more clued up on his teams latest signing, which in my opinion was something of a coup, who isn’t exactly an unknown in football. In his role as a paid pundit Shearer has a duty to the fans watching to know a bit more or at least pretend he knows a bit more even if he’s only learnt it minutes before hand from doing a bit of research. It’s not like Ben Arfa is a player who’s come from nowhere, he’s won league titles with Lyon, played in the Champions League and represented France at international level. I’m sure that Shearer, as a supposed Newcastle fan, knew the result of the game and the scorer before he set foot in the beeb office’s to record the show so he must have thought to himself ‘who is this guy?’ it only takes a few moments out of his schedule to look up some information online about him and find out that actually, as a supposed top football pundit you should be aware of him.
Obviously it’s not fair to say that these guys should be as clued up on tactical analysis and understanding of the game as people like the insightful Jonathan Wilson or the fantastic Zonal Marking are because that late on a Saturday night it would go above most of the viewing publics heads and really it would probably go above most average football fans heads at any point during the day/week if we’re honest, but that’s no excuse for not knowing basic information about a clubs top signing when the internet is a source of information that is easy to access. On top of that the BBC have researchers that will have happily handed the pundits information on the goal scorers and key players before the show even began (apparently the BBC’s world cup guide was incredibly detailed and informative but clearly wasn’t read by the people that needed it most). For the privilege of holding a place on the MOTD sofa is it too much to expect these guys to flick through some information handed to them before the show starts? If any of us was handed an information pack for an important meeting in our respective jobs and we went in without a clue doubtlessly some sort of disciplinary action would soon follow but week in week out these guys underwhelm us with their lack of knowledge on what is supposedly their specialist subject.
I remember watching the World Cup and Alan Hansen displayed his attitude to research and knowledge when he sneered at Lee Dixon ‘someone told you about him’, Dixon had just picked out Marek Hamsik as a key player to watch for Slovakia, when Hamsik is one of the most sort after midfielders in Europe! Mark Lawrenson is another one who displays ignorance at a shocking frequency, during a Brazil game he asked if Kaka had played much last season, even the most ill informed of football fans knew that Kaka had been suffering with injury problems most of the season. These are people who are in jobs that most football fans would kill for, I’d have loved for the BBC to have not only provided me with plane tickets & accommodation for the world cup and then pay me to commentate and provide my thoughts to millions of viewers on the game, but instead I had to work my usual job and then have to put up with their ill informed punditry. This is just further proof that Shearer’s Ben Arfa gaffe isn’t a ‘one off’ but a serious underlying problem that has been all too common on what is supposed to be the BBC’s flagship football program.
If anyone else displayed this lack of ignorance in their chosen profession they would be sacked – take for example any of the Top Gear presenters, if they went on T.V and said they didn’t know anything about the latest Ferrari they’d been asked to test drive then they would be out the door. If Gary Rhodes said ‘does anyone know what this Salami stuff is?’ he would have been gone out the door. Even Soccer AM, its self a bit of a joke amongst football fans, decided to ditch the hapless Andy Goldstein after Ray Winston took him apart for being from London and supporting Man Utd, this following on from an awful showing throughout his time on the show. Yet the BBC continues to chuck licence payer money at a group of people that don’t really seem to have a clue about the subject they are employed to discuss.
As the general public have to pay a T.V licence fee maybe it’s about time the BBC showed the common viewer a little bit of decency and made MOTD the show it should be, a program that concentrates on highlights of the show and tells us things we didn’t know before instead of increasing the general ignorance of people and assuming that the Premier League is the only league worth watching and paying any interest in or that English players are the only players worth keeping tabs on. The average football fan should watch MOTD and feel enlightened and enriched from the program, not coming away thinking ‘even I know more than Shearer does’ or even worse thinking something like ‘poor Alan Hansen, it’s his birthday so why should he have to watch Algeria v Slovakia?’ because it’s his job, it’s what he’s paid to do and if he’s not happy doing it then there are literally millions of people out there that will happily do it for a lower wage and with more enthusiasm and knowledge. You have to take the rough with the smooth, not every game will be a big name clash of the titan’s type game.
Maybe it’s time for someone at the BBC to point out to these pundits that for the money they get and the jobs they’ve got its time they pulled their fingers out and made sure that their knowledge was at least level with, if not slightly better than, the average fan that tunes in. At the end of the day the so called ‘experts’ should know more than the audience they are being presented to – and right now that doesn’t seem to be the case.