No Co-Commentators, Thank You

The 2018 FIFA World Cup is fast approaching and I can’t wait for the tournament to kick-off. I love everything about the World Cup – the often scintillating football from some of the world’s best players, the unusual match-ups between nations, the highs and mainly lows of watching England, the emergence of an unknown nation or superstar, the four games in one day, the controversies etc etc etc.

Well, when I say I love everything about the World Cup, there is one notable and significant exception – the use of co-commentators when showing the live matches.

Now I have absolutely nothing against those people who take on the role of co-commentary. In their own right Mark Lawrenson, Glenn Hoddle, Jermaine Jenas, Martin Keown et al are fine footballing pundits. What I am against wholeheartedly is the use of co-commentators at all.

Having a second person commenting during a live match adds absolutely nothing to the experience of watching it. In fact, it actually does more than that, it devalues the experience of watching it. First there are the ‘welcomes’ needed at the start of a match. Totally unnecessary, and included as if nothing ever happens in the first two minutes of a game. There is a high number of occasions a co-commentator has been prattling on about the weather or their dinner or their view, when suddenly there is an attack or a goal which is completely missed by the main commentator in terms of describing it, or at best an interruption just as the ball flies in to the back of the net.

That missing of describing the action in a build up to a goal is my major gripe about the use of co-commentators. When on their own the main commentator usually does a wonderful, professional job of describing the action and their soundtrack adds to the experience and the memory of the goal. Just watch a highlights package to see how it should be done. But when there is a co-commentator alongside them then a large proportion of the verbosity spouted has absolutely nothing to do with what is happening on the pitch and adds nothing to the viewers enjoyment of the game.

Quite often what the two of them babble on about doesn’t even have anything to do with football. And then there’s a sudden interruption as the main commentator shouts ‘goal’ or ‘oooh’ depending on what just happened. The commentator options should be: just describe the action or be quiet.

Additionally, what is the actual role of a co-commentator anyway. I’m assuming that they are there to bring insightful analysis into what we have just witnessed, an explanation of a particular skill or game play that we may have missed. But that is not what they do. All they actually do is describe again what we can see on the replay. No insight as to what caused the play to come about, just a description of what the viewers can see for themselves in slow motion.

During the 2014 World Cup there were two matches when there was no co-commentator. Seek them out, they were the best commentated on games of the tournament. There was a match that was broadcast at 1.0 am UK time, and another where the co-commentator was ill and couldn’t make the game. Both of these matches were commented on as if they were to be shown as a highlights package on Match of the Day. Expertly described, brilliantly enthused, wonderfully enhanced experience of the game.

So ITV and BBC, ditch your co-commentators for the benefit of the viewing public. If there is nothing happening on the pitch then it’s OK to keep schtum. Silence is a million times more preferable than the inanity offered up when there are two commentators.

Commentating on live matches is definitely a case of less is more!

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