Since the start of the World Cup last week much has been made of the coverage provided by BBC and ITV, with the majority of pundits coming in for sustained criticism over their perceived dearth of insight and an apparent lack of research and preparation. As Tom English pointed out in his excellent article in The Scotsman on Wednesday, mainstream punditry has reached almost patronising levels with the so-called “experts” constantly resorting to cliche and generalisation in their pathetically weak analysis of an alarmingly high number of matches.
However, despite the appallingly low standard of much of the high-profile World Cup punditry, groups of bloggers and podcasters around Britain – the “alternative” football media, if you will – have been providing a far more extensive and well-informed coverage of the tournament from a variety of interesting angles. The undoubted catalyst for this recent explosion in blogging activity has been Twitter, the social networking site having provided a forum through which bloggers and a handful of proactive professional journalists have been able to discuss the game in detail and provide an intelligent and welcome antidote to the inane outpourings of television pundits and tabloid columnists.
The independent football media
At the forefront of the battle against cliched and generalised coverage have been blogs and websites such as the superb Zonal Marking, a site which provides flawless tactical analysis steeped in detail and grounded in an obvious willingness to thoroughly research the game from a truly global perspective. Football Further, World Cup Blog and The Football Express – blogs with a similar tactical emphasis – are also continually demonstrating the worth that knowledgeable armchair analysts can bring to online coverage of football, regularly showing up professional pundits as complacent and lacking in the intricate understanding that is required to do the game justice.
Moving away from the purely analytical, the likes of Back Page Football and Kwaitoball have been excellent at providing a general overview and comprehensive discussion of events during the early stages of the World Cup, proving to be popular sources on information and opinion and giving alternative slants on many of the tournament’s major talking points. Other smaller but equally insightful blogs such as Footy Geek, The Hand of a Rascal and Ghost Goal have also been publishing some smart coverage of goings on in South Africa, demonstrating the sheer depth of quality out there in the footballing blogosphere and the gems you can stumble upon if you’re willing to dig around.
Podcasters have also been playing their part in raising the quality of the media output during the World Cup, with giants of the scene such as The Football Ramble, Two Footed Tackle and Soccerlens producing regular quality content and further enhancing their reputations as intelligent and witty alternatives to the mainstream outlets. Other podcasts like Back of the Internet and Optajoke are offering a zany, sometimes surreal but insightful and entertaining view of the World Cup and have carved out a niche for themselves in what has become a crowded marketplace in recent times.
A sea-change in British coverage?
Bloggers may have be dismissed in professional circles as an ill-informed irrelevance in the past, but this World Cup, arguably the first major tournament where social networking will play a major part in the coverage, looks to be gradually changing those attitudes to become more inclusive. Particularly where television pundits are concerned, the many excellent blogs and podcasts out there have started to hold lazy analysis to account, demanding higher standards from pundits who seem only to be interested in appealing to the lowest common denominator.
This alternative football media may still only be a comprised of a relatively small community of dedicated amateurs, but its voice is getting stronger and its merits recognised by a readership that is keen to move away from the lazy, stereotyped and often condescending coverage that is beamed into our living rooms on a daily basis and study the game in more detail. It’s very early days yet, but this World Cup undoubtedly has the potential to mark a sea-change in the way football is covered in Britain.