Mark Solomons

Why can’t football pundits be more like cricket commentators?

Sky Sports presenter Gary Neville (Credit: Getty images)

For the armchair sports fan, there is some reassurance as the sun sets on another fabulous Ashes contest: the football Premier League season will soon begin. But while the football is certain to be a match for the breakneck cricket we’ve enjoyed over recent weeks, the commentary that runs alongside it won’t be.

Cricket fans enjoy analysis from the erudite, intelligent and calmly explained voices of test match commentators. Football supporters must put up with the frenetic, confrontational and frankly banal screeching of the sport’s equivalent.

The change from Bazball to football on our screens is most noticeable not for what goes on pitchside but how it is described in the commentary box and the studio. Where the former has maintained the air of measured observation that has worked since the days of Blofeld, Bailey and Benaud, football has moved on from Moore, Motson and Davies to something very different indeed.

Failed manager and Sky pundit Gary Neville tells us why the coach has got it all wrong

Cricket has gentle humour mixed in with intelligent insight; it is also able to do so without bias. Broadcasters can call on former Australian firebrands Ricky Ponting and Glenn McGrath for analysis without tribal favouritism. Yet when Jamie Carragher is the in-box summariser at a Liverpool game on Sky he can hardly control his emotions.

Yes, there are one or two pundits who irritate in cricket, whether it’s the squeaky-voiced Kevin Pietersen trying too hard or the rather dull Andrew Strauss. But, in general, the beauty of cricket’s broadcast teams is that they only speak when they need to rather than fill every second of airtime with chatter. The silences are golden. Compare this to football where commentators such as Sam Matterface on ITV insist on filling every spare moment with yet another pre-prepared though completely irrelevant statistic; or failed manager Gary Neville on Sky tells us why the coach has got it all wrong.

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