RWC 2011: A Final Say on ITV: Steve Ryder Cares.

Given yesterday’s commentary from ITV you would have been forgiven for thinking that the British Isles had been the subject of some terrible natural disaster. A mood of misery overwhelmed the poor men in the ITV studios, as they were left with the heavy burden of having to relay the devastating news to a defeated nation. Brave, brave Steve Ryder was there to hold our hands though and nurse us through this difficult time.

Ryder wanted us all to know that they in the studio shared our pain, us poor viewers were not alone in that difficult time, that he would do his best to help us come to term with the grieving process, and that no matter how bad things seemed in the moment of that crushing defeat, we could take heart from the fact that the commentary team suffered the same agonies as those being endured by the television audience at home. But wait, what we were all supposed to be so sad about…?

In one final, epic effort of indulgence that firmly shoved two fingers up to the other home nations, anyone of an impartial nature, and certainly to any French fans unfortunate enough to be left relying on ITV for their World Cup coverage, ITV veritably vomited their disappointment that England, World Champions elect, had failed in their duty to the nation, to overwhelm all opposition with the most mundane of performances. Yet, many of those tuning in were Welsh and Irish, many of those tuning in were in no need of a comforting pat on the back from Steve Ryder, not in the slightest.

It would be interesting to garner the views of the English rugby community regarding ITV. Do they love it? Do they find every nonsensical reference to England regardless of their relevance to the subject matter, a moment for giddy joy? Do they wonder why, given the enthusiasm that ITV have for their beloved Red Rose, why on earth so many other non England fans have such an issue with them? After all, ITV kept telling us how good England were, they kept assuring everyone that England were certain to waltz into the final. Well, whatever they think, the rest of us hate it. We hate the constant talking up of a team that offered nothing, we hate the constant references to the English during games not involving them, we hate detailed analysis of their cliff jumping leisure pursuits while we should be talking about other rugby teams and other rugby matches.

You never know, we non English might have found the capacity for some sympathy for England’s demise, had we not had their faces forced into our living rooms during every single unit of World Cup coverage. Now, we are delighted that they are gone, we can revel in the fact that ITV have no legitimate reason to talk about the English at all from this point on (yet we know they will, again and again and again). We have no sympathy, because we never wanted them to win in the first place. Yet having been told by ITV week after week, game after game, that we should be backing England, that we should care about what they did on their days off, that we should give a damn about whether an aging flyhalf can kick a ball in a straight line or not – only served to reaffirm and consolidate our position, that we really don’t care about any of that, not one bit.

So thank you Steve Ryder, thank you for looking after us as you presumed our state of despair. I can assure you though that we were far from despairing, we were jumping, bounding out of our seats as France sealed victory, and laughing at your miserable face as you did your best to convince us that we should be sad.

Yet, we should be sad about one thing. Come the next World Cup, hosted, of course, by England, ITV will be there covering the whole thing once again. Nothing will have changed, and the four yearly cycle of having a whole host of new reasons to hate ITV will present themselves all over again.

Bugger off ITV.

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  1. I agree with the sentiment, although I also think there is a role for TV commentary to support the home nations. Other countries are just as partisan (anyone heard foreign commentary during the football world cup?).

    The problem with ITV is that they take it too far, and seem to act as though every viewer wants England to win. And it’s the underlying tone that England deserve to win that rankles.

    Part of this is not Ryder’s fault, but the fact that ITV and other broadcasters use former players as pundits or ‘experts’ when they are often nothing of the sort. They are from the same mould as those who are on the field, often with friendships and cosy links to those same players that make it impossible for them to provide a balanced view of the tournament.

    And it’s not just the rugby where this happens. With the football, ITV is much worse – and its bias extends to supporting Chelsea/Man Utd/any English team in Europe. This overlooks the fact that many English fans watching the game would probably support whoever they are playing. As for Jim Beglin and Andy Townsend, don’t even go there.

    • Certainly, the blame does not rest at Ryders door, one imagines the programme directors are feeding him questions to carry, that he has little choice over, still, the sentiment remains.

      You are right that this is very widespread. It seems strange how the programme producers can’t fathom that people supporting the other, or indeed, neither team, might be tuning in. In this day and age, it seems that if you have to have biased commentary and analysis, the technology is there for a red button style option to offer the same bias from the other perspective (it’s worth stressing that in Wales, HTV have covered the Welsh games with their own fair share of bias – and equally poor production values). That least would give the viewer the choice of escaping such heavy handed bias towards one team..

    • LAPD
    • October 9th, 2011

    ITVs coverage of the England v Wales football game a few weeks ago was similarly galling – or worse so when you consider ITV serves both countries. The credits and studio dripping exclusively with Three Lions logos and England paraphernalia.
    I can accept a little partizanship = everyone’s susceptible to it, it’s human and natural. But scenarios like the above are calculated decisions, made before hand and not in the heat of the moment.
    Not that I expect anything better of course.

    • Ah of course, I must admit to having missed that. However, ITV coverage of sports like Formula 1 was similar, in that their obsession with Lewis Hamilton turned many racing fans in the UK against him.

    • jesuisgallois
    • October 9th, 2011

    yes it’s been nauseatingly myopic in it’s coverage. Resultingly I laughed my socks off when the final whistle went and Steve Ryder rung his hands and Mr Pienaar rightly berated him for not giving France their due credit

  2. Interesting article, thanks for posting.

    As an Englishman, ITV’s coverage has worn thin this tournament. The commentary by Phil Vickery on Saturday was as laughably inept as it was bewildering. Talk of mascara in players’ eyes, comparing the English defence to a Tesco check-out, and, strangest of all, yelling at the players as though he were a fan! Quite how or why ITV felt he was an appropriate appointment is beyond me.

    As for the hyperbolic building up of the English team as potential RWC winners… well, what else did we expect?! English media only dances to one tune: hype the players as world-conquering pseudo-deities, then act all shocked and dismayed when they don’t deliver. (Or when they throw a dwarf. Which they didn’t.)

    As for the rugby, we’ve just written on England’s underwhelming demise (if anyone’s interested, here’s the link to the article http://wp.me/p16qgr-Xe [and sorry for the shameless plug!]), and the truth is that they’ve never once looked like genuine tournament contenders.

    It is an embarrassing shame that ITV continually and naively built up English prospects, whilst simultaneously expecting the Irish and the Welsh – on current form, both better than England – to stumble as soon as the going gets tough.

    Here’s hoping for a Wales v NZ/Oz final, preferably without the nonsensical warblings of one Phil Vickery…

    • Thanks for the post, and yes indeed, what on earth was Vickery on about with that Tesco reference, perhaps he was eyeing up an advertising role knowing that his pundit P45 was in the post (though one imagines any employment with Tesco would involve him standing at the check out screaming at customers – it is his strongest attribute seemingly from the commentary box).

      • Haha. Too true. To be honest, I’m just grateful my TV has a mute button…

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