Ten football broadcasting cock-ups

I WATCHED ITV’s live coverage of last night’s FA Cup replay between Everton and Liverpool in a bar in Manchester. Two minutes from the end of extra time, the picture cut out. Televisions on the blink? No. It turned out someone at ITV had cut to an ad break.

Which part of the country you live in will have determined whether you got to see Dan Gosling’s winner for Everton live. Here in the North West, the pictures returned just in time. Viewers in the South, it seems, weren’t so lucky.

“The goal came at the worst possible time for us as we were having some technical problems,” said ITV presenter Steve Rider afterwards. A bit of an understatement, I would say.

The history of football broadcasting is littered with missed goals, right back to the early black-and-white days, when games were recorded on film, and there was always a danger of missing something crucial when the reels had to be changed midway through a half.

It’s the first time, though, I can ever remember a goal being missed because someone stuck an advert on. And I thought BBC Scotland’s decision to switch the coverage of Celtic v Dundee United from one channel to another in the middle of a penalty shoot-out had broken new ground.

Anyway, to commemorate last night’s incredible cock-up by ITV, I thought I’d put together a list of 10 great football broadcasting howlers. (Because everyone likes a list. I know this, because I’ve read High Fidelity.)

I apologise if some of this seems a bit brutal – it is done in the knowledge that broadcasters get it right far, far more often than they get it wrong.

Nonetheless, feel free to add your own if you can think of any more.

10. Manchester United v Chelsea: FA Cup final, BBC – 1994
There’s no greater hazard for a football match director than missing a goal while showing a replay. Viewers watching the 1994 Cup final were being shown a replay of a penalty appeal as Mark Hughes fired in Manchester United’s third goal, unnoticed by both director and Chelsea’s defence.

9. “Will he score, Kevin? Yes or no?” England v Argentina, World Cup, ITV – 1998
Brian Moore revealed in an interview a year or so after England’s dramatic World Cup penalty shoot-out that he regretted putting co-commentator Kevin Keegan on the spot.
If you’ve erased it from your memory, Glenn Hoddle sent forward David Batty – a man who had never taken a penalty in his professional career – to take England’s final spot-kick against Argentina.
Moore asked: “Very quickly, Kevin, do you back him to score? Yes or no?”
“Yes,” said Keegan, with the hurried and confused air of a lost navigator asked by an impatient driver whether to turn left or right at the next lights.
“And he hasn’t!” yelled Moore as Batty’s penalty was subsequently saved.

8. Martin Tyler gets the score wrong – West Ham v Manchester United – 1999
Mistakes by Sky’s leading commentator are as rare as rocking horse droppings, so masterful is his work. So when he made an error during a Premier League commentary for overseas television in December 1999, it made the newspapers in this country.
Tyler credited Manchester United with a 5-2 victory, when they only won 4-2. His executive producer Gerry Harrison, himself once a commentator of some repute, remarked that it was the first time in 25 years that Tyler had got the score wrong, which wasn’t bad going.

7. “Cole – penalty! Er, hat-trick!” Feyenoord v Manchester United, ITV – 1997
I don’t want to sound as if I’m picking on Brian Moore, who was a wonderful commentator in his heyday – and yet has somehow ended up with three entries in my list of 10.
But towards the end of his career, this consummate professional did start to make a few mistakes – much to his own frustration.
One of the most unfortunate came during a Champions League match in Rotterdam in 1997. Ryan Giggs went round the Feyenoord goalkeeper to set-up a tap-in for Andy Cole’s hat-trick.
Moore’s commentary went as follows: “Giggs . . . Giggs . . . Cole – penalty! Er, hat-trick, hat-trick for Cole!”

6. Another Merseyside derby cock-up, Sky Sports – 1994
Sky showed the Anfield Merseyside derby live in March 1994 – only to suffer the same fate as many a top-flight defence as they were caught out by Ian Rush.
Dave Watson had headed Everton in front midway through the first-half, and Andy Gray was still chuntering away through the replays, only to be interrupted by Martin Tyler shouting: “Rush! 1-1!” Cut to a shot of the ball already in Everton’s net and Rush peeling away to celebrate.

5. Germany v Turkey v a thunderstorm – 2008
This wasn’t the BBC’s fault – even though they were showing the Euro 2008 semi-final from Basle live in Britain. Pictures being fed around the world from UEFA’s media centre in Vienna went down twice when a thunderstorm hit the Austrian capital. It meant viewers all around the world missed Turkey second goal. The pictures were recovered in time to catch Philipp Lahm’s last-minute winner for Germany.

4. Bob Greaves’ entire three-week stint as host of Granada Goals Extra – 1991
Presenting a live football show requires in-depth knowledge and an ability to think on your feet. Experienced local TV anchorman Bob Greaves showed neither during three of the most shambolic programmes produced in Granada’s entire history.
Greaves was handed the job of hosting Granada’s Saturday tea-time goals round-up when it launched at the start of the 1991/92 season. Because the show was thrown together so quickly, it was inevitable that there would be technical glitches.
That, however, did not explain Greaves’ complete inability to tell apart Manchester City’s giant striker Niall Quinn (8ft 7ins) and Coventry’s nippy winger Micky Gynn (3ft 2ins) when asked to do a live voiceover on a game from Highfield Road.
This, word for word, was his commentary on Quinn’s headed winner: “Well, what happened was . . . Micky Gynn sidefooted the ball home . . . here it comes . . . and it’s in . . . over the hands and head . . . oh, that was Niall Quinn’s goal. That was Niall Quinn’s goal.”
Greaves lasted three shows before he returned to the safety of the Granada Tonight sofa, and was replaced by a very young Rob McCaffrey.

3. Brian Moore announces the wrong European Cup winners, ITV – 1980
John Robertson’s first-half goal in Madrid ensured that Nottingham Forest beat Hamburg to win the European Cup for the second time. Unfortunately, Moore got it wrong as the final whistle blew, shouting: “Hamburg are the European champions!”
It has been suggested that Moore never forgave himself for that error.

2. Chris Price – Bradford v Rochdale, BBC Radio Manchester – 2008
Before Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross, there was Chris Price – and his radio cock-up was arguably far more offensive. Last August, Price was doing live updates on Rochdale’s League Two match at Bradford, and was looking for the right phrase to describe the visitors’ dominance. The one he chose was: “Dale are making more holes in the Bradford defence than a Spanish aircraft.”
This was three days after a Spanair plane had crashed as Barajas International Airport in Madrid, killing 153 people. He hasn’t worked for Radio Manchester since.

1. Big Ron’s racist outburst, Monaco v Chelsea, ITV – 2004
The ultimate example of career suicide. Ron Atkinson thought he was off air when he decided to charmingly refer to defender Marcel Desailly as “a f***ing lazy thick n****r” after Chelsea’s Champions League semi-final first leg defeat. And he was off air in the UK – but not in the Middle East. Atkinson was left with no choice but to go, and no one had any sympathy for him.

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2 Responses to Ten football broadcasting cock-ups

  1. Matt says:

    Bob Greaves on Granada Goals Extra ! Happy Days ! I think I actually cried.

  2. mikewhalley says:

    RIP Bob.

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