Lord Hall paves way for shake-up of Match of the Day after praising Gary Neville's impact since joining Sky

Former Manchester United player has been credited for bringing fresh insight into expert football analysis

Media Editor

The Director General of the BBC has paved the way for a shake-up of flagship football show Match of the Day after making a pointed reference to the punditry skills of former England defender Gary Neville on rival broadcaster Sky Sports.

In a speech in London, Lord Hall expressed admiration for the on-camera skills of the former Manchester United player, who has been credited for bringing fresh insight into expert football analysis since joining Sky two years ago.

The Director General’s praise was given in the context of showing that the BBC is willing to learn from the creative successes of its rivals – and to claim that the Corporation deserves credit for maintaining a high bar of quality across the television sector. “The BBC is part of a virtuous circle. We do well. Others have to compete. They raise their game. We respond. Competition spurs us all on. And the creative strength of the whole industry rises, from Downton (Abbey) to Broadchurch, The Inbetweeners to Channel 4 News, Moone Boy to Gary Neville,” he said.

Lord Hall’s lauding of broadcasting rivals, came in an address to the Voice of the Listener & Viewer Conference. The Director General said the BBC needed to cast aside its humility in arguing that the licence fee was good value for money. “We need to be less British about saying what you get for 40p a day,” he said. “We have got to get aggressive about making this case to people.”

MOTD is under pressure to respond to a fast changing market in televised football. Pay television companies BT Sport and Sky have invested vast sums in football rights and made the Premier League a key battlefield in their fight for broadband and TV subscribers. Each of these commercial giants has spent heavily on improving their coverage, expanding studios and hiring recently-retired players as star pundits.

BT Sport, which recently spent £900m for right to broadcast Champions League football, has hired a string of recent England players as expert analysts, including Michael Owen, David James and the current Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand. Sky brought in former England defender Jamie Carragher to form a punditry double act with Neville this season.

Some fans believe that MOTD, which relies heavily on an established presenting line-up of Gary Lineker, Alan Hansen and Alan Shearer, is at risk of appearing out-of-touch with the fast-moving modern game. Andy Lyons, editor of the When Saturday Comes fanzine, said the long-running show could not afford to be complacent. “The BBC has got a captive audience on a Saturday evening and that’s part of the problem. They’ve not felt such a need to change the format.”

A BBC source said Lord Hall was not trying to put pressure on BBC Sport but merely “tipping his hat” to the Sky Sports presenter.

But within the BBC there is an awareness of the need to refresh. Hansen (who retired from football in 1991) will stand down after next summer’s World Cup and his former Liverpool colleague Mark Lawrenson has, to his chagrin, had a lesser role this season as new pundits, including a more contemporary Liverpool player Danny Murphy, have been given airtime.

Gary Parkinson, editor of fourfourtwo.com, said some of the MOTD presenting team appeared to reject attempts to introduce deeper tactical analysis into the show. “There was almost an anti-intellectualism that grew up around MOTD punditry. It became a sneering 19th hole old boys’ club.”

He detected attempts to modernise the programme this season, with greater use of graphics, but warned that the growth of on-demand television viewing meant that pundits on a highlights show like MOTD were at risk of being ignored anyway. “These days, people often just fast forward through the analysis,” he said.

A BBC spokesperson said: "MOTD continues to evolve and has featured a wide range of studio experts this season. Our pundits consistently lead the way in audience research and we have exciting plans in place for the World Cup and throughout the 2014-15 season. "

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor