Robin Scott-Elliot: Exiled from the sofa while Sven practises his moves

View From The Sofa: Ukraine v England, online
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The Independent Culture

Abandon the cushioned reassurance of the sofa and that last symbol of crumbling manliness, the TV remote, go upstairs and crouch in front of the computer in the "office" jostling for space with a clothes horse sporting a smorgasbord of the good lady's smalls, as Sven would put it. If this is the future of sports broadcasting, it's not very comfortable. Unless you like sitting on hard-backed chairs wearing women's underwear while exploring the web, but that's a whole different ball game and one, traditionally, requiring a Tory MP to get it rolling.

Nevertheless, a couple of goes remembering the password and there we were in Dnipropetrovsk, or rather a cramped studio somewhere in London with our host James Richardson and Sven, a man who needs no introduction although Richardson gave him one anyway. "One of the most successful England managers of the last 40 years," he said, prompting Sven to unveil his first thin-lipped smile of the evening. The Swede had clearly dropped by en route to a night out in the West End. Clad in shimmering black, his shirt was unbuttoned a notch to give a little hint of Scandinavian suggestion... play your cards right and I'll show you an enlightened social policy.

At one point during the build-up they cut back to the studio after an interview with Fabio Capello to catch Sven handing something off camera, probably his phone number and a note to the floor manager. "Hola! Baby... Fancy a joining me, Sven, for a caipirinha in Raffles tonight? We'll go Dutch. Like McClaren. Ha. Ha. Ha. No, for sure the reddies are no longer so ready since I went to Nottingham Country Club, so you must pay your way, darling. Ciao bella."

By the end of the night his chair had been shunted further round the table as if in an attempt to keep him focused on the job in hand. "The first chance for Rooney came when Cole set him up," said Richardson. "Yes, well done," said Sven, nodding encouragingly and leaning forward with a glint in his eye, although that might have been the studio lights reflecting off his glasses. He looks younger than in his England days and his voice is even more Swedish. When he says Len-non and Car-rick he makes them sound world class because they don't sound English.

At least Richardson, who is becoming a football version of Barry Norman, had his mind on the job, although he seemed more edgy than usual, ramping his "indeed" and "why not" quota ever higher. "Welcome to one of the most, er, eagerly awaited transmissions for sometime," he said, as if trying to convince himself.

As for the broadcast itself, there was nothing much wrong with it. Except, and this may be the view of a home-entertainment dinosaur, watching football on a computer screen is simply not as good as watching it on a television. Wide shots when someone took a long shot, if you follow me, were choppy, threatening the onset of seasickness.

Richardson did his best to chivvy it along, but half-time dragged. Sven was taciturn. Perhaps the floor manager had knocked him back. "Talk us through this," said Richardson as a replay rolled across the screen. Silence followed. "And then Rooney shot," said Richardson finally. "Yes," said Sven. In front of him was what looked like a betting slip. By full-time it was gone. Had Crewe's win at Bradford ruined his seven homes? "Sum it all up, please," asked Richardson. "It's a pity," said Sven. "It's been a little bit of history," summed up Richardson instead. But not one worth getting off the sofa for.

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