Matt Gatward: Sport on TV
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Saturday 05 November 2005
The first guilty party was MUTV, Manchester United's subscription channel, which had that scoop to beat all scoops with Roy Keane presumably in full, blood-curdling cry as he dissected a tape of his side's pitiful performance against Middlesbrough last weekend. The club captain was naming and shaming his team-mates and tearing the defending apart like a tissue in Keane Plays the Pundit.
Now, watching the Hairdryer Mark Two at full power, would have been great television and a reason to sign up to a channel that is about as popular outside the red half of Manchester as, well, Roy Keane. Unfortunately, just before kick-off, his manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, the Hairdryer Mark One, insisted the programme be pulled for the good of club harmony.
Keane Flays the Team-mate was obviously not what he had in mind. Mind you, surely fireworks were to be expected from Captain Combustible in a move that was akin to asking Graeme Souness and Alan Shearer their thoughts on Craig Bellamy.
As MUTV is owned equally by the club, Granada and Sky, and as Ferguson recently added the in-house channel to his blacklist for daring to question his selection policy, the Scot must have some clout with those two major shareholders to force them to put such a tasty serving in the bin.
The other moment of drama that was kept from us this week was the sad death of Best Mate on his long-awaited reappearance. On Tuesday on At The Races the triple Gold Cup winner was pulled up at Exeter and collapsed out on the course .
While obviously no one wanted to witness the actual event, the story needed telling. Luke Harvey, the channel's anchor and a former journeyman jump jockey, proved to be as lightweight in front of the camera as he was ordinary on a horse. "It doesn't look too good for Best Mate fans," he said at the end of the race before turning his attention back to the winner.
The station then showed a re-run of the finish, followed the victor back to the winner's circle and - being the dedicated medium of the nation's hardcore punters - cut straight to the 2.50 at Worcester to get the early prices. The rationale was seemingly that the sooner the prices for the next race were flagged up, the more cash would be wagered and the biggest racing story of the year could damn well wait.
So, the viewer was left to watch the favourite Idle Talk romp home at Worcester - a must-see race, no doubt - before finding out the fate of Britain's favourite horse. By the time we returned to Exeter, Harvey had regained his composure sufficiently to deliver the terrible news but, all in all, it was an appalling way to cover such a dramatic tale.
Another sporting event was also tricky to track down this week. Chelsea's Champions' League defeat against Real Betis was used to launch ITV's new channel, ITV4. But only if you were a Freeview or NTL customer. If you were a Sky or Telewest viewer, the game was being aired on the Men and Motors channel - which was dressed up to look like ITV4 - instead of the usual Tuesday night offerings. Tough luck for those wanting to watch Club Reps Uncut.
Confused? So were many pub landlords across west London, who opted to screen the Liverpool stroll against Anderlecht instead, deciding it was less painful to listen to moaning Chelsea supporters than surf the interminable amount of channels available these days.
Maybe Jose Mourinho has as much swing as Ferguson when it comes to hiding his club's embarrassments.
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