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News & Comment

Outside the Box: Italian job on our hands to get Serie A back on the box

Such is the proliferation of televised football that in an average week more than two dozen matches are normally available live and in full. But there remains one glaring omission from the schedules. Anyone reading a preview of last weekend's game between the top two teams in Italy, Jose Mourinho's Internazionale and Claudio Ranieri's Juventus – the clubs being traditionally bitter rivals, the two former Chelsea managers without a good word to say for each other – would instinctively have wondered where they could watch this potential dust-up. The answer, sadly, was nowhere without trawling the internet and hoping for a decent connection to a station elsewhere in Europe. Sky Sports were showing Spanish football, Setanta went for the French League and British Eurosport opted for the glories of the Women's Under-20 World Cup; Serie A was nowhere to be found. It had been a fixture somewhere or other since Channel 4 picked up coverage 16 years ago in the wake of Paul Gascoigne's move to Lazio, even bringing back Kenneth "They think it's all over" Wolstenholme as a commentator. For several years the presenter, James Richardson, would be shown sipping cappuccino and flicking through the bright- pink pages of 'La Gazzetta dello Sport' in some delightful location or other, but in 2002 the channel dropped the programme because of the high price. British Eurosport, Bravo and Five have all had a turn subsequently, until the price demanded this season proved too much for any of them. A small consolation for any Italophiles missing their fix is that the new sports betting channel Sports-Xchange have the rights to the domestic cup competition and will be showing every round through to the final; Milan against Lazio can be seen at 7.45pm on Wednesday on Sky channel 456.

Safety first for Hansen

Back on the Beeb, meanwhile, following last week's item about 'Match of the Day' pundits prematurely ruling teams out of the relegation struggle, Alan Shearer was to be heard reassuring the world that Fulham "will be all right" this season. Meanwhile, Alan Hansen inserted a "should" in his prediction that Hull City "should be fine". Confining themselves to clubs in the top 10 in the table would normally be playing safer than safe. Yet this is already an extraordinary Premier League campaign. Not only did the supposed big four fail to score a goal between them last Saturday, but not a single team in the top half of the table won (the weekend victors being Manchester City, Bolton, Stoke, West Ham and Tottenham). Someone with far too much time on their hands may be able to work out when that last happened in any major European league; or, come to that, any league anywhere.

Ivan the terrible player

It seems unlikely that Arsène Wenger, for all his current travails, will call on the services of Arsenal's new chief executive in a playing capacity. Although the 44-year-old Ivan Gazidis, a South African brought up in England, twice appeared at Wembley, his record was even worse than Arsenal's when they played Champions' League games there: defeats by 4-2 and 2-0 for Oxford University in the Varsity matches of 1984 and 1985 against Cambridge in front of modest crowds of 6,000.