Outside the Box: Rooms with lots of viewers allow BBC to reach their goals

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The Independent Online

Whether or not last Sunday's Match Of The Day 2 was "the best ever", as the presenter Colin Murray wondered, the Beeb are claiming one of the programme's biggest ever audiences, with an average of 3.9 million, peaking at 4.9m.

That compares impressively with a more modest average of 2.15m for this season's other epic Sunday, when Manchester United fans would have been keener to watch after their 8-2 win over Arsenal (and probably switched off before highlights of Manchester City's 5-1 romp at Tottenham).

Sky Sports would not confirm a figure for their live coverage of the Manchester derby, which will be officially available when the British Audience Research Bureau statistics for the past week are released tomorrow. Sky's disadvantage is that BARB figures measure only set-top boxes in homes and not in pubs and clubs, where large numbers tend to congregate for live football, especially on a Sunday afternoon.

Typical Sky figures are therefore as low as 1.72m even for a game such as Montenegro v England.

Match of the Day on Saturdays, which averages about 4m, began in 1964 with an audience estimated at less than 100,000, because it was on the new-fangled BBC2, at a time when most homes did not have access to the channel.

Two years later 32.3m, the highest audience ever for any programme on British TV, tuned in to watch the World Cup final shown jointly on BBC and ITV. Football's best effort more recently was for the 2008 Champions' League final between Chelsea and Manchester United, which peaked at 14.6m.

Barça curry favour in India

There is bad news for clubs with expansionist ambitions such as Sunderland, whose new international ambassador Niall Quinn hopes to take the Mackem gospel far afield, with Asia a prime target.

It appears that a little Spanish club, name of Barcelona, have similar ideas and are homing in on the country with the second highest population in the world, 1.21bn. They will set up a week-long training camp in India in January as their first piece of missionary work on the sub-continent with five coaches from the FCB Escola, the feeding school for the famed Barça academy.

Then again, if Nicklas Bendtner was to pip Lionel Messi as European Footballer of the Year...

Sling when you're winning

After Dean Saunders' departure to manage Doncaster Rovers, Wrexham's bright start as leaders of the Blue Square Bet Premier has come under pressure as caretaker manager Andy Morrell and captain Dean Keates shoulder the burden – almost literally in the latter's case.

He suffered a broken collarbone in preventing Newport County scoring at the Racecourse Ground, then had to come back on because all three substitutes had been used; he gritted his teeth and wore a sling – and a goalless draw kept Wrexham on top of the table.

It was a game of one half

The Blue Square Bet South, meanwhile, provided the journalistic understatement of the week, the Falmouth Packet reporting that "Truro City put in an excellent first-half performance" at home to Farnborough Town last Tuesday.

Half-time score: 7-1 (after the visitors had taken the lead), which broke City's scoring record with only 45 minutes played. Following a rather anti-climactic second half, the game finished 8-2.

Keller throws down gauntlets

A distinguished career may come to an end on Wednesday, when the American goalkeeper Kasey Keller plays what could be his last game.

Aged 41, and with 102 caps for the United States, he joined Millwall as long ago as 1992 and appeared for Leicester, Tottenham, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Rayo Vallecano and Fulham before returning to his native Washington State to play for the third incarnation of the Seattle Sounders.

Having announced that this will be his last season, he has already appeared in his final regular-season game, which drew a remarkable crowd of 64,140. The Sounders now face a two-leg play-off against Real Salt Lake, which will effectively be a Western Conference semi-final.

Spot the howler competition

Penalty watch: Still those penalty misses continue.

After Aston Villa's Darren Bent tucked one away nicely amid the pressures of a local derby with West Bromwich Albion last weekend, the visitors' Chris Brunt, given the chance to equalise from the spot, produced probably the worst miss of all in his attempt to break the net.

Next day Heidar Helguson scored from the spot for Queens Park Rangers and so at last the success rate in Premier League games crept above 50 per cent scored (14 out of 27) going into this weekend's programme.

s.tongue@independent.co.uk; www.twitter.com/@stevetongue

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