Robin Scott-Elliot: Around the grounds, from Cities to Towns, it's what BBC Sport does best
View from the Sofa: 5 Live Sport, BBC
Monday 08 October 2012
It will become known as the Fir Park puzzle, a conundrum to test any football administrator, even Stanley Rous, the administrator's administrator, who earned the ultimate administrator's accolade in having an oddity of a trophy named after him. Motherwell were supposed to be playing Dundee United only for a powercut to cause the match to be postponed. It was close to kick-off so the ground was already filled with supporters but because there was a powercut the PA system didn't work and so the supporters could not be told the game was off. They may still be sitting there.
One story from one afternoon of listening to the weekend's football the best way, via the radio. It is what the BBC does best across its entire sports coverage – the straightforward Saturday afternoon, bouncing around the grounds. Mine is perhaps the last generation whose introduction to football is founded on the radio – wooed by the wireless across the darkening hours of an autumnal Saturday afternoon, for a time even being one of those World Service listeners welcomed to the Hawthorns, Highbury or Highfield Road for the last 20 minutes. The World Service gets a little longer these days but there is still that moment when its arrival is announced and it conjures images of distant places. It is a journey of the imagination, from Carlisle equalising to Rochdale losing and Stirling Albion leading Rangers – it means something to someone somewhere.
Its hegemony has been challenged, brutally so, but 5 Live, for all its irritations across the rest of its schedule – beginning immediately afterwards with one of its moronic phone-ins – remains the best place to lose yourself on a Saturday afternoon. In part it is the mystery radio brings – no videprinter, no idea what is happening until told "there has been a goal at…"
It provides a thread through a sporting life, informed by Peter Jones, blessed by Bryon Butler, irritated by Stuart Hall – and that irritation would be missed if it wasn't (still) there. Now there seem worthy inheritors of a rich tradition in the likes of John Murray.
Sky's Soccer Saturday is untouched on TV. Possibly in years to come people will have warm memories of Chris Kamara, and smile fondly in recalling Paul Merson's weekly wrestle with his native tongue. But it still screams at you what football has become, a sport it is increasingly difficult to feel at ease with.
On the radio you journey unseeing from Saints to Rovers to Uniteds to Cities and to Towns, the core of a country. If you don't see you can still believe; and then you hear of grim events at Millwall, more allegations of racial abuse and the afternoon attempt to escape from a 63-page report into a former England captain racially abusing an opponent in 2012 is harshly thwarted. And you remember that this used to happen much, much more and you think how far we have come, and you wonder how much further we have to go, and you worry we couldn't really be heading back to the future, could we?
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