Robin Scott-Elliot: To innuendo and beyond... BBC buzz leaves ITV struggling to get airborne
View From The Sofa: Euro 2012 BBC1/ITV1
A few thoughts from the opening weekend of Euro 2012: three weeks of Gary Lineker quips is a big ask; the full-arm tattoo is going to be the statement accessory of the tournament; Gareth Southgate really should sit up straight in ITV's large studio chairs – what example is that to set when you're in charge of developing the FA's youngsters?; Alan Shearer is turning into Buzz Lightyear; and Martin Keown already deserves the David Coleman Memorial innuendo prize for suggesting that a Dutch player had managed a "couple of legovers and just can't keep it down".
There is nothing on TV sportswise to beat a World Cup or a European Championship and the view from this sofa has always been to elevate the Euros to the top spot. There is an intensity to the competition as fixtures resonate with history, not least because one side's country has more often than not invaded the other at some point over the centuries. In some cases several times. You don't have to look far for a possible grudge – Russia v Poland tomorrow for instance – and given that there are only 16 teams, most of whom are clustered among the world's best, the whole event speeds by. From 2016 there will be 24 nations involved and that will detract hugely from the tournament but earn Uefa more money, which at least is their silver lining sorted.
Part of the TV appeal of a finals is the BBC v ITV contest, and the challenge ITV face to come close to denting the corporation's traditional advantage was obvious from the moment the BBC aired an excellent film of Denmark's shock triumph in 1992 to preview Saturday's game with the Dutch.
Memories tend to come accompanied by a BBC soundtrack – John Motson, at the height of his alliterative phase, declaring: "It's dramatic, it's delightful, it's Denmark" as the Danes triumph; Motson yelling "Plaaatiniii" during the 1984 Championship.
This time ITV have made the effort to base their coverage in Warsaw, while the BBC, pointing out maiden aunt-like that it's our money they are saving, have stayed in Manchester. On a recent visit to Ukraine I was taken on a tour of Donetsk, an industrial city that will never be a holiday destination. Our guide, a native, was very happy to live there and took us to see where "people come to grill sausages on the weekend". There is not much to see in Donetsk. "It's like your Manchester," said the guide. So maybe the BBC will, after all, be well placed to give us a taste of what England can expect tonight.
Except the game will be on ITV, who have gambled on choosing to show England's first two games and then hand the BBC the better choices of the quarter-finals. The BBC have started well. Lineker, for all his ho-ho lines about Germans arriving early, is the best football presenter around and a line-up of Harry Redknapp, Lee Dixon and Clarence Seedorf for Saturday's Holland game was refreshingly different. Shearer, meanwhile, has been dispatched to Lviv. "For me, Gary," he nearly said. "It might as well be infinity and beyond."
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