Monday, June 12

Tools take centre stage

So far, the BBC is winning the battle of the World Cup coverage hands down, says Mark Lewis

‘I always get very excited when I see a nice looking tool,’ said the jewellery expert on the Antiques Roadshow on Sunday (5pm, BBC1). He’s not alone. For when the BBC is not earning its licence fee with antiques fare it has given admirably ample space in its schedule for the World Cup. Two years ago at the European Championships we were given small flags in the corner of the screen to signify the linesman had flagged an offside. This year’s new coverage tool is the split screen beloved of WWE wrestling.

The flag graphic is so innocuous it’s difficult to know whether the BBC is still using it or not. And the split screen, which was aired briefly in the first game to show Jurgan Klinsmann (who may or may not have been in California at the time) celebrating his team’s first goal, has not been seen since.

Over on exhibitionist ITV, meanwhile, the channel’s new ‘arrow’ technology is rarely in its electronic trousers. The ever willing Andy Townsend plastered the screen with little green and red ones which apparently showed how much more effective Portugal’s Luis Figo was than his compatriot Christiano Ronaldo. But, as good as he is, without his pitch side pulpit and the company of Ally McCoist, Townsend looks a little forlorn.

No chance of that back at the BBC who appear to have brought every ex-professional they could drag out of the bookies. Foreigners, in the shape of France’s Marcel Desailly and Brazil’s lovely Leonardo have been used to good effect, and Martin O’Neil has simply been the best thing on World Cup TV. He is lucid, passionate and, like all the best pundits, prepared to tell you something you didn’t spot yourself.

The BBC’s biggest tool, of course, remains Mark Lawrenson whose wit lights up the commentary like a back to front balaclava. But against ITV’s Gareth Southgate, whose silent authority on the pitch, is literally recreated in the commentary box, Lawro is like Oscar Wilde. On the upside for the struggling Barry Davies, should a Pizza Hut advert come up during ITV’s unfortunate half time ad break, Southgate will be all over that.

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