Reading, writing and arithmetic

The FA Cup sixth round draw presented a home game against Reading which would not be televised on the BBC.

After being giant killing heroes against Chelsea the tone of the build up to the Sunderland game was questions as to if players would be able to repeat the achievement. Emphatically the answer was a Yes.

Yet BBC avoided the incongruousness of asking if the giant killers could kill another, smaller, giant when it dodged the Sunderland tie. They also opted against City’s sixth round tie which will be shown on BT Sport.

Bradford City vs Reading is not so much David vs Goliath as David vs Avinadav. Who wants to watch that? Elsewhere the Titans of Manchester United meet the Behemoths of Arsenal, making them both seem normal sized.

The complaints that have emanated from Valley Parade (and the surrounding area) about the lack of television coverage are financially motivated – City wanted the money that comes with hosting the Sunderland game – but much of the newspaper coverage about the decision that fed from City fans being upset was a part of a lengthy war between the Press and the BBC.

The Murdoch press has been attacking the BBC for years. The question the validity of the licence fee in what is a politically and business motivated campaign against the public funded body by an arm of News International, which in turn owns BBC rival Sky Sports. The Times is just The Sun writ respectable and serves the same ends. The business of Murdoch’s business is promoting Sky over the BBC.

The Daily Mail needs no excuse to attack the BBC in the same way and for the same reason as they attack asylum seekers. A mix of politics and the business of giving their customers what they want or what Paul Dacre thinks they want at least. The rest of the newspapers follow along with the line.

Flip the decisions around and the same newspapers who are mock-amazed at Bradford City being “snubbed” would be talking about how the BBC ignored the millions of United fans who wanted to see their heroic comeback at Preston in favour of showing a game at a ground that most weeks is half empty, so little is the Great British public’s interest.

None of these newspapers were demanding that a deal be worked out to show Bradford City vs Swansea City on the BBC in the 2013. If the public deserve to be shown giant killing why was The Sun, The Times, The Daily Mail et al not beating a drum to have a deal struck so that game could be seen live on the BBC than being shown “live and exclusive only” on Sky TV?

None of the acres of back page coverage of City not being on the BBC is about viewers getting to see remarkable football. None of it is about Bradford City fans. None of it is about trying to make the cup more “magic”. None of it cares about clubs like Bradford City at all.

It is all about newspapers using Bradford City as a stick to beat the BBC with.

And do I like my football club being used like that? Do I like my club being used by The Sun, or by The Daily Mail, or whomsoever wants to, to batter the BBC?

No, I do not.

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I would rather that Bradford City had nothing to do with The Sun at all.

At Bradford City we praise other clubs for leaving a wreath at the memorial to the fire of 1985 or donating a cheque to the Burns Unit and we do this because it shows kinship with the people of Bradford and Lincoln who died that day.

To show kinship with the people of Liverpool I think Bradford City should have as little to do with The Sun as possible.

If possible I’d like Bradford City to have nothing to do with The Sun at all.

Outside of Bradford City fans

Which is not to say that a person cannot believe that Bradford City would have made great television just that outside of City fans (who were, mostly, at the game) but I do not trust the people are “upset” about this BBC snub and magic of the cup.

Their ire does not add up.

I think that most of the year all I read in the same newspapers which talk about the BBC snubbing City is seemingly endless coverage of the minutia of the top of the Premier League. Every day in every newspaper football from the Newcastle United/Spurs position down is treated like runt cousins of the beautiful game.

Teams at City’s level can win games, lose games, sack managers, set records and on and on and have their news fit on the inside back pages after puff pieces about Premier League players and speculation about transfers that might happen rather than the results from games in League One that have happened.

The media which are now demanding Bradford City are the same people who, at best, could not care less about the club the rest of the time and, at worst, actively work against the interests of clubs like City creating a football culture which minimises clubs outside the Premier League.

In 2004 the same newspapers who now are suggesting a BBC bias against Bradford City barely even reported about the fact that Bradford City came within minutes of being liquidated. I remember Look North (for all its failings) did give the Bradford City fans trying to save the club a voice.

How many newspapers who are demanding giant killers be rewarded suggested that the £5.1bn deal should be shared through the football community? How many back pages are devoted to the club’s who struggle against administration in the football climate they create? How many sports editors run stories which tell people to turn off the subscription to wall-to-wall Sky Sports TV an go see their local club?

The supporters of Bradford City are cynically and deliberately being used by newspapers who are faux friends of fans of clubs like ours. We are being used to bash the Beeb and sell some of the newspapers. And those newspapers next week will be using their power to stop going to games at clubs like Bradford City, to stay at home with a subscription to Sky to watch Premier League or La Liga while choosing when to “cash out” on a gambling app.

Our supporters will go to the game, and take their friends, and their families, and sell out Valley Parade.

But – I hope – not buy the papers the day after.

What the club should tell the BBC to do with their television money

The fourth round of the FA Cup – for Bradford City – was all about how fans were not going to be able to watch the game in person. The fifth round seems to be able how fans will not be able to watch it at home after both the BBC and BT Sport acquiesced on the chance to show the Bantams tie with Funderland (or Sulham, if you prefer).

Of the eight ties five will be shown on television and one of those games will not be Bradford City’s which – as a result – means that Bradford City will not be paid the not inconsiderable sum of £250,000.

This has caused consternation with supporters furious and the club even going so far as to announce the lack of news on the website. In keeping with the vast majority of the games that Bradford City play the Funderland tie will not be televised. Nor will Colchester United on Saturday although this is not mentioned

The idea of television companies paying football clubs to show matches was a compensation for the number of supporters who would stay away. It does not take a flying pass in further maths to see that the £250,000 figure represents far more than the difference between a 12,000 and a 22,000 full Valley Parade. The television money is equated to prize money and all are upset that City’s win over Chelsea has not deemed them worth selecting for that prize.

Mark Lawn, who can always be relied upon to resurface when a television camera is present, led the complaints saying the BBC “they don’t understand a thing about football” and added that the television companies had “let themselves down”.

Lawn makes the point that City’s win over Chelsea last week created a ten year spike in Match of the Day audiences but the BBC probably do know a thing or two about football and television and they know that people did not tune in to watch Bradford City win but rather to see Chelsea lose. That that loss came to City is – for them – immaterial.

Which is not to say that Lawn and many, many others who believe that Bradford City vs Fulham – let alone Bradford City vs Sunderland – represents a better two hours of television that West Brom vs West Ham are wrong but rather contemplate for a moment concepts of loss aversion.

One could be excused for thinking that TV executives had crept into Valley Parade and lifted a quarter of a million pounds from the safe rather than not wind-falling the sum to Bradford City. Forsaken gains are important in the world of potential that is League One football in a way they are not in the rest of life.

Football clubs regularly accept risk and risk that leads to loss, and seem to act like potential gains are guaranteed. One only need look at how Bradford City approach the sell on clauses of Fabian Delph and Tom Cleverley to see that.

There is an uncomfortableness to the club’s stance on not having gained from a television match, and the club comes off like a petulant child not getting what want but think they deserve. A full Valley Parade (#bethedifference, again) and a football performance should be the club’s focus and tantrums about not being on television are unseemly.

Not only unseemly but a missed opportunity of
sorts. When sixteen teams are left in the FA Cup – all in the same position on merit – it is by definition unfair for one to be gifted £250,000 by virtue of a random draw and one not to be.

Had Funderland come out at Manchester United/Cambridge United then would Bradford City deserve to be given £250,000 more than the winners of Preston North End/Sheffield United? Are we comfortable with the idea that the BBC/BT Sports are the arbitrators of that decision? At the moment the Market has decided that Bradford City will not be on television. Reward for beating Chelsea is not something the market is interested in.

After all the ties are created at random from a group of teams who – the FA would argue – have an equal right to be there. Assuming that £250,000 is a sum of money which makes a difference to a League One club then it is obscene that it is distributed in such a random manner?

After all fifteen teams cannot create a fifth round of the FA Cup. Fourteen cannot. Each club is as as important as the others in this round if only to give a breadth to the choices for television viewers.

If television has £1m to put into television five of eight ties of sixteen teams then split £1m down sixteen ways and allow all the teams – who have all equally earned it – to take a slice. Television has far too much influence over football for my taste. I’d rather it were minimised, and that steps were taken to minimise it, rather than see my club grabbing greedily for it.

If your view, dear reader, is that Bradford City should be on television against Funderland because it represents an attractive tie then you have my agreement but I disagree fundamentally with the system that allows television companies to give an ad hoc reward one team over another for the same achievement of getting to the fifth round.

When the club had the national spotlight – and a co-chairman who is vocal – I’d prefer that point be made.

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