Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Wed 5 September 2007

How To Undermine An English Institution

Bewildered and dumbstruck - that's how I felt when watching 'Match of the Day' on Saturday night. There I was, getting my regular fix of all the action from that day's Premier League matches when Gary Lineker announced it was time for the August 'Goal of the Month' competition.

Now at this point I should inform those of you visiting our site from overseas that the BBC's 'Match of the Day' is an institution in its own right. A weekly programme showing highlights and goals from England's top flight, it's been running for 43 years and since 1970 has held a 'Goal of the Month' competition.

What would typically happen is that a selection of the best goals would be shown, each one assigned a letter of the alphabet ('Goal A', 'Goal B', etc). Viewers would then be asked to write their top three in descending order on the back of a postcard and send it off to the BBC. If your postcard matched the opinion of an unnamed panel of Match of the Day experts and it was pulled out of the hat before anyone else's, you'd win a prize.

It's a harmless bit of fun, but one which has become part of the ritual of watching 'Match of the Day' over the last 37 years… until now. On Saturday night, Gary Lineker informed the British public that because of the BBC's current suspension on audience participation competitions, 'Goal of the Month' would this time take on a different form.

Though a selection of goals from August's matches would be shown, the public would not be able to send in their votes by text message (as is now the case). Instead, Alan Hansen and Alan Shearer would go off and decide which one was the best before announcing the winner in a week's time. No public involvement, no nothing.

How very strange. Yes I know it wasn't the public that actually decided which goal was the best according to the number of votes cast. The public were only voting in the first place in the vague hope they'd be selected as the winner of a pair of tickets to a Premier League game of their choice, but that's not the point. By allowing us, the public, to take part, it enabled us all to get involved and make our feelings known that one particular goal was the one which should go on to be considered 'Goal of the Season' the following May.

Apparently, 'Match of the Day's loyal band of viewers were no longer important. We would no longer have the chance to enter the monthly competition even though it was the BBC's fault for not regulating its audience participation contests correctly in the first place.

I feel somehow let down and cheated. Whatever next? Lottery numbers being drawn when no-one's bought a ticket?

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