Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Thu 8 November 2007

While I was away...

Many of you won't be aware but I've been feeling a little poorly of late, hence the lack of new articles going on recently. First of all, may I pass on my apologies for the temporary drop in service levels on our part, however I'm able to reassure you that my recent period of convalescence hasn't been a completely useless exercise.

While confined to my sick bed, I was at least able to view the goings-on in world football through my laptop-shaped porthole so that I can now report back to you as I begin the long road to recovery.

A couple of things to begin with, then. First of all, we have Sir Alex Ferguson, knight of the realm and all-round curmudgeonly messiah of Old Trafford. He's decided that it's about time he could choose from seven substitutes during a Premier League match rather than the current five. That, it would seem, would solve all his problems and help Man United retain their number 1 spot in England.

Excellent, except those of us wearing our far-sighted spectacles can discern right now that Mr Ferguson will only end up moaning again. That's because he'll need more players ready to send into battle alongside him on that draughty stadium bench that ought to be recuperating from injury in the comfort of their own home (or at the very least up in one of the executive boxes). There'll be more potential for even greater numbers of injured players because more will be available for each match.

So here's the rub: whatever happened to picking a starting XI that could win a match regardless of which subs might come on? If the subs are any good, why not pick them in the starting XI anyway?

Moving on, the BBC have made a shock announcement that from 2009/10, they'll be showing live games and highlights of Football League Championship matches, as well as those in the Carling Cup. My first reaction was 'why?' but this was easily explained by their failure to retain the rights to show England and FA Cup matches.

I was then filled with a feeling of optimism. Although Sky have done more than anyone by showing countless Football League games in all their exciting and fascinating glory over the last few years, the BBC will undoubtedly increase the potential audience and interest in the sub-Premier League levels for a number of reasons.

For a start, not everyone subscribes to Sky. The BBC's two main channels, on the other hand, are freely available and show the biggest football programme in UK TV history - Match of the Day. It was and always has been known as 'appointment-to-view' TV - the ability to make people sit down at the same times on the same days every week to watch a highly desirable programme. By getting fans of the Championship and Leagues 1 and 2 to watch a similar brand-leading show, a real sea-change in viewing habits could be on the cards.

The real question to be answered, though, is when would their programme(s) be shown? Saturday night is out of the question as that's when Match of the Day takes to the air. Sunday afternoons are out too - that's when Sky show their live games. Sunday nights are now where you'll find Match of the Day 2, the BBC's mopping-up exercise for the Premier League action that didn't happen on any given Saturday, so that leaves Sunday morning… which is when ITV pigeon-holed their weekly programme, and only seven people in the UK used to watch that.

Even then, we're talking about when to schedule a highlights programme. The BBC also has the rights to show ten live games too. I wonder when they'll be shown and on which channel?

All being well, we'll get the answer sometime in the next two to three years.

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