Sky Sports leaves me holding the baby

I used to love nothing better than my Super Lazy Sundays (as Sky Sports should call them) nursing a hangover in a darkened room, the only natural light – and reminder that there was an outside world – coming from the small chink in the venetian blinds while the rest of the room was bathed in the soft green glow from seemingly endless supply of live football on Sky Sports.

A glass bottle of Irn Bru (Scotland’s best hangover cure) and the leftovers from last nights’ pizza or kebab the only sustenance needed to make it through the day, while a mild overdose of paracetemol being just enough to dull the searing pain caused by Andy Gray’s excellent, if excitable, commentary.

Those were the days when I lived a batchelor’s existence. Lived for the weekend’s excesses and used Super Lazy Sunday’s to recharge the batteries ahead of the coming week.

Then I got myself shacked up with the girlfriend. This was no bad thing as it prompted me to live a cleaner life, making sure both the pennies and my liver were looked after much better than they had previously been. Somehow, and everyday I ask myself how, it meant moving in with her and not renewing my Sky Sports subscription.

I still haven’t managed to fathom exactly how it happened, but it did and to be honest it was no great hardship. A plethora of nearby pubs offered shelter, generous libation and access to that green glow every Sunday for my footballing fix.

I now, however, find myself in a dark place without the warming green glow (the hangovers and leftover pizza I can do without) and fatherhood is the reason. Fatherhood itself is not to be feared. It provides its own warming glow for which the TV can provide no substitute (no matter who is playing!).

But in recent months I have found myself missing those Super Lazy Sundays. The combination of Arctic weather and the responsibility of looking after a five-month-old baby every Sunday has seen me trapped in the house, a slave to both the TV and a screaming baby (whoever shouts the loudest usually wins).

As those with kids will testify, the pennies which were once frittered away on niceties such as beer and expensive Sky Sports subscriptions are earmarked for other things such as nappies and baby milk. In addition, the pubs which once provided salvation are now strictly out of bounds – although the wee man’s screams are surely only slightly more shrill than Andy Gray’s commentary?!

Therefore I have had to make do with the best sporting action council TV (terrestrial) can provide. Sadly, snooker, Ski Sunday and even the Six Nations coverage (good though it all is) can’t see the BBC and ITV compete with the big boys nowadays (although the BBC’s coverage of the African Cup of Nations and the recent Australian Tennis Open was excellent.)

This really hit home on Sunday just past when I had the wee man all day (usually it is just the afternoons). I had to be content watching Tiger Woods’ amazing back nine comeback in the Dubai Desert Classic on the live internet scoreboard, try to overcome a noisy baby and crackly reception to catch the Hibs v Rangers match on the radio and keep up to speed on the day’s three Premiership matches via the news ticker on Sky Sports News (available on Freeview and an absolute Godsend!) Later that night I could have treated myself to some Spanish football action had I been a Sky Sports subscriber.

The one top notch sporting event I was able to watch (Ghana v Nigeria) I ended up missing the crucial last 30 mins because the wee man needed his bath.

There is no doubt that Sky Sports and to a certain extent, Setanta, have got me and countless other sports fanatics by the short and curlies. To get your weekly fix you have to pay the going rate.

I’m off to get myself a calculator and pen and paper to work out how I can save myself £35 a month.Surely the wee man doesn’t have to eat eight times every day………………….

Beeb celebrates victory over ITV with Euro 2008 fixture list

It would seem that the BBC has managed to secure a major coup with the sole UK rights to screen the final of the European Championships in Austria & Switzerland this summer.

For as long as I can remember, the final of major football tournaments has always been shown on both BBC and ITV networks, resulting in a bitter ratings war between the two.

The upside to the double coverage is that it allows viewers, particularly in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, to attempt to choose a channel where the commentators and analysts wouldn’t find reason to refer to England every other minute in a match between two other nations (in reality, settling for the one with the fewest mentions of England usually has to suffice).

It also means that if the smarm of one channel got too much, you could at least swap over to the other side so you only had to endure 45 minutes of continual annoyance from the one commentary team.

Perhaps this is ITV admitting that, when it comes to the big occasion, the Beeb do things that little bit slicker. Maybe they have been trounced by the Beeb in previous Finals’ ratings wars (I have no idea if this is true). Or maybe, and much more likely, they have decided just to save a few pennies because none of the home nations have qualified.

Nevertheless, I still think it is a major coup for the Beeb and and unbelievable capitulation by ITV, made even more incredible by the fact they have issued a joint press release about it, see below.

As part of the agreement, ITV gets its pick of the semi-finals but surely this is not adequate compensation for losing out on the big event? The BBC are showing four out of the first five games live, while they also have the rights to the last group games in the most high profile group containing Italy, France, Netherlands and Romania when two of those teams will be knocked out.

ITV need to take heed and be careful they hang onto their jewel in the crown in terms of football coverage. If Sky Sports or Setanta were to take the Champions League off them entirely they risk being cast into the wilderness in terms of top level football action – a position they would find it extremely difficult to recover from.

The ITV/BBC press release and full TV fixture schedule foir the European Championships is below.

BBC And ITV Agree Euro 2008 Games Split     

The BBC and ITV can today confirm plans for shared coverage of the UEFA Euro 2008 Championships in Austria and Switzerland.Live coverage of the group stage will begin on Saturday 7 Jun with the BBC broadcasting the opening match between Switzerland and the Czech Republic at 5.00pm and ITV broadcasting the later match between Portugal and Turkey at 7.45pm.During the latter stage of the group phase, where matches are played simultaneously – games will be shown live on BBC One, BBCi, ITV1 and ITV channels. Both broadcasters will simulcast all of their games online.

Both broadcasters will show live coverage of two quarter finals and will show one semi final each – with ITV taking first pick.

The final will be shown live on BBC One on Sunday 29 Jun, with highlights on ITV1 later in the evening.

Roger Mosey, BBC Director of Sport, said: “We’re confident many millions of people will enjoy the tournament on BBC television, radio and online. There will be plenty of familiar faces on the pitch, and some great matches in prospect.”

Mark Sharman, ITV Director of News and Sport, said: “Euro 2008 is one of the highlights of a huge year of live football on ITV and, with some of the world’s best players taking part, we are looking forward to an exciting tournament.”

Full schedule of games (this is the best format I can publish it in. The first game mentioned in each section is being shown by the first broadcaster mentioned in each section): 

Date

Matches (UK kick-off time) Group Broadcaster Venue
7
Jun
1700 Switzerland v Czech Republic1945 Portugal v Turkey AA BBCITV BasleGeneva
8
Jun
1700 Austria v Croatia1945 Germany v Poland BB BBCBBC ViennaKlagen
9
Jun
1700 Romania v France1945 Netherlands v Italy CC BBCITV ZurichBerne
10 Jun 1700 Spain v Russia1945 Greece v Sweden DD BBCITV InnsbruckSalzburg
11 Jun 1700 Czech Republic v Portugal1945 Switzerland v Turkey AA ITVBBC GenevaBasle
12 Jun 1700 Croatia v Germany1945 Austria v Poland BB ITVBBC KlagenVienna
13 Jun 1700 Italy v Romania1945 Netherlands v France CC ITVBBC ZurichBerne
14 Jun 1700 Sweden v Spain1945 Greece v Russia DD ITVITV InnsbruckSalzburg
15 Jun 1945 Switzerland v Portugal1945 Turkey v Czech Republic AA ITVITV BasleGeneva
16 Jun 1945 Poland v Croatia1945 Austria v Germany BB BBCBBC KlagenVienna
17 Jun 1945 Netherlands v Romania1945 France v Italy CC BBCBBC BerneZurich
18 Jun 1945 Greece v Spain1945 Russia v Sweden DD ITVITV SalzburgInnsbruck
19 Jun 1945 Winner Group A v Runner up Group B QF ITV Basle
20 Jun 1945 Winner Group B v Runner up Group A QF BBC Vienna
21 Jun 1945 Winner Group C v Runner up Group D QF   Basle
22 Jun 1945 Winner Group D v Runner up Group C QF   Vienna
25 Jun 1945 Winner QF1 v Winner QF2 SF   Basle
26 Jun 1945 Winner QF3 v Winner QF4 SF   Vienna
29 Jun 1945 Final F   Vienna

Striker signing ensures United’s league campaign won’t stutter

I see Dundee United have signed giant Dutch hitman Mark De Vries as they look to strengthen their bid for 3rd place in the SPL this season.

Admittedly, this is not a huge signing (other than his size) and won’t be of any real interest to anyone not of a Tangerine persuasion. So why, you may ask, have I decided to blog on this?

The answer is simple and, to be honest, pretty self-indulgent. I have had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing the big man and he is a true gentleman.

A good few years back when I was working at Deadline Press & Picture Agency and De Vries was a Hearts player, the Sunday Mail got in touch to see if someone could seek out the 6ft 3in striker and ask him about………………his stutter.

 W-w-w-w-what? Presumably the Sunday Mail’s reporter’s were too precious to risk asking this giant of a man about something which he was no doubt pretty sensitive about.

Apparently, on his arrival in Scotland, De Vries was reluctant to do any TV or radio interviews and press interviews were pretty scarce commodities as well.

So, with more than a hint of trepidation I set off to Tynecastle to confront the big man about his speech impediment. However, my fear was unfounded and I quickly realised De Vries was an affable and humorous chap who was more than happy to discuss the problems he had faced since he was little.

Indeed, listening to him about life growing up in Surinam and then moving to Holland as a youngster proved an engrossing hour or two.

I believe De Vries has continued to work on his speech and overcome the problem and, if that is the case, then hat’s off to the big guy because it can be a frustrating condition.

I wish him well in his second spell in Scotland because there’s not many nicer guys out there in football.

No doubt United manager Craig Levein, who signed De Vries for Hearts in the first place, will be hoping the big man can prevent the Arab’s league campaign from stuttering after a promising start.