The way we watch and consume football has changed massively since the inception of the Premier League. Gone are the days when one had to rely on next day’s newspaper or the radio for the weekend’s football results; these days, you can get the score from any game of football, be it in Malaysia or Manchester, at your fingertips in seconds. The internet and the advent of social media has made football much more accessible than earlier, and with that, there has also been an evolution in the discussion around it.
Earlier, Match of the Day used to be the primary source of discussion around the weekend’s football in England, with Sky Sports’ entry into the mix in 1992 bringing another set of programming for viewers. However, over the last decade or so, football programming, both on television and otherwise, has exploded – BT Sport entered the fray and now have the broadcasting rights for the Champions League as well as some Premier League matches, while this season saw Amazon Prime make their debut with a live stream of some Premier League games. This has also led to an increase in the variety of content offered, while presenters and guests have to be extremely well-informed in order to stay relevant and popular. Football pundits nowadays need to have done their research – gone are the days when an ex-player could get by just on the back of their ‘experience’ of having played the game. Social media is an unforgiving place, and any gaffe or slip-up is mercilessly taken apart. As this Betway video shows, pundits today are under increasing pressure to be well-informed, but at the same time, be entertaining as well. Today’s viewers and listeners have notoriously short attention spans, and so pundits need to be able to keep them hooked and not change the channel or switch to a different podcast.
There is a thin line between being controversial and being boring, and it is that middle ground which is gold for producers. There is a need to be original and intelligent, but at the same time, having just that little bit of an ‘edge’, to bring in viewers and keep them. This also helps with social media, where it does not take too long for something to start ‘trending’ – a particularly juicy soundbite can drive listeners and viewers as well. Ultimately though, given the amount of information available online today, the primary need for a pundit is to be knowledgeable and insightful. Viewers need to be told something they do not already know, and it is the job of the pundit, along with the producers and presenters, to connect the dots and provide the full picture. That is the only way to stay relevant in this era of universal information.