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Review: ACN on BBC TV



You won’t read too many positive reviews of live UK TV football coverage on these pages. I've said it before and I‘ll say it again (and again and again), the Anchorman plus two pundits format is tired and offers no real insight or reflect, enthusiasm and that oft used word passion of watching a football match live. The commentators (with some honourable exceptions) can be dull and uninspired, resorting to weak puns and clich├ęs to fill the time. However, yesterday I sat down to watch BBC Three's presentation of the first two quarter finals of the Africa Cup Of Nations and enjoyed pretty much every minute, and I’m not just talking about the football.

Cheap as chips

Up to now I had watched most of the tournament at work where they don't have BBCi so I've been only half-watching it on Eurosport and catching highlights. While there is much to admire about the satellite channel, its production is of the cheap and cheerful variety. The BBC on the other hand have all that lovely license fee payers money to spend and can afford to spend a little more.

Having said it doesn’t look like the Beeb spent a that on the coverage. With most of the group matches scheduled for the red-button, the audience share was never going to be large enough to justify the kind of expense lavished on European Championships or the World Cups. However, what they did, they did right.

Agogo dancing

The first game (Ghana v Nigeria) was on BBCi. For the uninitiated, BBCi is the Corporations "red button" platform accessible by pressing red on your remote while on any BBC channel. You must have digital television to watch this. Again, given the anticipated audience share they didn't go to the trouble of a pre-game show. They just went straight to the game which was commentated by Simon Brotherton and Mark Bright who, by now are experienced ACN commentators and were at the stadium in Accra rather that stuck in pokey transmission suite in west London.

O Brotherton where art thou

Needless to say the atmosphere in the ground must have been amazing and as this dramatic encounter unfolded the enthusiasm and passion of the crowd clearly affected both Brotherton and Bright who were swept up by the atmosphere without losing their cool or professionalism. The result was a broadcast that conveyed at least some of the unfolding drama inside the stadium and it was difficult not to be moved by Ghana's victory. The great benefit of have the commentary team in situ is that the sounds of the match comes through in a way that remote commentary, relying on the international feed for background noise, cannot match. This is where Eurosport's coverage falls down.

You do know what you're doing

Indeed for the second match between Cote D'Ivoire and Guinea, a remote, presumably London based, commentator was used. However, with this game going out live on BBC3, there was a full presentation anchored by Manish Bhasin with former Nigerian captain Sunday Oliseh and ex Sierra Leone manager Leroy Rosenior making up the panel. Bhasin has yet to mature into the role of anchor but his presentation style is pretty decent and he certainly beats the crap out of Garth Crooks who presented previous tournaments. Rosenior and Oliseh were articulate and, not only seemed to know what they were talking about, but looked happy to be there enjoying the football, unlike some of the more illustrious pundits working for the Beeb.

Fat chance

The upshot was an extremely entertaining, well presented afternoon and evening of football delivered on, by the BBC’s standards, a shoestring budget. If the senior squad of Lineker, Hansen, Lawrenson and Motson can present Euro 2008 with half the gusto as the ACN team then we are in for a treat in the summer...

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