At last, the General Election campaign is over. And now, as we wait for the results, Ronnie Cohen looks at something completely different: Match of the Day. Or is it?
For those of you not familiar with football, Match of the Day (MOTD) is television programme shown on the BBC, typically broadcast on Saturday and Sunday evenings. It shows highlights of Premier League football games and league games played earlier in the day and features interviews with players and managers after highlights of each game are shown and includes discussions of that game between the presenter and football pundits in the studio.
One thing that I have noticed in recent times is the tendency of MOTD to show graphics and statistics in metric units and I have a few examples of this phenomenon. On Saturday 14 January 2017, MOTD showed some statistics about Peter Crouch, a Stoke City striker, when he was playing against Sunderland in a Premier League match. It included his running distance on the football pitch in that game. The distance shown in the written statistics was 12.1 km. On Saturday 11 February, MOTD football pundits talked about the long distance an Arsenal player ran with the ball while the programme showed viewers a written graphic as he was running with a rising figure expressed in metres (i.e. a number followed by the “m” symbol). On Sunday 12 February, MOTD showed George Boyd, a Burnley winger, running across the pitch while MOTD showed viewers a graphic that expressed the distance from his starting point in metres, again a large figure followed by the “m” symbol. On Saturday 4 March, MOTD showed some statistics about Marco Arnautovic, a Stoke City player, when he was playing against Middlesbrough in a Premier League match. It included his speed of 34 km/h in the match. Yes, MOTD expressed that in km/h, a rarity in the UK!
Despite all the written information showing metric units, football pundits on MOTD almost always express distances in yards, rarely metres. I have yet to hear one expressing distances or parts of the pitch (e.g. the penalty box) in metres. Why is there such an inconsistency with distance information given by the BBC to the general public? What is going on? Is MOTD in transition to the metric system? It has been a while since I have heard any football pundit on that programme expressing any distances. Do they still do so? I wonder whether they will use yards or metres the next time they speak about distances on the pitch. I would be pleasantly surprised and pleased when they use metres.
Of course, the football of MOTD is a global phenomenon, and the Premier League relies on global audiences for much of the wealth it generates. However, in the USA the word ‘football’ means a completely different game to that played in the rest of the world. And US parochialism sees the continuing use of yards and feet. It is not surprising, therefore, that there are no metric units in either in graphics or commentaries in the game Americans alone know as ‘football’. And so we come back to a key question of the UK General Election, highlighted by MOTD: is Britain’s future parochial or global?