As the most popular sport on the planet, football is enjoyed by billions of fans all over the world.
For decades, the radio has been the primary method of consuming content related to the pastime, as well as listening to live commentary of individual matches and keeping up with transfer rumours, manager interviews and fan opinion.
However, it’s possible to view virtually any match you wish on TV these days. Greater broadcast coverage has diminished listening figures for radio, prompting some to suggest that radio commentary of the sport may be on its way out. Is that the case? Here are four reasons why such an argument is premature to say the least, with football radio commentary still offering plenty in comparison to its TV-based counterpart.
While many football fans would ideally prefer to sit down and watch the big match unfold on TV, the truth is that a sizable percentage of them are in transit for all or part of its duration. Almost one in five employment opportunities in the UK demand that applicants hold a driving license, while 16.7 million of the country’s 26.5 million workforce – or 63% – commute to work by car.
That means an awful lot of hours behind the wheel and away from the screen, so radio commentary is essential for those people to stay up to date with the scores even while on the road.
Generally speaking, taking in a football match on TV involves finding a comfortable place to sit down, a beverage to satiate your thirst and full concentration on the events onscreen for 90 minutes or more. That means a significant portion of the day is taken up by the sport and nothing else can be achieved in that time. Meanwhile, listening on the radio allows you to multi-task and perform other duties at the same time, such as washing up, walking the dog or even attending church (sorry vicar!).
Access and affordability
The silly money involved in football these days means that watching a match on TV generally involves signing up to Sky Sports, BT or another package provider, which can turn into an extortionate affair. Although major events like the FIFA Soccer 2022 World Cup are normally broadcast on public television, weekly competitions like the Premier League and the Champions League are often only accessible on a pay-per-view or subscription basis. Listening to the radio, on the other hand, is free to all, making it a more affordable and accessible option.
By not paying for a TV subscription, you can rest easy in the knowledge that you’re not contributing to the immoral money-fest that modern-day football has become. That’s true of the viewing experience itself, as well, with adverts and sponsors contaminating almost every minute of the coverage. As esteemed British journalist Alistair Cooke once commented, “I prefer radio to TV because the pictures are better.” The ones you create in your head are certainly less vulnerable to commercialisation than those on screen.
While radio commentary of live football might be under threat from increasingly available TV coverage, it still holds a number of unique advantages which mean it won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.