Premier League: the TV hype often fails to deliver

Rarely had a League Cup third round match been surrounded by the same hype that coated last night’s clash between Manchester United and Liverpool.

Granted, it was Luis Suarez’s firs game since his 10-game ban for biting Branislav Ivanovic, and the Uruguayan’s return only added spice to English football’s biggest rivalry, particularly considering Suarez’s precedents with United.

While not exhilarating, the game was lively, the sort of fiercely fought affair one can expect from two bitter rivals, but after the final whistle many neutrals must have wondered if the hype was justified.

It wasn’t. In fact, in most cases, it never is. And yet in an era when football has been commercialised beyond the point of no return, fixtures are incessantly promoted and hyped up to be something they clearly can not – always – be.

TVs and radio stations rise the buildup bar every week, ignoring that, to the overwhelming majority of fans, every game is just as important.

Every single one of us has a fixture we look at first when the fixtures are released, but given the chance of watching a top of the table clash or their club facing a mid-table team, 99.9% of them will opt to watch their club, no matter the amount of promotion surrounding the more appealing fixture.

Therein lies the problem, for broadcasters’ promotion is aimed to neutrals as much as it’s aimed to the supporters and while fans are happy to sit through a dull 1-0 over their local rivals, neutrals demand to be entertained.

When their expectations fall short, as they’ve abundantly have this season, TVs and radios resort to crank up the hype to barely bearable levels.

Despite being only five weeks into the Premier League season, the PR machine has been relentlessly at work and with rather scarce results.

Jose Mourinho’s first game back at Stamford Bridge? An professional 2-0 win over Hull no doubt, but hardly worth the coverage we were subject to and the same applies for United’s dull 0-0 against the Blues the following week.

The last Super Sunday before the transfer window closed served up two bitter derbies, as United traveled to Anfield, while big-spending Spurs faced Arsenal at the Emirates, with both home sides winning 1-0.

Arsenal and Liverpool fans didn’t care one jot obviously, but both games were hardly an hymn to scintillating football, even though the coverage devolved to the two fixtures rivalled the one of the royal baby for length.

And what about England’s crucial World Cup qualifier against Ukraine? A match so dull that even Adrian Chiles struggled to find any positives.

The only big match that has lived up to the hype this season was last Sunday’s Manchester derby – unless your allegiances lie in the red half of the city obviously – as City delivered one of the performances of the season. 

And so on the weekend, with Spurs hosting Chelsea amid the predictable and inescapable build-up that surrounds every derby, even more so when one the two clubs involved has made a flying start to the campaign after a summer spending spree.

One can only hope that the “master vs the apprentice” as David James’ unconvincingly describes the fixture in a broadcaster’s ad will live up to the hype, otherwise we’ll have to wait for Sky’s Super Sunday.

And unless you support either club, Stoke vs Norwich is nobody’s idea of a Super Sunday for, as cliche as it might sound, whether on TV or not, first or last on Match of the Day, every game is worth three points and three points all.

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