Ireland hasn’t qualified but interest still remains, even if not the frenzy that existed under Jack Charlton many years ago now.
But commentaries by RTE as the national channel and panelists for pre- and post-match reflection are again former or current Irish internationals, or players with a connection to the land.
Why would it be otherwise? Irish television’s there to see and show events through an Irish lens. Folk would reject any attempt to simply take the coverage from BBC or any other operator. It would be seen as insulting and a dereliction of duty.
Yet what of Scotland who have qualified? The national team’s success in getting to a finals has been recent but sports and especially football coverage is significant. Indeed I’ve sometimes lamented about what seems like wall-to-wall coverage of it on radio to the exclusion of history, arts or literary reporting.
It may be well be popular but equally it may just be cheap to file. But what it does show is that the capacity to report’s there as is shown in the weekly programmes covering the professional game, and especially the Old Firm.
So, why’s coverage of the Euros seen largely through a London lens? For sure there’s been a Scots commentator and panel for the Scotland games but why not others? They’re equally capable of covering a game in Rome or Budapest and the panel can be sited in Glasgow, as they are in London or Dublin. It doesn’t have to be an all-Scottish panel, after all many whether from south of the Border or abroad have graced the game here and are erudite in their comments.
It would at least be rooted in Scotland, showing the game and discussing the wider competition from a Scottish perspective. That’s after all what they’re doing in Ireland where references won’t repeatedly be to Gazza’s goal in 96 or England’s World Cup success 30 years earlier.
It shouldn’t be that way in Scotland either, where we’ve a national channel in BBC Scotland that after all we pay for. Similar arguments can be laid at STV’s door but, in the absence of the revenue and the status given, have less weight.
BBC Scotland’s reporting of the Euros is just a microcosm of their wider status. They’re subservient to BBC London and even when commentators and panelists a plenty exist, perish the thought that a Jock might be despatched to Rome to cover a game or a distinct panel be available. But why not? It can’t be that expensive or complex and we pay our licence fee the same as those south of the Border.
It’s time there was a proper BBC Scotland board appointed by the Scottish Parliament and who can cover the nation’s interests. Budgets can be set in London but choices should be made in Scotland, as they are by the viewer. At the moment what’s being shown’s a turn-off.
Kenny MacAskill is the Alba Party MP for East Lothian