On the morning of Australia’s victory against Germany, I was scanning the various morning news shows for highlights of the goals as the game had just finished. ABC News Breakfast failed me so I reluctantly flicked over to Sunrise.
Nothing personal against the Channel Seven team, it’s just that infotainment isn’t my cup of tea, even over a cup of tea.
There was sports presenter Mark Beretta, Socceroos scarf around his neck, breathlessly letting the viewers know of the 2-1 victory.
Kochie piped up and what follows is my recollection of the conversation that followed:
Kochie: That’s a great result.
Beretta: It certainly is.
Kochie: Germany are a football powerhouse aren’t they?
Beretta: Yep, definitely one of the best in the world.
Kochie: And this was against a full strength team right?
Beretta: Yep, full strength.
It was a great result and Germany are a powerhouse of world football, but to describe the squad as being at full strength is stretching it a bit far.
Whilst the German team were far from being a bunch of numpties, several key players were missing (five starters if memory serves correctly).
Take nothing away from the efforts of the Socceroos getting a fantastic win against a very strong team, but it’s the sort of error that you would hope a sports reporter would avoid.
As football has grown in this country over the last decade, the call has gone out for more coverage, more column inches and more commentary on the game.
Coupled with that call should be one seeking a lift in the levels of quality as well. This is not directed at the dedicated football journalists, but the jack-of-all-sports types for whom football is just one of the many sports they cover.
All too often, the level of football discourse in Australia does not go beyond the superficial. Only the big names matter, only the big results are covered or the big fouls reported.
Football is not and will not be the biggest sport in this country for many years, if ever, in terms of the coverage devoted to it.
Fans that follow the game will not have a version of The Guardian’s online football website that has some of the best writers in the world passing on their insight, opinion and analysis.
We have SBS and The World Game coverage. We have FourFourTwo. And of course we have The Roar.
However, the information and in-depth analysis football fans in this country seek are still considered a niche market in the eyes of the big media players, hence the role for football coverage on the edges, rather than in the centre, of the sporting universe.
This is why a call for a lift in the standards of football coverage and reporting is all the more important.
In light of the billion dollar TV rights deal for the AFL and an NRL deal expected to be in the same ballpark, football will be down the pecking order for some time yet when it comes to where the money goes.
And where the money goes, so does the attention.
In our roles as consumers of football coverage, we should be demanding that those who are paid to cover sports give football the respect it deserves.
We shouldn’t expect them to become Fozzie clones overnight and focus solely on football, but we should expect them to have some understanding of game which will, in turn, flow to the quality of their reporting.
If we look to the Gerard Whateley’s of this world, this is the model for sports reporting we should be aiming to foster.
Football is not Gerard’s code, but he has a level of knowledge about the game that allows him to speak from a place of authority.
When discussing the progression of Australian football on the pitch, it has been measured by improvements in quality.
It has been the quality of the play, tactics, managers and recruiting that have been used to demonstrate the growth of the game.
And if it’s good enough to use quality as the yardstick on the pitch, then it should be the same off it as well.