Belfast Telegraph

Billy Weir on the box: Vote 'Yes' for more sport

By Billy Weir

First and foremost can I say right up front that I'm a big fan of Scotland, always have been ever since I had my first battered cheese burger in a chippy in Girvan many moons ago.

Somehow this didn't entitle me to a proxy vote in the wee election that's going over there and can you imagine the consternation if, after all that hoohah and campaigning, it produces a result that doesn't mean a thing? How dare they, that's our job.

Anyhoo, I thought it would be an appropriate time then to have a look at the state of the nations to determine what really matters. Never mind the health service, pensions, what unit of currency you might be using, how much oil is left or will Lorraine Kelly be the new Queen, the crux of the matter is what's the sport like on the telly?

And, friends, I bring grave tidings for our leaders in Broadcasting House and Havelock House, it may have only been a small part of England but Scotland kicks our bahookie.

This is not another rant about BBCNI or UTV not showing local football. Well, it is, sort of. I know, in the words of Mick Hucknall, money is too tight to mention, and that the Beeb do a grand job with the rugby, a bit of GAA when our teams are in it, the bikes coverage is fantastic and the Irish Cup final is appreciated, but still no highlights programme?

I've looked, Northern Ireland must be the only country in the world that doesn't have its own, and making it even more galling is that the Beeb make a damned good one and stick it online.

I'm sorry, this is not an attack on BBCNI, I promise, but when you have utter garbage such as 'For The Love of Garth' on a Monday night in a slot that would be just the right size and shape for a half-hour highlights show, then you really do despair.

And don't even start me on UTV, whose budget for sport is still being funded by the money down the back of the sofa in the foyer and means apart from the news we have RPM, Paul Clark playing kerbsie on the Ormeau Road with Rose Neill and Ruth Gorman skipping beside them.

Over in Scotland and in Wales, and even in the Republic, things are much different. And yes, I know they're bigger. Both BT Sport and Sky have Scottish football, live and in highlights, but BBC Scotland also have an hour-long Sportscene programme, while BBC Alba has extended highlights of matches, PRO12 rugby too, and pro-celebrity neeps and tatties eating. I may have made that last one up.

BT Sport were live on Friday night as Rangers travelled to play Raith Rovers, as presenter Darrell Currie told us they 'make the 60-mile journey from Ibrox, an hour and a quarter by car', the motor in question probably an MkII Cortina given the financial situation.

"The financial side of things isn't my gig, hopefully picking teams that can win games of football is," explained Gers boss Ally McCoist but let's face it, the gig they need at the minute would need Bob Geldof and Midge Ure in tow.

What we needed was some analysis and it came from an exile, in Northern Ireland's Stephen Craigan.

"You can't live on a short-term strategy, there's got to be a long-term process, they have to have plans in place," he commented, as a Mr Salmond from Linlithgow took notes.

It was catching, commentator Derek Rae jumping onto the soapbox.

"Another week in which the peculiar economics of Rangers have occupied minds and now they pitch up in the birthplace of one of the world's most famous economists, Adam Smith," he said, and thus meaning I can dust off the classic 'what will the capital of an independent Scotland be when the oil runs out?' line. Answer: About £1.50 (or alternative currency equivalent).

But at least Rangers, who remain in the 'No' camp (surrender or cash, insert where applicable) were dancing on the streets of Raith with a 4-0 win and it was onto Sky the next morning as the other half of the Old Firm were in action as Aberdeen travelled to Celtic.

After 32 minutes of utter tedium, not even lifted by a Celtic goal and sniggering at David 'There's Nothing Funny About My Surname' Goodwillie, I adopted the age-old mantra of 'why don't you switch off your television set and go and do something less boring instead' and did just that and went to an absolutely belting Irish League game.

I had the presence of mind to record Final Score, where Mark Sidebottom appears to have morphed into Danny McGrain, and a bumper 11 minutes of action followed, with goals galore, enough in fact for a really good highlights show. Hint, hint ...

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill was so stuck for such a thing that he had to be a guest on Sportscene on Sunday night on BBC Scotland, obviously Garth Brooks hadn't cancelled five gigs at Murrayfield, where presenter Jonathan Sutherland began with, 'I promise this next hour will be a referendum-free zone' thus meaning it wasn't.

Highlights galore ensued, a bit of punditry and a conclusion of, 'that's it for the Sportscene referendum-free zone, whatever happens, yes or no, we'll see you again next weekend'. See earlier.

By now I was in despair, I contemplated heading south of the border, but, if anything, they had too much sport. This weekend alone on RTE and TG4 there was live FAI Cup, rugby, horse racing, camogie and even greyhounds, with a myriad of other highlights and sport-based shows, and even in Wales there was something similar on S4C, although no camogie or four-legged beasts.

So, conclusions? Politically, according to some, we're not fit for purpose in this part of the world. In sport on TV terms? Well, we probably need a referendum on that one.

The good, the bad and the ugly

THE GOOD: We can all now turn the telly back on on a Saturday evening safe in the knowledge that Carl Froch and all his new lycra-clad chums will no longer be torturing us in Tumble, a programme so bad that it made people long for Splash! How proud the Super Middleweight Champion of the World must be to bask in the knowledge that not only did he not win, but he didn’t go as far as H from Steps.

THE BAD: Mark Lawrenson’s attempts to win hearts and minds at Old Trafford weren’t helped on Sunday on MOTD2 when talking about Angel di Maria. “You know what he does?” he began. “Gets bums off seats.” That’s no way to talk about Man Utd fans.

THE UGLY: Ian Wright popped up in BT Sport’s Matchday Live with Fletch and Sav in a dazzling bottle green suit that a leprechaun would have turned down for being too obvious but even it was overshadowed on Tuesday evening by the awful new kit the poor referee is being forced to wear in the Champions League, a stunning number in 50 shades of grey. Should spice things up a bit.

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