In Depth

Channel 5 Football League show a 'chaotic dog's dinner'

The new highlights show before Match of the Day has been savaged by the critics after a shaky debut

The new football season saw the return of Match of the Day to BBC1's Saturday night schedule, but this season the Premier League action will no longer be followed by highlights from the football league, as Channel 5 has scooped the rights to cover the Championship, League One and League Two.

The broadcaster debuted its highlights programme, Football League Tonight, on Saturday at the earlier time of 9pm, with the action shown before MotD rather than after it. But not everyone was convinced by the new "walk-and-talk" show, presented by Kelly Cates and George Riley, who share the studio with an audience of fans.

It was a "dog's dinner" says Richard Lewis in the Daily Express, who likened it to "the chaotic 'Wimbledon2Day' with Clare Balding", which was so unpopular the BBC was forced into a rethink midway through the tournament.

His main gripe about the "shambles" of a show was its confusing structure. "Instead of clubbing together each division, so fans can work out how good the opposition is, the show's course took us – I think, though I remain confused – from the Championship to League One then back to the Championship then into League One then into League Two and then into the Championship then into the League One then into League Two."

Steve Nicholson of the Derby Evening Telegraph agrees. "It felt chaotic," he says, describing it as "a fast-moving mishmash, a walk-and-talk type of show normally seen on morning television and staged in an over-crowded studio".

The reception was no better in the south of the country, where the Plymouth Herald bemaons the "absolutely ridiculous" structure, "punditry that sounded like it was coming from an eight-year-old", and gimmicks including "an audience that quite frankly looked like they had been kept in a cupboard for the last 20 years".

But not everyone was appalled. Brian Barwick of the Daily Mail said the show had a "touch of originality" and concluded "Channel 5 should be pleased".

Unfortunately not even his colleagues at the Mail agree. Writing in the same paper Adam Shergold states: "You only had to witness how the #footballon5 Twitter hashtag descended from anticipation... to bemusement and outright annoyance by the end of 85 minutes of mind-scrambling, hotchpotch television to realise that drastic changes will be needed immediately."

Attempts at "banter" with studio guests were "grating" he adds, while Shergold was also flummoxed by the running order. "It just gave off an impression of sloppy planning," he says.

Other things rankled: captions during games highlighting substitutions are all well and good, but what is the point if the viewer is not told the starting line-up? The presentation of the tables was also poor.

"We've become so used to insightful and highly-polished presentations on Sky and elsewhere... that this first effort just came across as amateurish."

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