In Depth

Euro 2016: Record number watch England v Wales online

Millions log on from their office desks to join Gary Lineker and his 'boyband' of pundits

During the 1998 World Cup, Des Lynam welcomed viewers to coverage of England's afternoon kick-off against Tunisia with an arched eyebrow and the immortal line: "Good afternoon. Shouldn't you be at work?"

But the days of having to sneak away from the office to watch a game are long gone and BBC viewing figures suggest that many England and Wales fans tuned into the Euro 2016 showdown from their desks.

The match smashed online audience records, with some 2.3 million people watching the Three Lions' dramatic 2-1 victory via the BBC Sport website or on iPlayer, almost tripling the previous all-time high of 820,000 for the 2012 Olympic tennis finals, note Radio Times.

The BBC was obviously aware of the significance of the match and threw everything at it, while desperately scrambling to ensure neutrality.

"The BBC likes to arrive mob-handed at moments of great national significance and fielded a four on the 'experts' bench, where the industry standard is a three," notes Martin Kelner in FourFourTwo.

The expanded panel also caught the eye of Michael Hogan of the Daily Telegraph. He runs the rule over the line-up of "Alan Shearer (boiled egg), Dean Saunders (provincial Bruce Springsteen), Rio Ferdinand (too much make-up) and John Hartson (squinty, spherical)". He also likens them to "a past-it boyband" dressed like "a stag party smartening up for a nitespot with a strict dress code".

In the studio as well as on the field, the English contingent "used their experience to outmaneuver" the Welsh, says Giles Smith of The Times.

There was another battle for supremacy at the stadium, he continues, as the BBC fielded an "unconventional back three across the commentary box, encouraging Martin Keown of England and Robbie Savage of Wales to vie for supremacy around Guy Mowbray".

Whether it was necessary is debateable, adds Smith, but "it was certainly entertaining, not least early on while the two were doing their best to swallow their allegiances".

The "cast of thousands" was completed by Gabby Logan, Jason Mohammad, Danny Murphy and Ian Rush on the touchline, says Hogan of the Telegraph. "It’s a wonder there was any room for ballboys or stewards down there."

An unusually subdued Gary Lineker presided over the whole affair, which was "solid but unspectacular", according to Hogan.  

Can ITV improve things for Monday's clash with Slovakia, wonders FourFourTwo's Kelner. They "have been a smidgen more continental in their selections for the punditry seats", he says. "I shall be disappointed if they don't stick with the impressive Slaven Bilic in the middle of a mobile three."

Euro 2016: ITV 'bottles it' over England vs Russia violence

13 June

ITV's coverage of England's Euro 2016 opener against Russia on Saturday was easily the most-watched TV show of the year, with a peak audience of 14.1 million viewers.

The game had an average audience of 12.9 million - "good news for ITV", says Radio Times.

However, it adds that the broadcaster was criticised for failing to report on the violence that marred the end of the match.

"Instead of reporting on scenes of England fans apparently being attacked by hordes of Russia supporters, the channel continued with its punditry and interviews," it says.

The problem was partly down to ITV's decision to base its coverage in Paris rather than at the ground. "While England fans were getting kicked and punched and forced up against a wall in the Stade Velodrome, 500 miles away on a Paris rooftop and under an obligingly photogenic evening sky, [Peter] Crouch, Mark Pougatch, Ian Wright and Lee Dixon sat amid the soft uplighters... and allowed the summer breeze to whisper gently in the sleeves of their freshly-ironed leisurewear," says Giles Smith in The Times.

The pundits resembled "four generals casually enjoying themselves in a high-end cocktail bar while a horrible battle raged over the horizon", he adds. 

Eventually, ITV did mention the trouble, but then quickly returned to analysis of the game.

"I can’t have been the only viewer who promptly turned away from his television to consult social media and attempt to discover what ITV, despite the presence of cameras and reporters in the ground, didn’t seem to be able, or inclined, to tell me," says Smith.

It seemed like "a case of the important, uncomfortable story being ignored in favour of some chummy chat", says Alan Tyers of the Daily Telegraph.

ITV told the Telegraph that footage of the fighting in the stands was not made available straight away and the team were focused on the match rather than the aftermath.

It also said that as a "responsible broadcaster", it could not just "just chuck [the footage] out there".

But Tyers appears unconvinced. "Most viewers might feel they would be happy to watch the pictures and make their own minds up," he says. "[But] you don't want all those happy customers put off buying lager and cars and chicken nuggets by watching some balaclava-ed psycho filleting a fat man from Rochester, do you?"

It was not a good night for ITV, says Martin Kelner in his Screen Break blog on Sporting Intelligence. "Faced with the dilemma of how much weight to give the shocking violence in the stadium after the match and in Marseille’s Old Port before, they bottled it in my view, opting for just a cursory mention in favour of the usual tedious parade of post-match player interviews."


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