Friday, February 25, 2011

An brief idea for a new kind of football podcast

Lots of interesting media stories this week, particularly related to television rights. I probably don't need to dedicate an entire post to the subtext of the FA gearing up for a possible battle with UEFA over television rights monies from England qualifiers amid news that YouTube is going to get into the live sports streaming business. There are a lot of unanswered questions about what YouTube is up to (or at least I haven't been able to find answers to them) like whether they would charge a user fee or rely solely on advertising dollars, whether they would be bidding directly against TV companies or as a separate adjunct, and just how this will effect the value of TV rights, especially if it takes off causing fewer people to bother with the cost of cable to watch football matches. Perhaps some industry insiders/more knowledgeable people could help shed some light on the subject.

No, what I want to write about is football podcasts. This post has been brewing in my head for some time, and came to a head after I read Sid Lowe's Xavi interview. It was brilliant, but I don't think I'm alone in thinking it was too short. I felt the same about Brian Straus' excellent interview with MLS commish Don "the Don" Garber.

In recent weeks I've become quite a fan of Marc Maron's WTF podcast, in part because the format is so raw, essentially an unedited hour long interview without pre-approved questions. It's more of a recorded conversation. Maron is an LA-based stand-up comedian, and most of his interviewees are comedians as well (with a few interesting exceptions, like "This American Life" host Ira Glass). He is unabashedly honest about his career arc (he calls himself a "farm team" comic), his many resentments, his previous addictions, his character foibles, everything. The result is an interview without a hint of sycophancy, PR control, or overly-intrusive formatting. I have never anywhere else heard interviews with high-profile people as candid as Maron's.

The idea of having something similar for footballers, managers, owners or coaches--not necessarily the biggest stars, but perhaps players known for their strong opinions on the game who could express themselves without ruffling too many feathers--is very compelling to me. I understand for most journalists, getting to sit down with any player over an extended period of time can be an absolute nightmare. I also understand it's very hard for football podcasts to find an interesting way to break the traditional mold of a bunch of people in a room talking about football.

But what if it were a former player or someone closely connected to the game doing the interviews? What if that player maybe consulted with a seasoned producer over the standard interview format, broadcasting style, and possible questions? Rohan Ricketts would be an interesting candidate for example, based on his previous work in trying to reveal things about life in football. The whole thing could be utterly terrible, but the prospect of hearing players speak their own minds about how the game works, how managers operate, what it's like working with agents and negotiating transfers seems like it would be worth a try. Right now, almost everything we know about this side of the game is filtered through journalists. The podcast format would offer a safer, more relaxed conversational space for players to speak their mind on the modern game, on their life growing up in academies away from home, on the money culture valued by many top professionals.

Just putting it out there.


The Gaffer said...

Richard, another great post. And I agree. Football podcasts could do with a breath of fresh air. Many of the formats are becoming tired.

In related news, keep an eye out for exciting news from EPL Talk on Tuesday regarding a brand-new venture which I'm confident that you and your readers will be interested in reading. And which may provide you and your readers with the type of content that you're craving (such as the Marc Maron podcast).

The Gaffer

Andrew Fitchett said...

It's a great idea, but I think in reality it wouldn't last long.

Having interviewed players at clubs, I can tell you that paranoia among press officers is stratospheric. Even with ex-players behind the microphone,I doubt you would get more than one or two good interviews before clubs shut it down.

As an example, a work colleague is interviewing a 17-year-old Ipswich Town youth player next week. The lad has done nothing and is not particuarly highly-rated. My colleague has to carry out the interview in the club's reception area and with the press officer sat on his shoulder the whole time. Says it all really.

roswitha said...

Well, you have to dream first. I think it's superb and quite doable. Sort of like The Art of Fiction interviews that the Paris Review has been doing for years. It really makes sense to ask technical questions in a lengthy format, instead of in soundbytes.

eheskey11 said...

I thoroughly enjoy WFD. Great interviews with very knowledgeable hosts.