Euro 2016: So which channel has assembled the best squad for the tournament – BBC or ITV?
- Credit: BBC / Ray Burmiston / Kaia Zak
The European Champions are less than a week away and this time there will be more matches to enjoy than ever before, although I’m not quite holding my breath for Romania v Albania.
In past tournaments there have been 31 matches, yet this year, thanks to an expanded format, we get 51.
Twenty more games and fewer teams going out in the first round (just eight - the six bottom-placed nations and two weakest third-placed sides) mean that the championships should be more open than ever before.
It also means many more hours of live coverage and highlights across the BBC and ITV networks.
So who will be guiding us all through the action?
Well, ITV aren’t exactly overflowing with pundits and presenters considering they have practically no live football throughout the league season (just Champions League and Europa League highlights and the odd England friendly match to cover), and regular straight-talker Roy Keane will be in France fulfilling his duties as Martin O’Neil’s assistant in charge of the Republic of Ireland.
Those joining main presenter Mark Pougatch in France include West Ham boss Slaven Bilic and Germany legend Lothar Matthaus alongside former England players Glenn Hoddle, Gareth Southgate, Ian Wright and Lee Dixon, expert robot dancer Peter Crouch and token Welsh representative Tony Pulis.
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Also on the team are French World Cup winners Emmanuel Petit and Christian Karembeu, Northern Ireland hero Norman Whiteside, England striker Eniola Aluko and Republic of Ireland stalwart Richard Dunne.
Other key members of the ITV set-up include presenter Jacqui Oatley, commentators Clive Tyldesley, Sam Matterface, Joe Speight and David Stowell, co-commentators Andy Townsend and Iain Dowie, and reporters Gabriel Clarke and Leon Mann.
Over on the Beeb and it’s the usual Match of the Day faces filling the sofa and the commentary box, along with some special additions including injured Belgium captain Vincent Kompany, French superstar Thierry Henry, former Chelsea and England midfielder Frank Lampard and German hero Jurgen Klinsmann.
The BBC has more airtime – 130 hours or so – due to a lack of adverts, and has a greater online and radio presence, so has a large cohort of talent, many of whom will be delivering cross-platform expertise through Radio 5 Live, the BBC Sport website and app, as well as through social media.
Gary Lineker, Gabby Logan and Dan Walker will front the TV coverage of 26 live matches as well as many more highlights shows.
Key pundits include Rio Ferdinand, ex-Northern Ireland midfielder Neil Lennon, Italy and Chelsea forward Gianluca Vialli and Arsenal and Germany ‘keeper Jens Lehman.
The BBC team will also feature ex-England players Alan Shearer, Martin Keown, Jermaine Jenas and Danny Murphy, Welsh stars Robbie Savage, John Hartson, and Dean Saunders, Northern Ireland’s Chris Brunt, Gerry Armstrong and Mark Lawrenson alongside Republic of Ireland winger Kevin Kilbane.
Both sides have their strengths and weaknesses and, of course, the main reason to tune in is the football, but many will remember the bizarre offerings from Fabio Cannavaro and Juninho during the 2014 World Cup where they could hardly put a sentence together in coherent English (although the same could be said for Robbie Savage and Ian Wright).
I tend to side with the Beeb; generally they have better pundits and presenters and, of course, no ad breaks, but as long as the football’s good then I’ll be happy.
ITV will screen the tournament’s opening match, between hosts France and Romania on Friday, as well as England’s first and final group games against Russia on June 11 and Slovakia on June 20.
The BBC will broadcast the clash between England and Wales on June 16, as well as Wales’ first match, against Slovakia.
The Beeb will also air Northern Ireland’s first and final group games, against Poland and world champions Germany respectively.
ITV will show Northern Ireland’s middle match against Ukraine as well as Russia v Wales and the Republic of Ireland’s games against Belgium and Italy.
The BBC will be showing Germany’s opening game against Ukraine, the Republic of Ireland’s first match against Sweden, as well as the opening games for Italy and Portugal.
ITV will have first pick of the round of 16 and semi finals, while the BBC has the first two picks of the quarter finals. Both teams will show the final.
Are you looking forward to Euro 2016? Email me at email@example.com or follow me on twitter @Elliot_Furniss