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12 March 2012

Brief boobs #3: the BBC takes its eye off the (rugby) ball

In its sports coverage, the BBC is famously pro-English, sometimes to the point where they are accused in Scotland, Wales and Ireland of being the EBC, or English Broadcasting Corporation. But today’s website carries that bias a bit far—indeed further than simple logic allows.
     Reporting an English rugby victory over France yesterday, the BBC script-writers got so carried away at the enormity of their own side’s achievement that someone wrote this:
England edge out France in Paris. England score three tries as they become the first side to win a Six Nations match in Paris since 2008.”
      For Russians who do not follow rugby, but who want to be able to sound cool in middle-class pubs, I should mention that the Six Nations tournament is an annual competition between England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France and Italy. In most years each side plays either two or three of their matches at home, and home for France is Paris. Since 2008, France will have played about ten home games. According to the BBC, either they were all a draw, since no side has “won a Six Nations match in Paris since 2008”, or they did not count as “matches” as far as the BBC is concerned.
      But this is very puzzling, because many people distinctly remember seeing television coverage of what definitely looked like rugby matches being played in Paris as part of the Six Nations tournament in the years 2009-11. Indeed much of that coverage was on the BBC itself. Since draws in rugby are rare, the only logical explanation can be that some of those games were not “matches” as far as the Corporation is concerned. Why?
     I think I know the answer. Those games were all won by France—middle-class England’s traditional enemy—and therefore they did not count as “wins” or “matches”. They were a sort of illusory, phantasmagorical form of rugby, which bore as little resemblance to the real thing as the three soccer World Cups won by Germany—working-class England’s traditional enemy—did to the gritty reality of proper World Cup triumphs such as that achieved by England in 1966.
     In that game, the commentator famously shouted right at the end, just before England scored its final goal, “They [the Germans] think it’s all over. It’s all over now.” Most people have taken that to mean that the match was over. In the light of today’s coverage of the English rugby victory in Paris yesterday, a new interpretation of that remark suggests itself. The commentator may well have meant that football itself was “all over now”. For some people it was. Once England had won the World Cup, everything that followed was an anti-climactic foreign fantasy. The parallels with modern rugby are becoming increasingly depressing.

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