Football is an extremely serious business now, and the media around it is no different. The rise of the internet and the ubiquity of social media has meant that it is a 24-hour news cycle, with there always being a need for the ‘next hot take’, as it were. Football punditry has thus seen a huge change over the last few years, with much more analysis and insight needed than in days gone by.
Fans have a plethora of data and information at their fingertips, and they are also watching a lot more football than ever before. This means that there is no place to hide for a pundit; they cannot make an argument without having the information and research to back it up. As seen in this Betway video, the likes of Chris Sutton and Danny Higginbotham agree that a pundit has to be knowledgeable to survive in today’s broadcasting environment; you cannot get away with just making a statement and ‘fudging it’.
However, there is also a need to be entertaining – as the founding members of the Football Ramble podcast say, the public has a tendency to gravitate towards the most entertaining content, and it is up to the pundits themselves to try and ‘sell’ themselves in the best way they can. There are numerous examples of pundits just saying the most controversial statements which get them ‘trending’, but there are some, like Danny Mills, who say that they will not say something unless they believe it. On the other hand, you have Sutton who says that he likes being ‘tongue-in-cheek’ and it is up to the public to understand what is said in jest and what isn’t.
It is a delicate balancing act for producers as well – between having utter chaos on set or being boring. They try and have different types of personalities on shows together so that it doesn’t all sound the same, and the presenters have a difficult task on their hands to try and coax some of the quieter ones, while simultaneously having to rein in the more enthusiastic guests. Ultimately, it comes down to whether that particular mix of guests is entertaining enough, but at the same time, has enough original opinions and well-researched comments to offer a unique insight into the topic. That is the ultimate challenge for a broadcaster or podcast producer – one which is extremely important in today’s scenario where the public is, and believes that it is, as well-informed as the guests on the sofa or behind the microphone.