Thursday, June 13, 2024

Hockey on BT Sport: Women’s World Cup view from the couch

Having participated in the great couch-potato fest of 2018 – World Cup, Wimbledon, The Open – come July 21 it was clearly time for Claire Middleton to get off the sofa

With a Fitbit that had pretty much ground to a halt, and a gym/tennis club membership which was working out at about £100 a visit, the last thing I needed in this summer of endless sun was more bloody sport on the telly.

To be honest, there was no compelling reason to plonk myself down for another two weeks of Coronas, crisps and dips in the lounge (well, apart from those three).

I have media accreditation so if I wanted to watch the Vitality Women’s World Cup I could actually go.

I also have awful memories of a women’s World Cup on television, courtesy of Eurosport’s efforts in 2006. It was a long time ago but the pain still lingers (and it wasn’t much better when I actually got there).

Having been living in Australia when the 2010 and 2014 versions were held, I watched via Fox Sports, which was haphazard but okay; the time difference always makes things tricky when viewing from a continent which the FIH really don’t seem to care about.

However, I had met Ashley Morrison while living in Perth, enjoyed his commentary and appreciated listening to someone who actually knew the names of the players. Yes, all the players, even the ones which weren’t English or Australian. I can’t tell you how rare that is.

So, I tuned in on Day One and have been sucked in ever since.

It is a shame that coverage has to be on pay TV but, having watched the BBC at the Olympics and been frustrated by commentators who never normally cover hockey, it’s nice to listen to people who know the sport and who are also good broadcasters.

Surprisingly, for a channel which is generally pretty blokey, BT has also found it necessary to include only one male in their panel of experts. With all those betting adverts, there has to be some masculine endorsement and at least it’s a good chap like Simon Mason.

Mason, however, does love to go into detail: “The goalkeeper opted against stacking her legs into a logging position but pivoted onto her left foot with a right-leg twirl and a stick extension, wielding the grip up the blade before her helmet disappeared up her backside” … is a bit of an exaggeration, but you get my drift.

I’m glad to say he has caught his breath over the last 10 days and now provides a nice counterbalance with the other experts. It’s also been good to have someone who understands the nuances of goalkeeping, which is a key component of the sport.

Meanwhile, Kate Richardson-Walsh and Mel Clewlow have been excellent, finding a balance between allegiance and objectivity when it comes to discussing England.

Like Mason, they realise that their words can be heard beyond these shores and viewers in other corners of the world are not necessarily cheerleaders for Danny Kerry’s team. Crista Cullen, in her post-game interviews, should take note.

Clewlow and Richardson-Walsh have been the stars of the show with Morrison and his side-kick Charlie Brougham (BT Sport would probably bill them the other way around) allowing them to shine.

They have managed to bring expertise, insight and humour to the proceedings – and blimey, with sometimes four matches a day, they have worked hard. I hope they are being well rewarded.

The post-match huddles have been fun and it never ceases to amaze me how eloquent their guests have been, especially when the majority do not have English as a first language. (Please give Dutch captain Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel her own show).

If there are annoyances, it’s the mini-screen replays at the bottom of the picture and the green triangles under the team names which indicate if a team still has its referral and not that there’s a player in the sinbin.

That’s small beer compared to the overall quality of the product which has made this tournament compelling viewing from the sofa (or from behind it, in the case of England).

I’m off for some business end matches.

I just hope it’s as good in real life as it has been so far on the telly.

The Hockey Paper’s World Cup coverage is supported by St. Bert’s Clothing – SUMMER SALE

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