We’ve all been there. You leave the ground and either head home or to the pub, abuzz from a truly bum-clenching game of football. Dave turns to Steve, “They HAVE to be talking about that performance tomorrow.” Steve agrees: “Yeah, we might even be on early tonight on EFL on Quest!”
Later, you settle in to watch the highlights. Colin Murray welcomes you to the show; you are introduced to the pundits, and – things are looking up – there’s no Ian Holloway. The first game is shown, and it’s Leeds vs Sheffield Wednesday. You brush it off with excuses – ‘It’s a local derby, it makes sense that this…er…1-1 should be on first…’
Ten o’clock rolls round and you have sat through some truly dross Championship and League One highlights, including Sunderland 0-0 Rotherham. That doesn’t matter though, because your game, the one that matters, is finally on: Exeter City 5-4 Leyton Orient. The highlights start, but the first goal shown is your third. That’s odd. Ten seconds later it’s all over, a nine-goal thriller condensed into ten seconds, completely missing out the glorious comeback.
Despondent, you switch to Match Of The Day. The first game up is Manchester City (of course it is) vs Burnley. You haven’t seen the results, but maybe it was a close game. Maybe Burnley won. Nope. It finished 2-0 to Man City, who had 86% possession, so naturally it’s time for a twenty-minute discussion from pundits who are all expertly stating the bloody obvious. “Sod this,” you think. “Time for an early night, maybe it’ll be in the paper tomorrow…”.
It isn’t. Of course it isn’t.
So here we are, the crux of this post: why are the lower leagues so shamefully ignored by the media? Now, I’m a Wolves fan, and Wolves are doing pretty well at the moment, but I’ve spent more than half my life watching them play in Division One or struggling to survive the drop with Big Mick. So I’ve been there. In fact, we’re still ignored to some degree, even though we’re in the big leagues now, because we aren’t one of the Big Six.
The media bias towards the Big Six is painfully obvious. Even during lockdown when there aren’t any games on, they still dominate the sports pages. The sterling work that Wolves has done in response to COVID-19 has gone more or less unreported, and there are League 1 and League 2 teams who were struggling to survive even before football was cancelled, and now might never be able to return. But still sports page inches are more concerned with where Pogba will be playing next season.
Some might argue that football is more entertaining and more accessible in the Premier League, but I disagree. The lower leagues have always provided great entertainment. The Championship sometimes gets a bit of a look-in, but pundits will still drop it as soon as Dele Alli gets a new haircut. As for accessibility, well, they do have a point there, but only because of the way the system’s been set up, completely stacked against the lower leagues.
And this is the problem. Yes, the elite has huge fan bases, so more coverage makes sense, but the lower leagues are being isolated, pushed aside and barely given 90 minutes on Quest. Bloody Quest!
Some of my fondest memories of football have been from lower league games: watching Wolves blow apart League 1, going to watch Leyton Orient who are now my local team, and a trip to Wembley with my mate from Sunderland. (To be fair he had a horrible day, but for a neutral it was amazing: extra time, last minute equaliser, penalties, the lot.) These leagues need to be cherished; they provide the backbone to English football and, without them, the Premier League is just a husk.