Sky Sports is never off-air and because it’s never off-air that gives it an omnipresence that – like it or not – means it is a constant fixture in our lives. It is also – admit it or not – largely very good at what it does and because what it does is focus on the 21st century religions of sport it means in its 28 years of existence the channel has accrued a cultural significance.
All of which adds up to another two undeniable truths. Firstly, with so much content to create mistakes will inevitably be made from time to time. And secondly, because of its popularity – in terms of numbers at least – those mistakes are highlighted above and beyond errors made by lesser digested rivals in their field.
So when Stephen Warnock insisted this week that Red Star Belgrade are a semi-professional side it’s easy to let that one go. It’s mildly troubling that a pundit could be so remiss but such gaffes will occur during 24 hour rolling coverage, especially when it involves a large and varied volume of personnel.
But that wasn’t the only mistake Sky Sports made this week. And the other was utterly unforgivable.
Last Tuesday was high noon for Bolton Wanderers and Bury with each club having until 5pm to satisfy the EFL that ‘credible plans’ were in place to rescue the debt-strewn institutions. Failing this, expulsions were to follow.
The footballing world crossed its fingers. Regardless of affiliation genuine and heartfelt concern was ubiquitous. The last club to drop out of the league pyramid was Maidstone United in 1992 having endured liquidation. Now two others faced a similar, awful fate.
Yet staggeringly from all of the above what most seemed to pique Sky Sports interest in determining how they were going to report on this was not the imminent demise of two clubs who together share 279 years of history within English football – not to mention the winning of six FA Cups. It was the dramatic nature of the deadline.
So it was that some bright spark within Sky’s editorial set-up decided it would be a good idea to place Jim White standing in front of a running clock, thus mimicking their famed coverage of each transfer deadline day. See below.
The image which sums up everything wrong in modern football. Sky's Jim White standing in front of a ticking clock while the possible demise of two proud clubs – Bury and Bolton Wanderers – is discussed as if it's a new transfer deal. Excruciating! pic.twitter.com/zLL4Dhhcf7
— Neil Drysdale (@NeilDrysdale) August 27, 2019
It was crass in the extreme. It was an unedifying example of the increasingly Americanised, soulless media we are subjected to that pertains to care but is really only interested in keeping us hooked past the next commercial break. It rightfully – and entirely unsurprisingly – drew heavy flak from disgusted viewers.
What was on the line that day wasn’t the potential move of Ryan Sessegnon to Spurs: it was the future existence of two football clubs, each with a community who have grown up with them as a bedrock; each with hundreds of employees tended for.
Mistakes by the vast juggernaut that is Sky Sports can be excused. Editorial decisions such as this cannot.
RIP Bury. You will be greatly missed.