Many fans of Leeds United – and even Huddersfield Town – were mystified at the BBC’s decision to show only brief highlights on the Football League Show of the pulsating West Yorkshire derby between Town and United on Saturday. Leeds fans have become used to an apparent BBC policy whereby matches featuring the League’s biggest and most illustrious club are given only scant coverage by the corporation, usually about thirty seconds somewhere towards the end of the programme’s Championship montage.
Derby games, though, might normally be considered a special case, with a large (for Huddersfield) and passionate crowd creating a vibrant atmosphere and adding to the spectacle of fierce local rivals going at it hammer and tongs. And yet, once again, the coverage was minimal. At the start of the programme, reference was made to “today’s early kick-off”, but this was an allusion to the Brentford v ‘Boro live Sky game – not the Town v Leeds affair which also had a lunchtime start.
When asked for an explanation of what might seem, on the face of it, to be slightly odd editorial decisions, a BBC spokesperson commented “Actually, we had planned to show extended highlights of Huddersfield Town versus Leeds United, featuring the match prominently near the start of our Championship section. But sadly, there were some distressing scenes caught by our cameras and we felt that these would be too traumatic to show to the vast majority of our viewers. We are always wary of transmitting events and unforeseen developments that may upset our audience. In this case, the game turned out in a way we could not possibly have foreseen – and we felt we had to reduce coverage to the minimum allowable and leave it till later in the programme.”
Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything – whilst fully cognisant of the fact that the Huddersfield player Tommy Smith sustained a head or neck injury towards the end of the game, and that scenes such as that are always difficult and possibly traumatic viewing – still felt that this incident, upsetting though it undoubtedly was, hardly justified “pulling” the full highlights. We therefore put it to the BBC that, by the time the programme was broadcast, Tommy Smith was in a stable condition in hospital, sitting up and talking to doctors. Surely, the coverage could have gone ahead as planned – maybe with a reassuring message that the player was fine now, and in no danger?
The BBC spokesperson spluttered a little, and we wondered if he had perhaps choked on a corporate nibble. “The injury to the Huddersfield player? You thought that’s what I was talking about? No, no, no,” our contact laughed uproariously. “Oh, dear me, that’s a good one…” The laughter continued unabated as we waited patiently for our man to calm down and explain himself. “Look, you’ve totally misunderstood me,” he chortled, eventually. “When I referred to distressing scenes that we couldn’t possibly have anticipated, I didn’t mean some common or garden injury! Think, man! This was a Leeds United away win, clinched by a superb goal in the last few minutes! Can you imagine anything more horrible, more upsetting for our viewers?? We couldn’t possibly expose them to that – now could we?”
Manish Bhasin is a self-satisfied git.