Being high up on MOTD isn't always a good thing

4th April 2015

There was a table published at the start of this year which showed today's opponents sitting in fifth place and the Swans in 10th.

As every Swans fans will eagerly tell you, that table wasn't based on Premier League positions.

When that table was published in January, the Swans were ninth in the Premier League and Hull were 15th. 

What the table was in fact showing was which Premier League's teams had been top of the bill most times on the BBC's flagship football programme Match of the Day.

Chelsea, as you would probably expect, were top of the table with five appearances, while Hull's fifth place was due to them having appeared first three times - once more than the Swans.

The running order on Match of the Day is always a particularly contentious subject, as most fans believe their team should be further up the running order, rather than getting the dreaded midnight slot.

To be perfectly honest, I don't care where the Swans appear on the running order. As long as we are still eligible to be included in the Premier League's highlights package, I will be happy.

If you don't like staying up until midnight to watch the Swans, just remember you'd have to stay up even later if we ended up back on the Football League Show!

Anyway, unless you're in the top four in the actual Premier League table, being high up on the Match of the Day table isn't always necessarily a good thing.

If you're not challenging at the top of the table, the fact that you're high up on the bill may well mean you've been heavily beaten by one of the top clubs, or you're involved in a relegation battle.

For example, relegation threatened QPR were third in the table having been top of the bill four times.

And Sunderland's only appearance in the opening game of the programme was their 8-0 drubbing by Southampton. I'd certainly prefer to be on last having scraped an uninspiring 1-0 win that didn't catch the eye of the MOTD editor!

If you consider it realistically, this afternoon's game is unlikely to top the bill tonight, unless it's a seven or eight goal thriller with a couple of controversial dismissals.

That's no disrespect to the Swans or Hull, but when you look at the factors that are taken into account when deciding the running order, this afternoon's match won't feature highly in the editor's thinking unless it's a controversial goal fest.

When putting the programme together, the production team have to take into account the entire viewing audience, not just the preferences of individual clubs' supporters.

The BBC head of football Mark Cole explains: "What you're trying to look at in a nutshell is what game do people sat at home at 10.30pm on a Saturday night want to watch most?

"There's a combination of factors that go into that. People want to see the teams at the top, there's interest in relegation battles, but also what the game's been like. Goals do have a massive impact in where you are in the running order for Match of the Day."

Looking through today's fixtures, I would hazard a guess that the Arsenal v Liverpool match (funnily enough the first ever fixture shown on Match of the Day in 1964) would be in with a pretty good chance of being on first tonight, unless it's a dour 0-0 or one of the other matches throws up shock result or an avalanche of goals.

And being totally subjective about it - before a ball is kicked - the Arsenal v Liverpool match is likely to draw in more viewers across the UK than the Swans v Hull is. Like it or not, that's just a footballing reality.

However, that doesn't mean that I don't sometimes look at the running order, taking into account, who's playing, scorelines, etc, and think: "Hang on, why isn't our game higher up the order here?"

Now I don't know whether that's just my bias towards the Swans, or an actual unfairness in the order of matches, but to be fair, I think MOTD generally gets things just about right - when you consider their all round audience.

Anyway, as a "more mature" fan, I'm just glad we are guaranteed a slot on Match of the Day  . . . and not just because it means we are still in the Premier League.

During the Swans' previous visit to the top flight of English football, being in the First Division didn't necessarily mean you'd be on the box - whether it was on Match of the Day or the ITV's Big Match.

Back then, only a selection of matches were shown, so not even the big clubs were guaranteed a slot.

And before that, Swans appearances on national TV highlights were even more rare - their first ever appearance on MOTD coming in 1979 when, if my memory serves me right, a promotion chasing visit to Plymouth was featured as one of the lower league matches, which used to be shown on the programme in those days.

In fact, we don't just see more of the Swans these days, we see far more football, and live football in particular.

When I was growing up, apart from World Cups and European Championship finals there would be the FA Cup Final, the European Cup, the odd international and that was it.

Last weekend alone, I watched more live football on terrestrial television than I would have done in a whole year back in the '70s.

At the risk of sounding like a character from Monty's Python's Four Yorkshiremen sketch: "You try and tell the young people of today that . . . they won't believe you."

And that's before you even start to consider what was available on satellite TV these days, where the Swans are regularly featured.

Our last home match was on Sky and our next one is being shown on BT Sport.

Let's face it, that's where the real money is being generated wherever teams appear on MOTD.

Anyway, nothing compares to actually being at a game. As nice as it is to see us featured fairly high up the order on MOTD to check whether it really was offside or a penalty, nothing will ever match being here at the Liberty to cheer on the boys in person.

C'mon you Swans!