Tom Richmond: Mumble in the jungle as BBC decamps to Brazil

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I AM afraid that I can offer no penetrating insight into the World Cup punditry skills of Phil Neville, who appears to have been given the red card by BBC viewers.

I’d already switched off because the largesse of the BBC’s coverage was making my blood boil before England’s game against Italy had even kicked off.

It’s because I made the mistake of watching the 10pm news. A newsreader in a studio – I assume Broadcasting House in London – then handed over to another presenter who was broadcasting from the Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro.

That person – I hope you’re keeping up – spoke a few perfunctory words before introducing a BBC colleague who had a vantage point outside the stadium in the rainforest city of Manaus, where Roy Hodgson’s side later lost 2-1.

After a few more meaningless words, and then the weather forecast, the BBC’s match-night coverage began with Gary Lineker reading off an autocue – it is what he is paid to do – before introducing three football pundits who were going to offer some analysis from their Rio studio overlooking the beach.

Talk about the BBC taking licence fee payers for a ride (at least ITV’s coverage, which appears comparable, is funded by advertisers).

I’m afraid the decision to send 272 representatives to Brazil is symptomatic of the Corporation’s continuing contempt for the public purse and I implore Culture Secretary Sajid Javid to cut the licence fee – the hint that he delivered last weekend.

The BBC’s radio coverage was equally over the top before I fell asleep – an anchorman in Rio, two commentators (Mike Ingham and Alan Green) in the stadium alongside the fence-sitting ex-England player Danny Mills, who lacks the gravitas of former player and manager Jimmy Armfield, and then a reporter on the pitch-side.

Quite possibly, there could have been someone else but I’d lost the will to live by this point.

Yet, apart from the commentators in the World Cup venues, why does the BBC need so many staff and pundits in Brazil when they are simply passing comment on the same pictures that are being watched by viewers?

Aren’t the Corporation’s new studios in Salford good enough – or is it simply because downtown Manchester is not exotic enough when it comes to topping up suntans and spending taxpayers’ money?

Obviously not, judging by the tone of the verbose Five Live breakfast sports reporter George Riley, who spends every morning regaling his few remaining listeners about every match that he has watched, and every triviality about his travels, while offering little incisive information about the World Cup itself – a failing which is symptomatic of the BBC’s performance as a whole which was summed up by Robbie Savage’s dreadful girl-like shrieking when an Australian scored.

Still, there are only another three weeks to endure. Unfortunately.

I DO not begrudge – for one moment – George Osborne’s announcement that the surviving veterans of the D-Day landings will receive public funding (via fines levied on banks involved in the Libor scandal) to make the annual pilgrimage to the Normandy beaches.

What I do query, however, is the timing and why the Chancellor said he had been moved by the poignant commemorations earlier this month to mark the 70th anniversary of the landings.

Has Osborne no sense of history? What was he doing during the events to mark the 40th, 50th and 60th anniversaries? Wouldn’t it better if he had made the money available before this month’s events? Two words – gesture politics.

A NOTE to Morrisons chief executive Dalton Philips after he told 2,600 staff that they were surplus to requirements because of the failures of the board.

Will these job losses lead to Morrisons stocking basic items, like skimmed milk, more frequently in the future? This is what it needs to do before I do my main weekly shop again at the store.

A related point. How will I know that Morrisons has changed for the better when it has no loyalty card – and when Sainsbury’s are targeting lapsed customers with enticing money-off offers because it holds the details of shoppers on its Nectar card database?

I’M afraid Labour politician Helen Goodman’s unfortunate speech at a village fete – she wrongly assumed that the Ingleton in her Bishop Auckland constituency was, in fact, Ingleton in the Yorkshire Dales – stems from a flawed electoral system where MPs are virtually guaranteed jobs for life in safe seats.

Labour has held the County Durham seat at every election since 1935. I suggest she would not have erred if this was a marginal.

FINALLY, cricket devotees will be hoping that Yorkshire batsmen Joe Root and Gary Ballance score heavily for England in the Headingley Test against Sri Lanka and replicate their form at Lord’s.

However, a word of perspective. These innings were defined as “great” by various pundits. Though good, such lofty praise devalues genuine acts of greatness – like Yorkshire legend Hedley Verity taking a perfect 10 wickets for 10 runs in July 1932.

It is feat recounted by my colleague Chris Waters in his riveting new book 10 for 10 – Hedley Verity and the Story of Cricket’s Greatest Bowling Feat (Wisden) and made even more poignant by the fact that the cricketer then lost his life in the Second World War.

That, to me, is far more worthy of some of the adjectives bestowed upon Root and Ballance.

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk