Chelsea have appeared in the top slot on the main Saturday night highlights programme five times so far this season, two occasions more than the next nearest team West Ham, but all the Blues’ top billings have been defeats as the reigning champions have endured a campaign to forget.
Everton, Stoke, Tottenham and West Brom share the dubious honour of being last on the most times so far – three each.
Mark Cole, the BBC’s head of football, is delighted by the interest supporters take in the Match of the Day running order but pointed out sometimes it may be a good thing to be nowhere near the start of the show, especially as the battle to avoid relegation reaches its climax.
Asked if producers were conscious of a need to even things out across the season, Cole said: “Not at all. Every week is done on its merits.
“I have said it before a couple of times – I think when fans of Hull weren’t particularly happy that they never led the programme, for example – that actually, for those clubs that are in the relegation mix, it is a very good thing if you don’t lead because when the relegation picture gets interesting, those sorts of games start to go at the top and I think if you don’t ever lead Match of the Day, you are safe in the Premier League and there are hundreds of millions (of pounds in television income) coming your way next year.
“So ‘be careful what you wish for’ might be a rule for some fans!”
Cole explained how the decision over the running order is reached.
“The editor is the key person. On a Thursday probably they will put a draft running order into our script system, so they will have what they think will be the running order both in terms of times of each edit and also the order,” he said.
“All that can completely change with the results, but it gives you a bit of an idea, because there is an element of the intrigue around a game, so you can put together your plans of how you think it will look. But then Tottenham-Liverpool, which was Jurgen Klopp’s first game – that was top of the running order on a Thursday and Friday, but was a 0-0 game, there was much better fare around the rest of the programme and it ended up being last on the show.”