It’s a derby as fierce as any. Channels 1 and 3 have broadcast the World Cup and the Euros for decades now, as BBC and ITV fight for your attention every other summer.
Just one small battle of a much bigger war is focused on the charm offensive from familiar faces. Both sides have assembled a cast of legends and lecturers to cast keen eyes across the festival of football, with two traditionally different tacts.
So let’s run through the who’s who of television’s finest this time around - which team has built the better team ahead of the competition?
BBC: As ever, the BBC have a massive trump card in that their presenter was also an England international who starred in major tournaments. Some find Gary Lineker a little smug and self-righteous - which is completely fine - but for many, he is also the best in the business when it comes to anchoring. His supporting tag-team of Gabby Logan and Mark Chapman is safe as houses, and you can expect smooth tides from the first show.
ITV: Where the Beeb have an England legend in the lead role, ITV head into Euro 2020 with veteran broadcaster Mark Pougatch as anchorman. Pougatch doesn’t command the same national treasure status as Linksy on the other side but he’s been a steady pair of hands since assuming the role from the altogether more marmite Adrian Chiles. Seema Jaswal another ex-BBC presenter - is back after debuting on ITV Sport during the 2018 World Cup.
Winner: It's only ever going to BBC, here. Lineker FTW.
BBC: Rio and Alan Shearer are big, knowledgeable names for the England analysis (having been key figures at men’s major tournaments during their own careers) while James McFadden, Mark Hughes and Ashley Williams will provide a decent spread of home nations scrutiny. Jermaine Jenas, Alex Scott and Micah Richards are exceptional pundits, however, and it’s on these three the BBC will lean most heavily. Thierry is cool, but less insightful than the lesser names.
ITV: ITV have sometimes been jabbed for their lightweight analysis - Fabio Cannavaro was handsome but just smiled and sided with defenders the whole time - but in Gary Neville, they probably have one of the country’s most tactically astute pundits. Emma Hayes is a shrewd addition, too, as someone who knows the tactical side of the game, while Patrick Vieira is a coach in his own right, as well - so should have interesting things to say.
Keep an eye out for Ashley Cole as well - one of the most intelligent defenders of a generation who will no doubt give some damning insight on what Trent Alexander-Arnold should have done when he gets skinned for Croatia’s fourth.
Winner: ITV - they have gone big on this category.
BBC: Big Micah Richards’ infectious smile and roaring laughter are always a welcome addition to any show. It’s a shame he’ll be without Roy Keane though, whose Jack Russell-esque snarling really brings the best out of the former Manchester City defender. Gary Lineker’s dad jokes are either brilliant or cringey depending on what your own dad was like. Alex Scott’s warmth and banter should help lift the gloom Alan Shearer and Rio Ferdinand often bring to the table.
ITV: Did someone tell ITV that they were linking up Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira in the same studio? As well as broadcasting Pizzagate pt.2, ITV have Graeme Souness for some classic grumpy rants and Ian Wright, just to lighten the mood a little (the 2014 World Cup was mainly Wrighty partying with whichever fans embraced him). On top of that, there are players like Eni Aluko and Andros Townsend - who actually played football recently, so they’ll be keeping the “back in my day” monologues to a minimum.
Winner: ITV - we're just as excited for Wrighty as Keane vs Vieira
BBC: Thierry Henry and Jurgen Klinsmann are genuine global A-listers and will draw an audience for that reason alone. Cesc Fabregas is a smart addition given he has won this competition before and is still actually playing. He also speaks fantastic English which isn’t always the case with big name tournament pundits.
ITV: Where the BBC have gone for Thierry Henry, ITV have gone for everyone’s third favourite Invincible, Patrick Vieira (Bergkamp is ahead of him, sorry Pat). Keane, Neville and Souness are certainly big names on Sky Sports but there’s no one you’d tune into watch, just because you wonder if they’re any good at punditry - which is a relief, really, since Cannavaro didn’t really work out, as mentioned.
Winner: BBC - no one beats Klins and Thierry!
The other home nations
BBC: Mark Hughes is the biggest name in this department but seeing as Sparky never played in a major tournament and isn't known for his garrulous nature it’s a good thing Ashley Williams is also on board. To get such a key figure from Wales’ run to the semis in 2016 is a cracking bit of recruitment. James McFadden and Charlie Adam are well known to Premier League fans and McFadden in particular seems to be making a good name for himself in punditry.
ITV: ITV continue their youthful approach by recruiting Joe Ledley, Scott Brown and Robert Earnshaw as Wales and Scotland-specific pundits for the tournament. Plus, remember that Souness is Scottish.
Winner: BBC - some cool choices for both, though.
BBC: The regular carousel of BBC Match of the Day commentators is rolled out once again, including Guy Mowbray, Steve Wilson and Jonathan Pearce. Polished perfectionists one and all. It’s the co-commentators people want to know about. Jermaine Jenas and Danny Murphy will be popular among fans, whereas Robbie Savage and Martin Keown may not be. Dion Dublin is quietly very good while Karen Carney talks a lot of sense.
ITV: Sam Matterface is the new (Matter)face of ITV commentary. He’s yet to have a big tournament of England moments under his belt so feels a little unknown so far - hopefully he’ll coin his own “Agueroooo” or “Roma have risen from their ruins” this summer. Lee Dixon and John Hartson are solid co-commentators to give him a little extra gravitas.
Euro 2020 needed that extra year in the works just to prepare us all for life without Clive Tyldesley as the lead commentator - but actually, this is probably just what we all needed. It might be impossible to take another summer of hearing Clive’s heartbreak over an England exit: let’s see him commentating on Germany against France and hear what Ally McCoist thinks of the French Resistance.
Winner: ITV, of course - Viva Ally McCoist.
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