Remember the good old days? Delivered newspapers, roast beef for Sunday lunch, a pint in the clubhouse and back in time to watch Scrum V? Robin Davey does. And he’s missing his fix as the BBC Wales programme descends into an unwatchable mess.
It’s been BBC Wales’ flagship rugby programme for years and it’s still going, but what on earth has happened to Scrum V?
Life was always going to be difficult for it once the BBC lost the contract to show Guinness Pro 14 rugby, with subscription channel Premier Sports stepping in with a better offer.
S4C still have the rights to feature one match each weekend, but the new Premier Sports regime now show every match in the competition as well as highlights and preview programmes, some of which can be viewed free to air.
That is, of course, a vast improvement on what BBC Wales were able to achieve with limited funds available through the licence fee, a declining audience and a restricted channel schedule.
Premier Sports show it all for the paltry sum of £9.99 a month to the paying customer, a bargain in most people’s language – except for those who are already shelling out to watch rugby on Sky Sports and BT.
All that left the BBC in a quandary. Stripped of the rights to show any of the Pro 14, with none of the Welsh regions able to feature on their channel, what were they to do?
Well, rather than lose any rugby coverage – they will still share the Six Nations with ITV and for this season, at least, cling on to the autumn Tests – they decided to concentrate on the Welsh Premiership instead.
In order to cater for rugby fans and to keep some kind of domestic presence they retained their Friday night live slot, showing a Premiership game in full. It was Ebbw Vale v Aberavon on their opening show, for example, and then Bridgend v Swansea.
Obviously, that has a more limited audience by definition because semi-professional rugby isn’t going to attract the same kind of audience as the full monty, so to speak.
BBC Wales also decided to retain a Scrum V highlights programme on a Sunday rather than lose that, too.
But what a mish-mash that has turned out to to be, trying to satisfy everyone but appealing to very few indeed.
Unable to show any live professional rugby whether it’s from the northern or southern hemisphere, they instead have studio guests talking about it. It’s radio, but on TV.
They do have an interview with a coach from one or two of the four regions, conducting a mini-inquest into their team’s performance that weekend, but that’s not particularly interesting without any film to back up what they are saying.
Granted, South Africa’s victory over the All Blacks last Saturday was pretty earth shattering in rugby terms, but whether it was a good idea to have former Springbok Thinus Delport in the studio talking about it without any kind of action to show is another matter.
Given that the live coverage is now concentrating on the Welsh Premiership – needs must in this case – surely it would be better for the Sunday programme to concentrate much more on that?
Rather than show interview after interview on the professional game without any action, they should be letting fans see more of the Premiership.
Clearly, that would involve them spending a bit more money and sending proper camera crews to the matches, doing the required production and editing, but this is now their product which they should be promoting.
All we get is a snippet or two featuring a try from every Premiership game – often looking as if it’s been done on a camera phone – which is scant indeed and hardly satisfactory. It’s just skipping over the surface.
Sure, the choice was either show the Premiership or wave the white flag as a sports broadcaster, but their Sunday programme ought to be far more about the competition they do have – and far less of a talking shop on almost everything else which they don’t.
As it stands, what was once something of a flagship programme for rugby in Wales and for the BBC, has become a virtual turn-off.