The Interview Part I: Spanish football commentator Jon Driscoll

The Interview Part I: Spanish football commentator Jon Driscoll

June 5, 2018 Off By Jamie Donnelly

After nearly 17 years of commentating for Sky Sports, Jon Driscoll’s time has come to an end with the broadcaster.

After finding themselves losing out to Eleven Sports for the new three year cycle of La Liga rights to broadcast in the UK and Ireland, Jon was more than willing to accommodate some time to share with us his thoughts on the recent situation, his time commentating, his views on what is important to the broadcasters, La Liga’s limitations, the obvious strengths it has and how it compares to the English game.

Ever the gentleman, Jon was a privilege to speak with and everyone at is looking forward to hearing his voice on our tv’s again shortly.

The first question on our lips was to dive in to ask Jon about the recent situation with Sky Sports losing the rights to broadcast La Liga in the UK and Ireland, whether it came as a shock and his general thoughts on the issue?

“Signed on three year deals for Spanish rights. Knew it was up. Three years ago had gotten close as BT were interested. Knew Sky were interested and would be bidding. Must say, Sky were surprised they did not get it and were disappointed. Waiting to see what Eleven Sports have in mind. There is certainly a lot of love and following for Spanish football in the UK and Ireland. They have an opportunity to do a lot of interesting things but we simply don’t know what is happening right now. Interesting thing from La Liga point of view is that Premier League rights are sold a year in advance. If a tv company buys the Premier League rights, they have a whole year to sort out everything on the broadcast side. For La Liga however, should a new company come in they are faced with only a few months for turnaround and that’s a hell of a short period of time. It’s extraordinary really. One direct criticism I have of La Liga is that they do need to do that process earlier. It’s ridiculously short turnaround for everybody involved.”

Of course, this is just a perfect example of where La Liga lets itself down in terms of administration?

“They could learn an awful lot yet. La Liga has many great things mainly the quality of the coaching that leads to the base level quality of its players – that’s its main thing really. They could learn an awful lot from the Premier League, the Bundesliga, the American sports leagues about organisation, planning and marketing. They are trying. Tebas has various plans and has various people around the world in different marketplaces who are trying to learn and develop but it is a slow process. This style of networking is a slow business however.”

What about in the past where a game scheduled for a Saturday was changed to Sunday three days before hand?

“They have shuffled forward on this. When I first started doing La Liga, there was a ridiculous situation where I was doing a game on a Saturday and the producer would say I’ll ring you Monday to let you know what there is. Which literally meant we didn’t know a week in advance what games would be broadcasting. Which was a ridiculous situation. Even now though, we still only get a few weeks notice. You compare that to the Premier League where they do it in blocks of about 3 or 4 months. Which makes it so much easier. Its also so much easier if you are selling these rights and you want lots of money, you would have thought it would be bare minimum that for a tv company to know what they’re getting and when they’re getting it. A few months in advance so you can plan it. It’s a big organisation to get a t broadcast of a football match an organise everything that needs to be organised within it. They still do things (big sigh) that need to be improved.”

What about going to games and having a big demand of being in Seville on Friday and then Valencia on Saturday – surely this must be difficult?

“For that very reason (high demand of travel) we do everything in studios now. It’s like an anti-climax – that’s the truth of it. Even the world feed for Spain, they don’t go to the games. It’s a shame because the English game does. Most of those games for Sky are acting as the world feed for everyone else. The days of travelling the world commentating on football are certainly over for now anyway. We never specifically say we are there and never say we’re not there.

Based in Oxfordshire in England. Twitter has been brilliant on that regard. What it allows, you are able to build up a network of Spanish journalists who you follow on Twitter or speak to. So you’ve got that feel because it’s difficult doing it remotely. You are more isolated compared to someone like Sid Lowe, who lives in Madrid. They’re going to games and meeting people, so you end up with a different kind of knowledge. What we end up doing is watching loads of games. So the upside to that is that we have the time to watch all the football matches. Because I have been doing the podcast, I try to watch every game … even if it ends up on fast forward. I get my eyes on every goal and simply wouldn’t be able to do that if I was going to every game live.”

One point of compliment to be made for commentators in general was they avoid the use of expletives and giving out about players. As general supporters, this is commonplace and we are very good for giving out … what about commentators however?

“I’ve never been tempted to swear. You don’t normally either. If you had a new girlfriend and you went around to her house, you wouldn’t swear the first time you met her parents would you? Malcom [Alison] is the only one I can every remember swearing. Weirdly, it went down pretty well. He got sacked for it but they brought him back a few weeks later. The swearing wasn’t the end of him as he got almost universal support from people phoning into the radio station. It was a different thing on a local radio station. We were all pulling together supporting Middlesbrough, all people listening were ‘Boro fans and Malcom had been a ‘Boro manager. Everyone is moving in the same direction; a very different matter altogether from being on Sky where you cant afford this bias. Cup final the other day, you have half the people saying hes a Man United fan, the other half saying hes clearly hates Man United. You cant afford to be biased. You sort of end up with teams that you like in phases. Las Palmas last season under Setien was fun and its easy on the eye so the thinking is, I hope they stick around. It’s nothing like being a fan – it doesn’t ruin your weekend.”

Come back to the site on Wednesday 6th of June for the second part of Jon’s interview, where he discusses how he fell in love with the Spanish game and more.

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