It takes a lot more to be a football pundit today than it did a couple of decades ago. Back then, all it took was a former player, who would spout generic lines about their own career and how the game has changed over time to qualify for a cozy weekend gig. Not anymore though; today’s pundits need to know exactly what they are saying lest they be ridiculed on social media.
The internet and social media have completely changed the game for football broadcasting. Fans and viewers can pull up statistics and data for almost any player in any league within seconds, so a pundit saying that player ABC looks lazy and does not do enough off the ball, for example, can be excoriated within minutes on social media with numbers that suggest that in fact, ABC has the highest tackles for his club in the league. This is a fictionalised example, of course, but every one of us can think of instances such as these where pundits have, consciously or otherwise, made a statement based on their own biases or judgements which have been proven incorrect. It is this inability to hide behind bluster and controversy that has been the biggest change in football punditry since the beginning of broadcasting.
This Betway video shows how pundits have to prepare and be well-researched to be taken seriously today. Controversial statements and humour will only help so much; viewers and listeners want to be told something they don’t already know. It is not enough to just state a fact or a statistic; it is the pundit’s job to create the context around that piece of information and try and weave a story as to why it is important to the topic being discussed. Therefore, it also falls upon producers to have a panel that is diverse in terms of viewpoints and opinions; this allows for a natural back and forth between the panelists and creates the story, instead of having a bland, uniform experience. There is, of course, room for humour and even controversy, but that is all secondary to the actual information and debate occurring on the show or podcast. Gone are the days when all it took to be a notable pundit was to have had a strong career as a player; while that is valued today as well, it needs to be backed up with research and knowledge – it is why Danny Higginbotham is considered an excellent pundit despite having had an average playing career, while Graeme Sounness faces ridicule on social media more often than not.