An article I wrote for A-level on the language of Football commentators

This was an excercise that I did back in the old days (well about two years ago) at college. The task was to write an article on something to do with language. So I chose what I’m passionate about… Football! I found it earlier, and thought I’d just put it on here 🙂 This article of mine is about Soccer for any of you American readers.


Should we be worried about the Language adopted by the most famous and recognisable football commentators on well-known broadcasting channels?


People all over the world listen to football commentaries and all types of individuals, classes, gender or age. Football is a dominant sport world wide, adored and worshipped by die hard football fans. If football is such an influential sport then should the language set an example to football fans, or indeed set an excellent example to other countries of our language?

There are some that say that in public life and in the media, there are standards to maintain. In the case of the ‘Linguistic Police’, the subject of the language of which commentators decide to use is a massive problem. They detest sentence structure which is ‘poor’ in their view and clichés are infuriating to many audiences.

An example of the atrocious sentence structure is from the historic Manchester United 8-2 Arsenal match, the commentator on BBC Radio Live 5 (whose identity will be hidden for his own safety) decided to say “Down the left side” which is a rule breaker in the English Language bible. When a sentence is structured, especially in describing something, most simple sentences must include a Subject, Object and a Verb. In the example of the offender above, he uses a preposition ‘Down’, ‘The’ being the definite article and ‘left side’ is an adjective. From a linguists point of view this is outrageous, they would ask “Where is the Verb!?” Don’t be silly, we don’t need the Verb in this context.  Maybe in his spare time this culprit revises the English Language bible, but it just evaporates when he’s under pressure speaking to millions of people and needs to keep up with the game in real time to inform us the audience about what is happening.

We are all aware that the fashion for football commentators is their use of clichés. Many people get irritated by the clichés used by commentators. Admittedly, some are very irritating for example ‘On paper…’ Possibly one of the most recognised and most heard cliché. I personally dislike the use of it. It was used frequently by Mr Andy Gray and I find it very biased. Football is about what happens on the pitch, not on ‘paper’. There is no contribution to trying to make the game more exciting because surely that is one of the main jobs for a football commentator? Tension builds and excitement rises when the game is about to begin and then the cliché is used and then you feel as if the game has been decided and is too predictable… Thanks Andy.  ‘That’s a great cross but no one was there.’ Is another cliché that annoys people. If a ‘crosser’ has crossed a ball then surely it’s his job to pick out a player? This just seems discriminating to any player attempting to get to the ball, you assume there is no error from the crosser which there obviously is if no one receives the ball.

So should there be some kind of guidance for our Football Commentators? Well, I’m going to propose some techniques that I believe to be of great importance when commentating. This will be based on the professionals and what we want to hear, not what the ‘Lovers of the English Language’ aka The Language Police see as important.

 ‘TERMS AND CONDITIONS’ of being a professional football commentator

1. You MUST know the footballing terms, Such as Specialised Language ‘Penalty-Area’, the overused clichés in football ‘A game of two halves’ and learn common words used in football, some being Curl and Foul.

2. You as the commentator SHOULD exaggerate everything. You have to shout non stop and get over excited to make the part of the game you’re speaking about seem like it’s one of the most amazing sights you have ever seen and experienced.

3. You MUST know the names of football teams, stadiums and more importantly the players, Such as ‘Arsenal’, ‘The Emirates’ and ‘Van Persie’. Depending what the player has done you only use their full name if they score.


4. You MUST not use highly intellectual language. You are describing football to all types of people, different educated ability audience.

5. Your voice MUST not be Monotone. You MUST vary in pitch, High and Loud at times to show your admiration. After all, no one wants to listen to someone lacking passion and sounding like a robot.

*Terms and Conditions Apply

So, let’s put all the right and wrongs aside and focus on the game. The main focus of football commentaries is the football being played. No-body is bothered about how the commentator sounds or how the commentator speaks. We want to hear what is happening in the game, we aren’t concentrating on the language of which the commentator decides to use. Football is a sport for anybody in the world and I for one do not care about the language. At the time I’m listening to the sport I love, I have too much thought about the game.

Nobody cares whether a commentator squeals excitedly down the microphone like a little boy receiving his first bicycle, Nor whether they elongate some words or even the fact that commentators don’t use the correct sentence structure.

Football Commentaries has two sides to the argument on language used or should I say ‘A game of two halves’. There needn’t be two halves to the dispute when the language isn’t important, the football is.

By T. J. Blake


4 thoughts on “An article I wrote for A-level on the language of Football commentators

  1. Great article! I’m doing currently doing a research project for English Language (AQA board), and was wondering if you could give me some tips on your own experience (hopefully not TOO long ago to forget) or perhaps just your thoughts on English Language itself.

    1. Well thank you 🙂
      Well it was a while ago but I do English Language currently at University, (minoring it however)
      What do you want to know?
      First of all I can tell you there isn’t much of a shift from a-level to degree level!

  2. A really great article!! Am currently doing an undergraduate thesis on “sports language style” specifically football commentaries. i would be really glad if you could help me out with anything based on your experience.. thanks

    1. Thank you, I’m glad you like the article. Do feel free to ask any questions and I’ll do my best to help. Alternatively, feel free to quote my article if you need to in your undergraduate thesis.

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