'Boring' Phil Neville could be dropped from BBC World Cup team
The BBC has cast doubt on whether Phil Neville will continue to commentate if England reach the first knockout round of the tournament after hundreds of people took to Twitter to complain about his monotonous tone
Phil Neville could be dropped from the BBC’s live commentary team if England reach the last 16 of the World Cup after a welter of complaints about his “boring” style during the team’s defeat by Italy.
The BBC said it had not yet decided who would provide expert commentary if England reach the first knockout round of the tournament - the next England match to which the BBC would have live broadcast rights.
The corporation insisted he remained an “important, well respected” member of its team, but privately questions have been asked about why the former England midfielder was not more thoroughly road-tested before making his World Cup commentary debut.
Neville’s monotonous contribution to the England v Italy commentary on Saturday night was widely ridiculed on social networking sites, where he was compared to a robot, a computer and a “Dignitas satnav”.
One fan compared his voice to the computer HAL-9000 from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, while another described his style as “staccato monotone in boring minor”.
Mark Steel, the comedian, said: “If the entire stadium burns down, Phil Neville will mumble: 'Well, that’s what flames can do. If they’re not marked.’
Tom Foot asked: “Is Phil Neville doing the shipping forecast?”
Yesterday he took the comments on the chin, writing on his Twitter page: “1st live co-comm last night - sometimes u have to take the criticism - it will only make me better - thanks for the feedback (ahhahaha)!”
The BBC could not provide details of how many viewers rang its switchboard to complain, as weekend figures only become available on Mondays.
But responding to questions about whether Neville would still be behind the microphone for the next live England game, a spokesman said: “Everything for the final 16 will be decided much closer to the time.”
Critics suggested the BBC’s decision to use Neville showed the flaws in its policy of favouring “big names” over seasoned professionals such as Mark Lawrenson.
The BBC said Neville, who is understood to have been hired by Head of TV Sport Philip Bernie, had been given training before he was allowed on air.
In a statement, the BBC said: “Phil is an important, well respected member of our team and will continue to play a key role throughout the tournament, both as a studio guest and match commentator.”
He will also be the co-commentator for highlights of both England v Uruguay on Thursday and the match against Costa Rica on Tuesday 24th, both of which will be shown live on ITV.