James Richardson: “As much as podcasts have grown I think we are still very much at the tip of the iceberg in terms of their potential”

James Richardson is a football broadcaster and journalist known for hosting the iconic Football Italia in the 90’s as well as the Champions League Goals Show more recently. To read an interview where he talks in length about these and football in general click here. When his face isn’t on your screen his voice is in your ears as the host of several podcasts, from The Totally Football Show to Truth and Movies.

Richardson began his journey into podcasting as the host of The Guardian’s The World Cup Show, covering all the highs and lows of the 2006 World Cup. Following its huge success the show evolved into The Guardian Football Weekly, a twice-weekly show featuring Richardson as host and a selection of journalists discussing the week’s football news.

It was during his 11 years there that he cemented his reputation as a broadcaster who can seamlessly integrate puns and humour into his work. This ability was a major factor in building the large following the show amassed, allowing the team to play several sellout venues across the UK. In 2017 he decided to call time on his time at The Guardian to start his own production company, Muddy Knees Media, with long time producer Ben Green and former guest Iain Macintosh. Their first podcast? Football, obviously, entitled The Totally Football Show.

“It was a little bit of a leap in the dark although we weren’t reinventing ourselves particularly. I guess we felt that people would still be listening but we have been really happy with the response and the number of listeners we get. The world cup made a big difference, we threw a lot at it and our listenership seems to have grown. I’m really happy with how things are going. Not just with listenership but also after a year of doing this we have met and been able to bring in lots of different kinds of people and some fresh ideas.”

There were few surprised when Richardson announced in December 2017 a Italian football podcast, Golazzo. “The thing about Golazzo is, because of Italian football in the 90’s on Channel 4, there is a sentiment for that period and Serie A in general. I’m aware of the wealth of stories there are to tell about Italian football.”

Would he expand his empire to cover the top 5 European leagues? Perhaps not. “I’m not sure you would have the same kind of built in audience for say a La Liga show or a Bundesliga show. We get about 60,000 an episode for Golazzo which is a very healthy listenership. As much as podcasts have grown I think we are still very much at the tip of the iceberg in terms of their potential and the way that people can use them as a forum and a way of covering different sports and leagues.”

“In the same way that we have shifted across from watching linear tv to basically sitting on things like Netflix, Apple tv, and streaming boxsets, I think increasingly people won’t be tied down to radio schedules but instead just pick up audio on demand. It is much easier if you are commuting or making a car journey rather than listening to whatever happens to be playing on the radio, so you can follow things that you are interested in. Or even things that you have no interest in at the start but in half an hour or an hour will give you an understanding of a subject you’ve never previously known about.”

“The potential of podcasts is huge. They’re so cheap to make and they tend to be free to download. The percentage of the population that is even aware of them or let alone used them is still relatively small. It isa huge area of growth that we are going to see.”

There is the crux of the problem. Podcasts have the potential to change the way people listen to audio shows, but how to advertise them in a way that would attract new listeners? “For our podcast we don’t particularly advertise it, it’s more of a word of mouth thing.”

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“I think for podcasts in general it’s something that more and more people are becoming aware of like ‘what is that icon on my home screen saying podcasts?’. I guess it’s a generational thing as well as more young people are into them. Generally though people are becoming more and more aware of the potential that they have. The new ways of enjoying content.”

“In the same way that years ago nobody knew what an Apple tv was or downloadable tv content was and now it’s become completely normal. Even my mother will watch boxsets. It takes time. There was such a traditional way of consuming television and radio content that it takes time for people to switch across.”

“In terms of how we advertise that’s a tricky one. I don’t know how you do it. We don’t particularly have an advertising budget we rely as I say very much on word of mouth. At a guess I would think that you’ll start to see a lot more podcasts advertising on other podcasts. This happens already I know we have had adverts for another show on our podcast. I think there will be a lot more cross-pollination that way.”

“The thing about podcasts at the moment is that they are two different kinds: the ones attracted to the fact that podcasts are a very democratic kind of thing and they don’t need to be tied in with a production company or have a big budget, you can put something out with very little expense; then you do have increasingly companies such as Apple or Spotify who are getting involved and they will start, if they aren’t already, doing major pushes to get people aware of what they are doing.”

“Stuff like that, while advertising one podcast in particular, will be advertising the whole idea of podcasting in general. For example Serial’s huge success woke a huge section of the population up to what podcasts are, what their potential is, and the sort of stories you can tell. Maybe people thought it was just a sports thing or like a blog, but the fact that you can get drama which is almost unputdownable really pushed the whole field forward.”

“I think that people like Apple as they get involved in this will want to expand the market as fast as possible which will hopefully bring many people with them.”

Hamilton victory is Russia spoiled by team orders

Lewis Hamilton is now 50 points ahead of rival Sebastian Vettel in the battle for a fifth world championship after a victory in the Russian Grand Prix. The Brit’s race was shrouded in controversy as Mercedes ordered teammate Valtteri Bottas to let him past on lap 25 in order to secure a Hamilton win.

With only five races left, the championship is no longer Vettel’s to win, only Hamilton’s to lose. Vettel could come first in all remaining races but still come second in the standings.

The beginning of the race saw intense battling at the front of the grid but no major positional changes. Hamilton had a slow start but managed to use Bottas’ slip stream to avoid being overtaken by Vettel. Further back in the grid both Torro Rosso’s retired in the opening laps after independently spinning out.

Aside from Verstappen storming through the field after a back row start, the excitement died down until the first pit stops. On lap 12 Bottas came into the pits, followed by Vettel a lap later. During this time Hamilton began setting fastest sector times and it seemed he could move into first place, but the Williams of Sergey Sirotkin held him up wasting valuable seconds.

When Hamilton pitted on lap 14 the question was no longer ‘would he come out in the lead?’, but ‘would he come out third to Vettel?’. As the Mercedes emerged from the pit lane he saw the Ferrari of Vettel next to him, and then ahead of him as they went into the first corner. “How did that happen?” he asked. Was Ferrari’s strategy finally coming together?

Hamilton is not a driver to sit back and watch as important points go to his biggest rival and immediately began attacking the German. On lap 16 the Mercedes went to move down the inside but the defence from the Ferrari almost led to a collision, the quick reactions of Hamilton the only thing preventing one.

Several corners later he finally managed to get the better of Vettel and moved into third place, behind his teammate and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who had yet to pit. As the laps progressed the Mercedes team began to notice blistering to Hamilton’s tires and gave orders to Bottas to let him through on lap 25 to protect the team’s interests.

Verstappen pitted on lap 43 and the top three stayed in those positions for the remainder of the race. Bottas asked towards the end if they were going to finish in these positions, hoping to be given back the place he gave up. In response he was told: “Affirm, we will talk about it afterwards.”

After the race Hamilton said: “Valtteri did a fantastic job all weekend and he was a real gentleman to let me by. It has been a great weekend for the team. Usually I would be elated, but I can understand how difficult it was for Valtteri.”

The next race takes place on 7th October at the incredible Suzuka circuit in Japan. If Vettel cannot take significant points from Hamilton, the championship is all but over.

James Richardson: “The staple of English pundits that float around don’t really have any expertise to bring to it”

James Richardson is a football broadcaster, podcast host, and journalist who specialises in Italian league Serie A. His love for all things Italian was sparked by a girl he met in Rome, 1990, which resulted in him learning the language and the league. That girl started a chain of events ultimately creating one of the greatest football shows of all time, Channel 4’s Football Italia.

26 years after it debuted, Football Italia still holds a place in the hearts of those who watched it every week. “There were a unique combination of circumstances in the early 90’s that caused it to be successful and the biggest factor of them all was Paul Gascoigne. Everyone was desperate to see just how he would get on in Italy.” Says Richardson.

“On one hand, because it was the biggest test an English footballer could have at the time and secondly because he hadn’t played anywhere in 18 months.” Gascoigne missed the entire 1991/92 season after suffering a ruptured cruciate ligament in his right knee while playing for Tottenham Hotspur. During his recovery, there was a media circus about whether he would sign for Italian club Lazio or not, which he eventually did for £5.5 million.

“We were all really interested to see how he would do, whether he was still Gazza. So you have that and the fact that it was essentially the only football that was on TV because Sky had just taken the English First Division away.”

“It was also in Italy where we had just had a really successful World Cup with Italia 90. There was a great vibe around those stadiums, those same grounds where we had seen the World Cup take place. All the big stars of that World Cup were still playing there. It felt almost like a window into another world of football.”

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“You wouldn’t have those things now, not least because everyone’s schedule is saturated by football.” That certainly is one of the difficulties for the modern football fan, a wealth of options and limited time makes it difficult to know what to watch. “I think certainly for Football Italia, doing a proper highlights show with context of who these players are and what these games mean is something that we really don’t see all that much of on TV [nowadays].”

“We don’t get a proper Spanish show or a proper Italian show. We were doing something along those lines on BT with the European Football Show before it was cancelled, but there will always be a place for a show like Football Italia.”

Nowadays you can find Richardson on BT Sport’s Champions League Goals Show. Hosted on BT Sport 1 it has a panel of experts, one for each of the top European leagues, who watch all the night’s games giving opinions and analysis on the action as it happens. The most attractive aspect of the show is that every goal is shown, allowing the viewer to have a rounded knowledge of the week’s action.

Having a panel of experts rather than pundits was something Richardson was adamant about from the outset. “Whilst a former pro can give you a unique insight on how to play the game, when you’re dealing with foreign matches there is no point in having someone with only a cursory knowledge, or someone who has just read some research notes into a fixture. They won’t be able to give you anything beyond truisms, whereas an expert or journalist will be able to really bring you information that you wouldn’t otherwise get.”

“Unless the pundit is someone who has maybe played at that club ten years before, most of the time you’ll be giving them more information than they are giving you, which is not really the right dynamic for pre-game or post-game analysis. I’m really a strong believer that pundits can be ex-players, only ex-players can know what it’s like to be on the pitch, but equally, in terms of summing up a game it’s not like they are the only one who can do it.”

“If you were to buy a newspaper and all the match reports were written by ex-pros, I don’t know how much fun that would be. We trust journalists to do the job of reporting and analysing in print and in other forms of media so why punditry should only be the province of former players is something that I’m not clear on.”

“I guess that’s just the way it’s always been done but particularly as I say with foreign matches, the staple of English pundits that float around don’t really have any expertise to bring to it. It made total sense to use people that actually know and understand what these games are and BT was completely on board with that.”

With the results of the show being so positive there have been calls to introduce experts and journalists to other programs such as Match of the Day. “I think everyone in the country has a view on what they would do if they were in charge of it and it’s difficult because it kind of belongs to everyone.”

“Equally it’s extremely difficult to plot an editorial course that’s going to upset the least amount of people, but I do think you could do that more with shows like that. It is a show that, in as much as they try and do other things, has a lot of things they haven’t tried to do yet.”

Another potential opportunity is for Match of the Day, highlight type, shows of different European leagues. “I think one of the issues is an audience for that because things are getting increasingly fragmented. Sky did have the rights for La Liga and then they, for whatever reason, decided it wasn’t a viable thing. BT got rid of the European Football Show and I guess [the] audience was probably a significant reason for that.”

“I think now that everyone watches television on demand it means that people can catch up whenever they want. So I absolutely think there is room for a highlights show for things like the Italian and Spanish leagues. Everyone loves to see Italian or Spanish goals but most people would struggle to find 90 minutes of their Saturday or Sunday night to sit down and watch two foreign teams in a league which they might not have too much skin in themselves.”

“A properly put together and explained highlights show though is always something that will be popular, perhaps even more so than the live games.”

With BBC, BT Sport, Sky, and now Eleven Sports owning rights to different leagues it is becoming increasingly difficult, and expensive, to keep up to date with what’s going on regardless of the format. “You need three subscriptions now to watch the biggest leagues. I think it must be really hard for the average viewer. It costs me a fortune but then it’s kind of what I do anyway.”

“Then again if you go back 20 or 30 years nobody really expected to be able to watch all of these things on TV. We had a brief period in which suddenly there was everything all over the place and now we are reverting to an era in which you maybe specialise in one league. There’s no question about it though, it is frustrating for a lot of people to not be able to follow the sport they love in different countries.”

Europe comfortably beat US 17.5-10.5 to regain the Ryder Cup

Francesco Molinari beat Phil Mickelson 4 and 2 for the winning point as Europe regained the Ryder Cup on an exciting final day at Le Golf National. The Italian golfer and Open champion became the first European to achieve a perfect haul of five points in one Ryder Cup as he took Europe to the 14.5 point mark. Following the victory he was drenched in beer by the celebrating European fans and said that it “means more than winning majors”.

It was not always so comfortable for the European team though. Having come into the final day with a 10-6 lead, and needing just four and a half more points out of 12 to win, they lost three of the first five singles matches. The lead now stood at a single point, and the USA could almost taste their first Ryder Cup win on European soil since 1993.

One of those matches was Justin Thomas vs Rory McIlroy. McIlroy was favourite to win the matchup and led for large spells until his ball landed in the bunker on the 18th hole. His first bunker shot went nowhere positive and his second, with increasing desperation, went into the lake. The Northern Irishman looked dejected as the point went to the United States.

The European team needed to bounce back quickly if they wanted to be victorious and that’s exactly what they did. Rookie Thorbjørn Olesen shocked pundits by beating Jordan Speith in a comfortable 5 and 4 win for his first point, leading the charge as the blues got six points out of a possible final seven to regain the Ryder Cup.

In the process Sergio Garcia surpassed Sir Nick Faldo as the all-time Ryder Cup points scorer with 25.5 and shed a few tears in the celebrations. “I don’t usually cry, but I couldn’t help it, what a week,” he said. “It’s been a rough year, but we fought hard. I’m so thankful to Thomas Bjorn for believing in me.”

This year’s competition, despite being labelled “the top one” by European captain Thomas Bjorn, was not a joyous occasion for all. 49 year old Corine Remande, who travelled from Egypt to watch the action, got hit by a Brooks Koepka tee shot. She praised Koepka for making sure she was okay but said she downplayed her injuries to make sure he “would stay concentrated”.

Koepka said that “it’s hard to control a golf ball, especially for 300 yards, and a lot of times the fans are close the the fairway. You can yell ‘fore’ but it doesn’t matter from 300 yards, you can’t hear it.”

After thanking Koepka Romande took a moment to criticise the Ryder Cup organisers for not reaching out to make sure she was okay. The Egyptian is seeking legal advice to help cover the cost of the medical treatment she needs.

Talking about the incident she said: “It happened so fast, I didn’t feel any pain when I was hit. I didn’t feel like the ball had struck my eye and then I felt the blood start to pour. The scan on Friday confirmed a fracture of the right eye socket and an explosion of the eyeball.”

Serena Williams’ lack of regret for her US Open behaviour is a step back for the fight against sexism in sport

Serena Williams denies that she was coached from the stands by Patrick Mouratoglou in the US Open Final. This is despite him admitting that he “was coaching but I don’t think she looked at me. Everybody does it.”

Speaking on The Sunday Project on Australia’s Network Ten Williams said “I just don’t understand what he was talking about. I asked him (Mouratoglou) ‘what are you talking about you were coaching? We don’t have signals, we’ve never had signals’.”

“He said he made a motion. So I was like ‘you made a motion and now you told people that you’re coaching me – that doesn’t make sense, why would you say that?’”

“I was on the other side. I didn’t see the motion. It was just a really confusing moment, I think, for him.”

In the final, Williams was penalised three times, once for coaching, once for racquet smashing that resulted in a point penalty, and once for verbal abuse that led to a docked game.

The American told the umpire Carlos Ramos “you will never ever ever be on another court of mine as long as you live.” After the dust settled on the incident she told The Sunday Project “what I’m trying to do most of all is to recover from that and move on.”

It seems that part of the moving on process involved forgetting that certain events took place as Williams chose to ignore questions about whether she regretted breaking her racquet on the court. Remorse for her actions also seems to be absent from that process as neither the umpire or her opponent Naomi Osaka, who was booed to tears during her win, received any form of apology.

This latest interview seems to be more about sweeping the issues under the rug than acknowledging what she said was wrong and growing as a person and athlete. It is interesting that she chose to speak only about the one code violation for which there was at least some argument, and not about her tirade about how she was unjustly treated because she was a woman.

There are many instances of sexism in sport, and having situations like this, where the athlete blames sexism for her own actions or, perhaps, an incorrect call from an umpire, devalues those real claims. It would have been a far greater moment for women’s sport if she admitted that anger got the better of her and apologised. She could have then used the limelight as a platform to get a proper discussion about sexism going.

Instead we are just pretending that none of what she said actually happened and the tennis world is even more divided than it already was. It is a shame as this could have been the beginning of a large step forward, rather than a small step back.

Anthony Joshua retains world heavyweight titles after knockout win against Povetkin

Anthony Joshua resumed his incredible knockout run after a stunning seventh round victory against Alexander Povetkin at Wembley. Povetkin, who has lost just once in 35 fights against Wladimir Klitschko, looked as if he could defeat Joshua with some impressive combinations in the earlier rounds. Joshua weathered the storm though, and gradually grew into the match as his opponent tired.

Half way through the seventh round Joshua landed a brutal right hook that dazed his opponent enough to land a heavy follow up with his left. Povetkin was now staggering and unable to hold his guard. More combinations rocked the Russian before a left and right hook send him crashing to the floor.

After falling over twice trying to get up, Povetkin rose to his feet as the count reached nine. However it would have been foolish to think this was now over. Joshua himself had been in this position against Klitschko but fought back to win, keeping focused was pivotal to see out this bout. He said before the fight that he feared losing to that “one punch”, Povetkin was a fighter who had the ability to turn a fight with just that.

It took less than ten seconds from the restart though for referee Steve Gray to intervene. Povetkin slumped into the ropes after a powerful left hook before ultimately tumbling to the floor again. Joshua had done what Klitschko could not manage five years prior, a win by TKO against the mighty Russian.

After the fight Joshua said: “Povetkin is a very tough challenger, he proved that with good left hooks and counter punches. I came in here to have fun, and give it my best. I knew he was strong to the head but weak to the body. I was just mixing it up.”

“It could have been seven, maybe nine, maybe 12 rounds to get him out of there, but the ultimate aim was to be victorious.”

The victory for Joshua comes less than a day after the WBC champion Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury sealed the deal for their fight on 1st December. The next fight for the Englishman comes on 13th April back at Wembley, with the opponent yet to be decided.

“I’ve carried the burden of the heavyweight division for some years now,” Joshua said. “It was all about me fighting Wilder, fighting Fury, fighting Klitschko, fighting Dillian, fighting Povetkin. That’s all they were interested in, me fighting them all.

“I will always knock them down, one by one, but people have to be patient. I’m happy Wilder and Fury are fighting and good luck to both of them. I have no interest in who wins. I’ll fight both of them.”

Who he fights will have to be decided before the pair clash in LA later this year. “I don’t want to wait until December for him to win the fight, have his rest and then start negotiating because I’ll start training for the fight in early January,” Joshua said. “I want to get the fight pencilled in as soon as possible, this side of Christmas so I know what I’m doing next year.”

European golf champion murdered in Iowa

Collin Daniel Richards has been charged with murder only hours after rising Spanish golfer Celia Barquín Arozamena was found dead on a golf course in Iowa, USA. Aged just 22, Barquín won the European Ladies Amateur Championship in Slovakia this July after shooting a course-record 63.

She was found by police at the Coldwater Golf Links in Ames after golfers discovered an unattended golf bag on the course early Monday morning and alerted authorities. A police report determined that Barquín had died following an assault.

Originally from Spain, she came to the United States to study Civil Engineering and became a rising talent in the amateur golf world. Her university, Iowa State had named her Female Athlete of the Year and said the following about her passing: “Celia had an infectious smile, a bubbly personality and anyone fortunate enough to know her was blessed. Our Cyclone (team nickname) family mourns the tragic loss of Celia, a spectacular student-athlete and ISU ambassador.”

Her victory in the European Championship allowed her the opportunity to break into professional golf with invitations to the British and US Opens next year. Nacho Gervás, a technical director for the Spanish Golf Federation, said to El País newspaper: “She was a player who was heading for the very top, without a doubt.”

Barquín was part of the Spanish team that achieved a second and third place finish in the European Amateur Team Championships in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Ranked number 69 nationally by magazine Golfweek, she also became the second women’s golfer in Iowa State history to earn a medal at a conference tournament when she claimed the 2018 Big 12 Championship in April.

ISU’s head women’s golf coach Christie Martens said Barquín was “loved by all her teammates and friends” and was an “outstanding representative of our school.”

“We will never forget her competitive drive to be the best and her passion for life.”