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”

The charismatic host of The Totally Football Show and Truth & Movies talks about his podcasts and their potential to shape how we listen to audio content


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.”


“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.”

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

The iconic host of Football Italia talks about the show and whether ex-pros or experts are better for analysis games

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.”


“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.”