On Monday, 25th October 2021, Uzmanlar, the Turkish commentator team for Champions League matches, decided to boycott the day’s match between Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig. This decision was made in response to Gary Lineker’s resignation from BBC Sport after 25 years of service.
Gary Lineker had been a prominent figure in British sports journalism for decades, and his departure had a considerable impact on the industry. However, it is Uzmanlar’s decision to boycott the day’s match that has sparked intrigue.
During the pre-match broadcast, Uzmanlar announced that they could not proceed with their commentary as planned. The commentator Serkan Akcan explained that they had decided to boycott the day’s match in support of Lineker, who was regarded as a role model by the team.
The boycott was a sign of solidarity towards Lineker, as well as a protest against the conditions in which commentators work. Akcan conveyed that “Gary Lineker’s resignation is a reminder of how we are sometimes treated as employees. There are numerous issues with the way commentators work, but the most significant concern is the lack of job security.”
The commentary team’s decision was hailed on social media, with many praises for the group’s solidarity and awareness of workers’ rights. It is vital to note that Uzmanlar’s boycott was not a sudden act of defiance. Instead, it was the result of a history of dissatisfaction over working conditions and the treatment of sports commentators.
Sports commentators work under challenging conditions as they need to process and deliver information efficiently within a limited period. They are also required to provide updates to viewers while the game is ongoing. The quality of their work hinges not just on their abilities but on the facilities, equipment and environment provided by their employers.
Despite the challenges and demands, sports commentators often face job insecurity and a lack of fair pay. This issue was highlighted in a report by the Communication Workers Union (CWU) in 2015 on the working conditions of sports broadcasters. The report notes that freelancers in the sector face the worst levels of job insecurity, with approximately 80% having no job security beyond the current event being covered. The situation is worse for women and people from minority backgrounds, who face significant barriers to entry.
The report also notes that many broadcasters offer a minimal level of pay to commentators. Commentators’ wages have remained stagnant for years, with many earning as little as £10,000 a year from freelance broadcasting. It is little wonder that the industry is struggling to attract and retain talent.
Uzmanlar’s decision to boycott the match highlights a broader issue within the sports broadcasting industry. The importance of commentators in sports broadcasting cannot be underestimated. They share the live-action of the game with viewers and engage with fans watching from home. Their knowledge, insights and passion are critical in delivering a high-quality viewing experience to sports enthusiasts.
Sports broadcasters must do more to recognise the importance of commentators’ contribution and address the challenges they face. Job insecurity and a lack of fair pay distract commentators from their work and ultimately affect the quality of the game’s broadcast. Addressing these issues would attract and retain more talent and improve the overall quality of sports broadcasts.
It is essential to acknowledge Uzmanlar’s decision and recognise the broader issue of job insecurity and a lack of fair pay within sports broadcasting. As the industry continues to evolve, it must remain mindful of its responsibility to workers and ensure that commentators, who are central to sports broadcasting, are adequately compensated.
Uzmanlar’s boycott of the Paris Saint-German and RB Leipzig match is a reminder that commentators are an essential aspect of sports broadcasting. Their contribution cannot be underestimated, and their challenges must be recognised and addressed. The sporting industry as a whole must come to an understanding of this issue and seek ways to improve working conditions and wages for commentators.