First on Match of the Day? Be careful what you wish for, warns programme boss

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Supporters who complain about their team never being first on Match of the Day "should be careful what they wish for", according to the BBC's head of football.

Chelsea have appeared in the top slot on the main Saturday night highlights programme five times so far this season, two occasions more than the next nearest team West Ham, but all the Blues' top billings have been defeats as the reigning champions have endured a campaign to forget.

Everton, Stoke, Tottenham and West Brom share the dubious honour of being last on the most times so far - three each.

Mark Cole, the BBC's head of football, is delighted by the interest supporters take in the Match of the Day running order but pointed out sometimes it may be a good thing to be nowhere near the start of the show, especially as the battle to avoid relegation reaches its climax.

Asked if producers were conscious of a need to even things out across the season, Cole told Press Association Sport: "Not at all. Every week is done on its merits.

"I have said it before a couple of times - I think when fans of Hull weren't particularly happy that they never led the programme, for example - that actually, for those clubs that are in the relegation mix, it is a very good thing if you don't lead because when the relegation picture gets interesting, those sorts of games start to go at the top and I think if you don't ever lead Match of the Day, you are safe in the Premier League and there are hundreds of millions (of pounds in television income) coming your way next year.

"So 'be careful what you wish for' might be a rule for some fans!"

Cole explained how the decision over the running order is reached.

"The editor is the key person. On a Thursday probably they will put a draft running order into our script system, so they will have what they think will be the running order both in terms of times of each edit and also the order," he said.

"All that can completely change with the results, but it gives you a bit of an idea, because there is an element of the intrigue around a game, so you can put together your plans of how you think it will look. But then Tottenham-Liverpool, which was Jurgen Klopp's first game - that was top of the running order on a Thursday and Friday, but was a 0-0 game, there was much better fare around the rest of the programme and it ended up being last on the show.

"So essentially, you will have a plan in place, but then once the games happen you will move things around. You have the early game and might move that around the order, then after 3pm, you will know 90 per cent of the games so you can put that there, and then you are just waiting for the final things within the 5.30pm game.

"That is where you have to be a little bit nimble on your feet because there are eight different edit suites and there are producers in those cutting matches to a certain duration, and if you get a storming last game, then suddenly you are ringing around all those suites and saying 'right, we don't want eight minutes, you are going to have to drop that down to seven so we can give the late game some extra time'. So all those decisions are made on the day."


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