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To tie or knot..?

Roger Mosey | 15:14 UK time, Tuesday, 22 April 2008

A dress code is not the first thing you associate with sport: the action's more important than the frippery. But it can actually be a bit of a minefield.

I was recently at a Premier League club lunch - which said on the ticket "no jeans or trainers" - and the club chairman had to go personally to rescue a VIP who'd been refused entry because he was wearing, err, jeans and trainers.

And as we've seen in recent days with Ian Wright's criticism of the BBC's alleged "jacket and tie" format, the question of what our presentation teams wear on air can be controversial too.

It isn't at the top of viewers' complaints list, but there's a steady stream of comment through the year about presenters' attire. Royal Ascot is always a polarising experience because of the need for our team to wear hats - and the men's toppers are generally less controversial than the women's more free-form creations.

But for men in general the debate often boils down to "tie or no tie?" - with some viewers arguing that suits and ties are the expected turn-out for major sporting occasions.

BBC commentators and presenters, 1966 World Cup

I confess my personal view is on the liberal side. I like presenters to feel comfortable in what they're wearing; and for landmarks like the Beijing Olympics, where our team will be on-air for long periods in a city with high heat and humidity, it would be unreasonable of us to expect them to look like they're dressed for an English country wedding.

But we do sometimes get letters and e-mails during the Six Nations, for instance, about the rugby team, who are fans of open-necked shirts, comparing them unfavourably with other sports where the panel wear ties for big events.

So we'd be interested in your views. Should we ship out the ties to Vienna for Euro 2008? Or are t-shirts OK for the Olympics? But Ascot is the one occasion where we can't promise to relax the dress-code for fear of being directed, sharpish, towards the exit...


  • Comment number 1.

    I'm almost sure that 90% of people watching wouldn't bat an eyelid if presenters just wore jeans and a t-shirt. There will always be people who cling onto traditions such as wearing the suit and tie, but it is rather silly to demand that presenters have to be uncomfortable just to please these few.

    I can't claim to watch much sport on the BBC other than football, but Match of the Day is very much a casual analysis of the games and a strict dress-code just isn't needed.

  • Comment number 2.

    maybe it would be nice to see some of the presenters in shirt and tie, but what i definately dont want to see is the whole of John Inverdale's torso! button up your shirt!

  • Comment number 3.

    Is the BBC in mid life crisis? Asking your friends what to wear at your age? Now that maturity and experience have roughened your once polished edges, how do you move with the times yet not alienate your audience? My humble advice as an aging sports fan would be to learn from your life lessons: be true to who you are and cease trying so damn hard to be something you're not.

  • Comment number 4.

    Ian Wright is a very outspoken man, but he never says anything less than what he sees and I do feel he has a point. The Match of the day format has been unchanged for years, with the same three presenters saying the same things. While I accept the format does have some purpose, football is split between skills and tactics on the pitch and so having programs solely concentrating on the tactics show only half the story. There is little "in the action" type of coverage.
    Suit or tracksuit choice is not just the studio though, its the same on the touchline!

  • Comment number 5.

    As long as the clothes are appropriate, unoffensive and/or don't show strong allegiance to a particular athlete/team then I don't mind what they wear. For example, Gary Lineker wearing a Cardiff shirt for the FA Cup final would obviously be wrong, so would him being dressed as a schoolgirl. I don't think there is much danger of that though.

    I couldn't really say I have ever been annoyed or put off by what someone is wearing on any BBC Sport programme as you tend to stick to fairly simple clothing which isn't really controversial (that's not a criticism). As you say, I think the most important thing when it comes to what they are wearing is that the person is comfortable. If they are not, then they will be distracted and so what they are saying and doing will be affected which is far more important.

    Without sounding like Trinny and Susannah, I think the middle ground of smart casual, i.e. smart trousers/jeans and a shirt, is usually the best way to go and perhaps in the biggest events such as the final of a conpetition, then they should dress in slightly more formal wear but still not going over the top so it looks like they are getting married. The middle ground makes it a relaxing and entertaining atmosphere without taking away any credibility and respectability from the programme. There is no point in trying to set a new fashion trend or break the mould of sports broadcasting attire.

    As I say, I don't care too much, as long as it doesn't distract the viewer or affect the quality of the coverage then they can wear what they want. To be honest I think the BBC gets it pretty spot on right now.

  • Comment number 6.

    It's an interesting idea that people read so much into what presenters wear when appearing on highlights or live shows. I have to admit that when I heard Ian Wright's comments I thought that his criticism of the 'jacket and tie' format he was criticising not what his fellow presenters wore but the way that the program was presented?

    Correct me if I'm wrong but Wright was a favourite amongst fans because he was different and didn't fit the mould of most presenters. Sometimes he was a little over the top and biased in his views but overall he was a refreshing change from the repetitive analysis of goals and offside decisions offered by the likes of Lee Dixon and Gavin Peacock.

    Fans now have access to more mediums through which to view football and make their own decisions on key occurences and debates. It's fantastic to have a professional view on these and the likes of Alan Hanson and Gordon Strachan are two individuals that always seem to offer pertenant and incisive points of analysis. However, too much viewers are offered the same repetitive half time and post match analysis. They now crave something different.

    Similar to how Andy Gray changed Sky Sports analysis with his on screen graphics i think that the BBC needs to offer something, different, more eye catching and most of all more interesting in order to hold viewer attention.

    I still like it when they wear ties though ;-)

  • Comment number 7.

    Shirts but not necessarily ties are probably best, except for events like the Euro 2008 final where ties really should be worn.

    As long as the presenters are respectable though it doesn't matter too much.

  • Comment number 8.

    I believe that what the commentators/pundits SAY is more important than what they wear; having said that, scruffy jeans wouldn't impress me, but 'smart casual' is surely acceptable? Or should they still be wearing 3 piece suits and shirts with detachable collars and collar studs??

  • Comment number 9.

    Neckwear is dead in many progressive nations; let's put it to bed in the UK too. A ridiculous piece of 17th century foppery. I await correction on the garment's origins but the point stands.

  • Comment number 10.

    To be honest, I don't care what you wear, as long as your comfortable and still giving the viewer what they want. Clothes are irrelevant. Stereotyping at it's best.

  • Comment number 11.

    I'm with Ian Wright on this one some sports presenters look as if they are attending a funeral rather than a football match, this is equally true of Sky's pundits - who on earth wears a suit and tie to a football match.

  • Comment number 12.

    This is the BBC! A treasured national institution. I pay the license fee and therefore demand they wear tweed. All year round! The men are allowed elbow patches.

    But in all seriousness, open necked shirts and trousers or jeans works for me. And the men can wear that as well.

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 14.

    I don't think suit and tie is needed no, but the code of dress on MotD2, with smart casual clothes is probably the best way to go. Keeps it informal enough whilst keeping it looking fairly professional.

  • Comment number 15.

    Fashions change over the years and not even a traditionalist like me can (or would want to) do much about it. But there's an aspect to the dress code that no one has yet dealt with, and that is showing respect for the audience, and the material. Dress in a public situation - and that includes TV - is not just about comfort and tradition but about the way the person or the TV company wants its presenters and the material to be regarded by the audience. Smart casual with open neck shirts and jackets is probably about right for MOTD but the audience may expect more respect for a formal occasion like the European Championships or an important domestic or international match.

    Jacket and tie is one way of demonstrating respect for the audience but they are also marks of the status of the occasion. Care is needed therefore and no single rule will be sensitive enough.

  • Comment number 16.

    If the clothing is an issue there must be something wrong with the coverage - which simply isn't the case. Relaxed is for the best IMO - perhaps adding a tie only for the flagship events such as the final or the Opening Ceremony etc.

    As for Ian Wright - good riddance, never understood why he was hired in the first place.

    I do agree though I prefer the style of the "second generation" of BBC football presenters such as Manish Bhasin and Adrian Chiles too the likes of Lineker, Hansen and co.

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 18.

    People expect certain standards from the BBC. Watching sporting events on the BBC I expect a touch of class, neatness and attention to detail. A presentation that is above what is shown elsewhere on other channels.
    A smart well dressed presenter, and for a male a shirt and tie must be worn.
    What I do not want is to watch a programme with a presenter or guest that looks as though it was a struggle just to get up in the morning and turning up for work was obviously a mighty effort in itself.
    With smartness of dress should also come smartness of thought.
    BBC presenters who are articulate is of equal importance.
    If I want to watch and listen to second rate presenting I have a choice, and all that means is switching to ITV.

  • Comment number 19.

    Ian Wright really should watch Prem League MOTD, they dont wear ties but for England games you want the team to be looking smart.
    I would be bothered what the team wears at the Olympics, they can wear Olympic t-shirts if they want but they should wear something that has the BBC Sport Logo on.

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 21.

    Most companies now have a smart casual dress code in their offices. So you can wear chinos and a polo shirt if you want. Is it not about time BBC moved with the times? Why on earth do the presenters wear suits and ties to the cup final. Do the supporters dress up for the big day? No. It is still only a football match, not a wedding or a funeral. The MOTD and MOTD2 dress code should be applied to all sporting events immediately.

  • Comment number 22.

    The BBC's football dress-code is the most relaxed out of all channels. They ditched the jackets a couple of years ago on MotD, and ties are rarely seen. Ian Wright got it wrong. It was also amusing to see that he 'resigned' yet he wasn't going to Euro 2008 and the BBC have no England games to show until the 2010 FIFA World Cup!

    In my opinion the current dress style across the BBC for all sports is just right.

  • Comment number 23.

    MOTD is an after event discussion programme now as much as it is a highlights show so to that extent open neck shirts are about right.

    Going to a rugby match, you wouldn't dream of wearing shirt and tie, unless corporate involvement so no reason for the BBC to be in shirt and tie either.

    The up coming Olympics, Shirt and tie to show the appropriate respect for the ceremonies, but for the variety of sports to be shown, a smart casual "uniform" of an open neck shirt for the main presenter and polo shirts for the analysts/pundits all with the Rings and BBC logo, worn over chinos/khakis.

    For the GP next season, if the presentation continues from the pit lane then practicality comes to the fore. Definitely not Shirt and tie!

  • Comment number 24.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 25.

    The BBC should relax all dress code asap.
    For the about doing what Charlie Cox and Steve Parrish do, they wear short sleeve shirts with the BBC Sport Logo and they look incredibly smart.
    How about that?
    All presenters wear something that has the BBC Sport Logo on for any sport like shirts, polo shirts, jumpers, caps and even umbrellas (espesh for Wimbers)

  • Comment number 26.

    Firstly, thanks for the opportunity to comment on this issue. Personally, I’ve always wondered what on earth a tie is for. I mean it dangles in soup, catches in car windows and often highlights worse taste than the Scissor Sisters dressing in the dark.

    It doesn’t really matter to me what presenters wear so long as they look, well, presentable. Better a comfortable, laid back presenter who can concentrate on his or her job in a hot studio than somebody dissolving in front of us imitating a 1930s newsreader. That said, if Wrighty wants to wow us with his bling and style, bring it on!

  • Comment number 27.

    Agree with the Adrian Childs comment – his attitude and presenting manner is spot on. I also think John Inverdale has got it right. Also (and I’m not just saying this because it’s the Beeb), I can’t stand the Sky style of some pristine, almost clinical studio setting with shirt and ties - it appears so alien to the watching experience of the majority of fans. Yes I want some objectivity in the presenting, but I also want some passion for the occasion and suits and ties doesn’t ever give that impression i.e. they come across as being far too aloof.

  • Comment number 28.

    Rugby players have the excuse for not wearing ties that their necks are too large; on a similar basis footballers could be excused wearing hats.

  • Comment number 29.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 30.

    What about fancy dress? Not for every commentry (that would be plain silly) but maybe just on Sundays? Or for any game involving Chelsea?

  • Comment number 31.

    I think casual is OK. Scruffy I do not like. Designer stubble is definitely scruffy and should be banned.

  • Comment number 32.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 33.

    I can't believe it's something that needs discussion. Presenters should be presentable that doesn't mean they need to look like a city gent or something just that shouldn't be dressed like a dustman (no disrespect to dustmen ,who do a great job especially in Derbyshire, hats off to you).

    Wrighty just put up a smokescreen for the fact that he was a second division pundit at best. I don't see a national outcry at the loss.

  • Comment number 34.

    Ian Wright was no great loss to the BBC football team. Anybody working in a professional capacity in sports presenting who sulks because his team has just lost ought to have been handed his cards as soon as the cameras stopped rolling.

    As for the presenters dress code. If it ain't broke don't fix it. I feel your presenters current mode of dress for your coverage of sport is usually very well judged.

  • Comment number 35.

    I think open collar is fine, ties is too formal nowadays and most presenters don't wear them, except maybe a major final or something like that judgement here is the key for individual events...As for Ian Wright, don't like him as a pundit or presenter, didn't like him as a pundit or presenter and you only saw him during FA cup and England games anyway which is no longer (sadly) on the beeb.

  • Comment number 36.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 37.

    ties are fine, as long as the dresscode is consistant.

    but open collar can actually look better.

    personally i don't care what sports reporters are wearing as long as their contribution to discussion is worthwhile.


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