Through the eyes of the few
An interesting battle has been going on at Euro 2008 between Uefa and Swiss and Austrian public broadcasters, one which goes to the heart of who actually produces the images we see on our television screens.
The TV companies say Uefa has been censoring images of the tournament, a claim which is strongly denied by the game's governing body.
Their complaint came after a goal scored by Croatia in their match against Austria. Croatians fans lit flares in celebration, but this image was not shown.
Following a complaint by the Austrian and Swiss broadcasters, Uefa has reacted sharply, saying this decision was not only that of the director of the match coverage but of all broadcasters who were present, and all broadcasters who had access to the feeds.
Uefa says there were 28 unilateral cameras, in addition to 30 cameras from the host broadcaster, all of which were capable of showing any incident. In addition, some 70 TV commentators were also free to comment on events off the pitch.
"Uefa does not dictate to any broadcaster an editorial policy, but on the contrary, allows broadcast partners all the means possible to access a high level of production that allows each broadcaster to adapt its transmission according to its own needs," said an official statement.
"The technical set-up put in place for the tournament simply does not allow for censorship, as Uefa gives the television partners all the means to control their own broadcast."
The nub of this dispute is that in previous tournaments like Euro 2004 in Portugal, the host country also arranged the host broadcaster.
But some people considered the television production of that tournament to be unsatisfactory, so for Euro 2008 Uefa itself is the host broadcaster.
This dispute may seem like a lot of fuss over nothing but it reflects a profound change in the way sports organisations, not just Uefa, want to have their products televised.
Previously, they were content to let a broadcaster come and show the game. Now they not only want to stage the matches but also produce their own pictures - in other words, become a television production company as well.
Although Uefa will not say so publicly, I am told they were never convinced that the Swiss and Austrians had the expertise to televise such an event, and while the hosts may bleat about the coverage, Uefa feel their decision to become a broadcaster is justified.
Another big difference about this tournament is the absence of any of the British national teams for the first time in a European Championship since 1984.
Then, the British media showed little interest as France, led by Michel Platini, won their first major tournament, but this time it is very different.
The British press is providing detailed coverage of Euro 2008, and although some of the stories centre on player transfers, a great deal of space has also been given to match reports, even where there is no Premier League interest.
The absence of the home nations also seems to have led people in Britain to forget about nationalism and just enjoy the football (which has of course been helped by the fact that the football has been of a very high standard).
I experienced the tension-free atmosphere of Euro 2008 at first hand when I went to a small Black Forest village called Badenweiler (not far from where England were based during the 2006 World Cup).
It was fascinating to monitor the nationalities clustered round the huge screen showing the matches every night.
The Germans dominated, but with Basel a short drive away, there were plenty of Swiss and with Alsace just across the border, there were a fair few France fans as well.
The various supporters sat side by side and there was no disguising their enjoyment of the games they were watching.
It was a far cry from the hype when England were in the neighbourhood two years ago and there was not a WAG to be seen.
Yes, it is a pity the UK is not represented at the European Championship, and our teams are being missed, but the tournament can teach us how to enjoy football without using it to parade the more unpleasant side of our patriotism.