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Opinion: RTÉ should apologise for their treatment of John Giles

The veteran pundit said he was “very disappointed” not to be analysing the Ireland-Scotland game this weekend.

John Giles has analysed on RTÉ over the course of four decades.
John Giles has analysed on RTÉ over the course of four decades.

THEY SAY THAT familiarity breeds contempt and the old truism certainly appears to explain RTÉ’s treatment of John Giles in recent days.

The station had denied dropping John Giles from the panel for Saturday’s game between Ireland and Scotland, releasing a statement on Wednesday, which read:

“John will not be on the panel for Saturday’s coverage of Ireland’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Scotland but this is quite normal as the panel changes regularly for editorial, scheduling and availability reasons.”

However, speaking on Off the Ball last night, Giles appeared to contradict the station’s excuse for neglecting to include the 74-year-old pundit on the panel for the weekend’s game, suggesting that the situation was anything but ‘normal’.

The Irish footballing legend said he was “very disappointed” with RTÉ’s decision, confirming that he was eager to appear on Irish TV screens on Saturday.

“I made it very, very clear that I was available and I wanted to do the match,” he said. “There is a contractual situation where I’m contracted to do a certain amount of matches, and I have fulfilled the obligation for those matches. But we’ve always been very flexible on matches that we’ve done, and could do more and do less.”

While Giles had been contacted by an RTÉ producer, he expressed disappointment that the Head of Sport, Ryle Nugent, had not called to explain the decision to him.

Moreover, there was considerable dissatisfaction with the decision on social media and within RTÉ itself — Giles revealed that fellow analysts Eamon Dunphy and Liam Brady had attempted to dissuade the RTÉ hierarchy from denying the former Leeds player the chance to analyse the Irish match.

Therefore, clearly, the situation is not as harmonious as RTÉ implied in their press release earlier this week. There has, it seems, been a lack of communication at the top level, prompting a situation that appears to have caused embarrassment for all concerned.

Irrespective of anyone’s views on Giles as a pundit, there is no question he deserved to be treated better. He clearly was passionate about the upcoming match, saying he would have been willing to work free of charge to cover the game, so for the decision makers at RTÉ to not even give him the courtesy of a phone call explaining their decision doesn’t sit well. There is nothing wrong with the station opting to give a younger analyst, such as Richie Sadlier, a chance to cover a big game, but the lack of transparency in the process has upset Giles and many other neutral observers.

For someone who has given four decades of service to the national broadcaster, they should be doing their utmost to offer Giles the respect he deserves as his career reaches its twilight years. Instead, Giles seems as baffled as the rest of us by the decision, and still has not been given a proper explanation as to why he was dropped or rotated, as the channel presumably still claims.

RTÉ, to their credit, gave Giles’ long-term colleague, the late Bill O’Herlihy, a fitting send off when he retired amid the culmination of the 2014 World Cup last summer. Giles has now indicated that his future with the station is uncertain, with the pundit’s current quota of games to cover reaching an end.

But let’s hope, for everyone’s sake, that the analyst’s relationship with the station does not conclude in these acrimonious circumstances, and that he also gets given a proper send-off when the time eventually does come for Giles to hang up his microphone.

At the very least though, the former Ireland manager deserves an apology from the station for their failure to call him with a proper explanation for their decision, and for the poor handling of the situation in general.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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