Tonight England face Senegal in the last 16 at the 2022 World Cup and the game will be live on ITV, which should carry some caution for fans.
Sure, since the Three Lions lifted the World Cup in 1966, there have been a handful of semi-finals (and who can forget Le Tournoi?) but in all seriousness, it’s been a series of heartaches for every generation of England fans since 1966.
The anguish that England fans have felt for the last 50+ plus years has arguably been made worse, thanks to how readily available football is on television. Every single match at a World Cup and a Euros is on terrestrial TV in the UK and across two channels meaning that you’d have to try really hard to not even see a single minute of a major tournament.
Every year there is debate as to whether BBC or ITV provide the best coverage – but should we, as England fans, instead focus on which channel the team’s match is being broadcast on, to indicate how they might get on?
‘The ITV Curse’ is something that isn’t often mentioned by England fans, but it is real and something that England fans should be very concerned about, given that England’s semi-final is on ITV. Should they reach the final, that game will be broadcast on both ITV and BBC.
Fans were already concerned before England had even kicked a ball on ITV this winter.
\u201cEngland's World Cup TV record since 1998:\n\nBBC: 12 wins out of 16, 75% win rate\nITV: 2 wins out of 15 games, 13% win rate\n\nEngland v Senegal is on ITV on Sunday \ud83d\ude43\n\nhttps://t.co/uIFPpQmb0L\u201d
\u201cAs the original compiler of the stats behind #ENG\u202f\u202f\u202f #WorldCup #CurseofITV (accept no imitations \ud83d\ude09), can we break the curse tonight? 13% win rate on ITV since 1998 can rise to 19% if #ThreeLions\u202f\u202f\u202f beat Senegal. Come on England!\u201d
\u201cI knew it was a thing but I didn\u2019t know it was that bad a thing! \ud83d\ude25 \n\n\u2018The Curse of ITV\u2019 \n\n#England World Cup games on the BBC, win ratio 71%. On ITV win ratio 19%.\u201d
This ‘curse’ was talked about during the 2018 World Cup when England reached the semi-finals. The match was shown on ITV and resulted in England losing 2-1 to Croatia. This, and the following third-place playoff loss to Belgium, upheld a staggeringly bad set of England results on ITV that stretches back to 1998.
To give you a better example of what we mean, we’ll just list the results of England matches at major tournaments since 1998 and include the channel they were shown in the UK.
World Cup 1998:
England 2 - 0 Tunisia - BBC - Won
Romania 2 - 1 England - ITV - Lost
Colombia 0 - 2 England - BBC - Won
Argentina 2 - 2 England - ITV - Draw (ARG win 4-3 on penalities)
Portugal 3 - 2 England - ITV - Lost
England 1 - 0 Germany - BBC and ITV - Won
England 2 - 3 Romania - BBC - Lost
World Cup 2002:
England 1 - 1 Sweden - ITV - Draw
Argentina 0 - 1 England - BBC - Won
Nigeria 0 - 0 England - BBC - Draw
Denmark 0 - 3 England - BBC - Won
England 1 - 2 Brazil - BBC - Lost
France 2 - 1 England - ITV - Lost
England 3 - 0 Switzerland - ITV - Won
Croatia 2 - 4 England - BBC - Won
Portugal 2 - 2 England - BBC - Draw (POR win 6-5 on pens)
World Cup 2006:
England 1 - 0 Paraguay - BBC - Won
England 2 - 0 Trinidad and Tobago - ITV - Won
Sweden 2 - 2 England - ITV - Draw
England 1 - 0 Ecuador - BBC - Won
England 0 - 0 Portugal - ITV - Draw (POR win 3-1 on pens)
World Cup 2010:
England 1 - 1 USA - ITV - Draw
England 0 - 0 Algeria - ITV - Draw
Slovenia 0 - 1 England - BBC - Won
Germany 4 - 1 England - BBC - Lost
France 1 - 1 England - ITV - Draw
Sweden 2 - 3 England - BBC - Won
England 1 - 0 Ukraine - ITV - Won
England 0 - 0 Italy - BBC - Draw (ITA win 4-2 on pens)
World Cup 2014:
England 1 - 2 Italy - BBC - Lost
Uruguay 2 - 1 England - ITV - Lost
Costa Rica 0 - 0 England - ITV - Draw
England 1 - 1 Russia - ITV - Draw
England 2 - 1 Wales - BBC - Won
Slovakia 0 - 0 England - ITV - Draw
England 1 - 2 Iceland - ITV - Lost
World Cup 2018:
Tunisia 1 - 2 England - BBC - Won
England 6 - 1 Panama - BBC - Won
England 0 - 1 Belgium - ITV - Lost
Colombia 1 - 1 England - ITV - Draw (ENG win 4-3 on pens)
Sweden 0 - 2 England - BBC - Won
Croatia 2 - 1 England - ITV - Lost
Belgium 2 - 0 England - ITV - Lost
Since 1998, England have won just five matches in 90 minutes that have been broadcast on ITV. The penalty shootout victory over Colombia in 2018 was broadcast on the channel but is technically classed as a draw. The 1-0 win over Germany at Euro 2000 is something of an anomaly as it was shown on both BBC and ITV.
Overall, before Euro 2020, England has lost nine matches on ITV and drawn 11. In comparison to the BBC, England’s record reads as Won: 14 Drawn: 3 Lost: 3. This gives England an impressive 70 per cent win rate on BBC, whereas on ITV it is a paltry 16.67 per cent.
So, is there any hope for England on ITV? Well, arguably their best-ever run on the channel happened 25 years ago at Euro 96. All but one of England’s five games (the 2-0 win over Scotland) that summer was shown on ITV including their famous 4-1 victory over the Netherlands and their penalty shootout win against Spain. In fact, England’s only other penalty shootout win (v Colombia, 2018) was also shown on ITV, so that’s at least one good omen.
Euro 2020 came with mixed fortunes for England on ITV. While the Three Lions have a 100 per cent record in the three games they played on BBC (vs Croatia 1-0, vs Germany 2-0, vs Ukraine 4-0), things haven’t been quite so fruitful on ITV but it’s hardly been a disaster. The 0-0 draw in the second group game against Scotland was a dismal encounter that hardly did much to inspire the nation. However, the 1-0 win over Czech Republic in the following match was much better. Then there was the tense 2-1 semi-final win over Denmark which was also shown on ITV. The final loss to Italy was shown on both ITV and BBC and as it was decided by penalties is technically counted as a draw.
Just for the record, here are those Euro 2020 results in full:
England 1 - 0 Croatia - BBC - Won
England 0 - 0 Scotland - ITV - Draw
Czech Republic 0 - 1 England - ITV - Won
England 2 - 0 Germany - BBC - Won
Ukraine 0 - 4 England - BBC - Won
England 2 - 1 Denmark - ITV - Won
England 1 - 1 Italy - BBC and ITV - Draw
So far at World Cup 2022, ITV have broadcast England's worst performance - an uninspiring 0-0 draw against the United States which means that England could be in for a difficult time against Senegal, who are the reigning African champions and have looked impressive so far in the competition.
Of course, it would be preposterous to suggest that a nation’s performances over the decades are determined by what TV channel they are shown. The Denmark win in 2021 should be considered a landmark for this curse and shows that this England team doesn't crumble under the pressure of expectation or mythical curses but failure to win against Senegal will no doubt stir debate around the curse again.
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