A "Manchester United are rubbish" graphic on the BBC News ticker.

The scrolling news ticker (or “Bottom Line,” if you’re ESPN) has long been prominent on news and sports broadcasts, and has resisted efforts to remove it. But it’s quite important to watch what winds up there. Sometimes, it gets used for things that aren’t sports news or scores at all, such as pending carriage disputes. Sometimes, it includes debatable “BREAKING NEWS” labels. Sometimes, it includes some editorializing, such as NBC Sports Boston’s “Number of middle fingers raised: 0” for Kyrie Irving’s stat line. And sometimes, it displays “Manchester United are rubbish” and “Weather rain everywhere,” as happened on BBC News Tuesday. Here’s a clip of this from British media critic Scott Bryan, who hosts a BBC 5 radio show and podcast.

Bryan then passed on the later on-air apology and explanation:

“While we’re on the subject of football, a little earlier, some of you may have noticed something pretty unusual on the ticker that runs along the bottom of the screen with news, making a comment about Manchester United. And I hope that Manchester United fans weren’t offended by it. Let me just explain what was happening. Behind the scenes, someone was training how to use the ticker and to put text on the ticker, so they were just writing random things not in earnest, and that comment appeared. So apologies if you saw that and were offended and you’re a fan of Manchester United. But certainly that was a mistake. It wasn’t meant to appear on the screen. So that was what happened, and we thought we’d better explain that to you now.”

That does explain it. However, with a Premier League record of 16-10-12 this just-completed season for 58 points (the club’s lowest point total since 1986-87) and a sixth-place finish in the table (their worst since 2018-19), capped off with a 1-0 loss to Crystal Palace Saturday, it may be reasonably safe to say at the moment that Manchester United are, in fact, rubbish; there’s at least more factual information behind that assessment than, say, just not liking Wolves. The biggest issue here may be that it isn’t news that they’re rubbish. And “Weather: rain everywhere” feels reasonably accurate for Britain on many days.

Still, as with many cases of accidental publication, something that wasn’t supposed to be seen by the public was. And we’ve seen cases where that’s turned out even worse, so at least this test text wasn’t that offensive. It’s one more reminder to be careful what you write even in test text, though; sometimes, that gets seen by more people than you think it will.

[Scott Bryan on Twitter]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.