Alan Hubbard: Daley's Splash! is an unmitigated belly flop

Tuesday, 08 January 2013
Alan HubbardArguably, it is the worst sports-related show ever seen on British television. Splash! in which Tom Daley, the increasingly ubiquitous pin-up boy of the pool, mentors pseudo-celebs in a diving contest, belly-flopped big-time when it made its debut on ITV last Saturday night.

They call these things reality TV. The reality about this one – due to run until early next month unless someone hopefully pulls the bath plug – is that it really is rubbish.

Even some sports folk, usually quite supportive of such shows, have drenched it in even more cold water. "This could be the worst/most embarrassing thing I've ever seen on my television," tweeted the West Bromwich and former England goalkeeper Ben Foster.

Tom Daley splashTom Daley has previously been warned that such commercial commitments could affect his day job

So where does this leave Tom Daley? Somewhat bewildered, I imagine, and wondering why on earth he ever got involved. Apart from the money, of course.

Especially as British Swimming's chief executive David Sparkes, never shy of an opinion, has warned him that such commercial commitments could affect his day job – which is to work assiduously towards improving on the bronze medal he won in London for Rio 2016.

"Tom is an incredibly talented young man but he's yet to achieve his full potential and it is only going to get harder as he gets older," he said. "You can rest assured the next Chinese superstar will not have such distractions from training. He should look at the example of Torvill and Dean who waited until the end of their respective careers before doing such programmes. I'm concerned Tom is putting the cart before the horse."

This echoes the view of British diving performance director Alexei Evangulov who suggested last February that 18-year-old Daley faced missing out on Olympic glory unless he restricted his media and sponsorship work.

There is little doubt that one day the personable Daley will have a great tele-career as a presenter or pundit but his involvement with a poolside panto has to be questionable at best.

This diving debacle threatens to ridicule the image of the sport, not enhance it.

Comedian Omid DjaliliComedian Omid Djalili took part in Tom Daley's new diving reality show

One critic described the attempted swallow dives of those walking the plank before toppling into the Luton pool "so gobsmackingly awful, so cringe-making, that you can only watch it through your fingers."

So far we have endured a couple of overweight comedians (three of if you include Jo Brand, usually a quality act who unfortunately is fatuously employed as one of the judges); an actor who plays a waiter in the TV show Benidorm, a comely sports presenter and a faded pop singer.

Among those next up on Saturday: Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards. Can't wait.

The same critic suggested that if Daley "has got any sense and a half decent manager he'll put this down to (bad) experience and start training for Rio pretty sharpish."

To which Daley's agent Jamie Cunningham responds: "Whatever people think about the show Tom has come across incredibly well. We would, only agree to such an undertaking at a quiet time of the year.

"Tom is fully committed to perform at his best in the world championships in the summer having delivered at the Olympic Games."

True, he delivered a bronze though surely the target was a little higher.

However, we wish him well, as we do all those who entertained us so splendidly last year.

But we hope they don't overkill the golden goose.

Switch on the box and sports stars – especially Olympians – are everywhere: in the Big Brother House, in the jungle, foxtrotting across the ice and shimmying on the ballroom floor.

That's fine. No objection to them coining it in when they can, just as long as they don't neglect the sport that has enabled them to capitalise on their talent.

Louis Smith has just won Strictly Come DancingLouis Smith has just won Strictly Come Dancing

Some are very good at it. Olympic gymnast Louis Smith has just won Strictly Come Dancing, as did cricketers Mark Ramprakash and Darren Gough; rugby's Kyran Bracken once glided home in Torvill and Dean's Dancing on Ice in which gymnast Beth Tweddle and gold medal boxer Luke Campbell are currently lacing up their skates together with former British Lion Gareth Thomas.

Former world heavyweight champion David Haye fought his way to third place in the latest  series of I'm a Celebrity, won a few years back by ex-cricketer Phil Tufnell.

Sport is the buzzword at the moment, largely because of the Olympics, and many of its practitioners are well equipped to play the showbiz card.

I just wish some would be more selective.

Take Gabby Logan, herself a former Olympic gymnast. She is a terrific sports presenter, up there with Clare Balding and Sky's Jeff Stelling as the best on the box.

Gabby Logan appeared on the Big Fat Quiz of the YearGabby Logan appeared on the Big Fat Quiz of the Year

But what the hell is she doing co-hosting something as excruciatingly bad as Splash!?

Even worse, appearing as a panellist on Channel 4's Big Fat Quiz of the Year?

The schoolboy lewdness spewed out around her by wine-glugging comedians Jack Whitehall and James Corden, the predictably crude Jonathan Ross and the perpetually unfunny Russell Howard, surely left her inwardly squirming with embarrassment.

What was a nice girl like her doing in a show like this?

And as for Splash! – we see enough dodgy diving in Match of the Day on Saturday nights, thanks.

Alan Hubbard is an award-winning sports columnist for The Independent on Sunday, and a former sports editor of The Observer. He has covered a total of 16 Summer and Winter Olympics, 10 Commonwealth Games, several football World Cups and world title fights from Atlanta to Zaire.
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