Verge Goes Behind The Scenes at BT Sport

Over the weekend Verge were extremely lucky to have been invited to go behind the scenes at BT Sport to see how their live football show Score is made.

About a 5 minute drive away from the Westfield shopping centre in Stratford and moments away from West Ham United’s new home The London Stadium are the BT Sport studios. After the London Olympics in 2012, BT Sport moved into the former International Broadcast Centre at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and completely transformed the buildings, creating the hub for some of the best and innovative live sport coverage of the last few years.

We were given a glimpse into this amazing place by Jasmine Holland, who was incredibly helpful and accommodating with our needs and questions. Jasmine introduced us to the Producer of Score, Matt Curtis. Matt is the man in charge of every aspect of the production and gave us a fascinating look into what it takes to make Score work. Matt took us around the various departments and introduced us to the incredible behind-the-scenes teams that he relies on. And when I say incredible, I mean it. There are so many elements to Score that viewers unknowingly take for granted, myself included! For example, when we met the team in charge of showing the team’s line-ups, they told us that they only get told the exact line-ups when they are released at 2PM, in other words, the same time that they get released to the public. They are given stats and data that the team then use to predict the line-ups but nothing is confirmed until an hour before kick-off, at which point, if needed, they make amendments and present their line-up graphics in time for pre-match build up. The use of modern graphics and visual data has been one of the driving forces behind BT Sport’s success and we got to see how the team produce them, from the last 5 penalties to Match Focus which is one of the most popular aspects of the production. Due to licensing rules, BT and other providers are not allowed to show any footage of the goals that happen at 3PM kick-offs, so the additional information including stats and assists in the Match Focus gives fans a more in-depth look at the latest goals. It’s a brilliant idea and as Matt said, it’s an idea that manages to include fans and give them more knowledge of the goals even if they aren’t watching the games live.

After meeting the behind-the-scenes team, we were given a tour of the BT Sport Studios. The studios are split into Studios 1,2 and 3. Studio 1 is the main studio and let me tell you, the size of it is absolutely vast. I’ve worked and been on a lot of live studio sets and I was blown away by the size of this studio. The floor size is huge and is the perfect place to showcase all the pre-match graphics that we’d just seen. At the back of the studio are the sofas that the punditry team of Score sit and commentate on the games. Every pundit has their own individual game to cover, but they are also able to watch the other games to give their opinions on any events that have happened on any of the other live matches. Slightly hidden away towards the back of the studio is Studio 2. This studio is a lot smaller than Studio 1 but is just as important and ideal for the amount of live sport that BT Sport cover and Studio 3 is located up the stairs and actually overlooks Studio 1.

Whilst on the tour of the studios, we were given the opportunity to sit in on a live television sporting debate called Football Vs Rugby. The debate was hosted by Mark Pougatch and Craig Doyle and had ex-professionals of each sport on either side of the debate. The Football pundits included Steve McManaman, Chris Sutton and Robbie Savage and the Rugby punditry was covered by Andy Goode and the legendary Lawrence Dallaglio with Doyle chipping in for good measure too! The debate was centred around Video Analysis Refereeing and Rugby’s TMO (The Match Official) and also what the sports could learn from each other. It was just as fascinating watching the behind-the-scenes work in the build-up to this feature as it was the debate. The amount of work and precision that went into making sure the right clips were in order and the correct data and statistics were ready was unbelievably high and a real insight into working in live television. This feature itself is another example of what makes BT Sport work so well. In the run-up to one of their most popular shows, they’re hosting a live debate around two of the Nation’s most loved sports in order to give fans something new to think about.

I was fascinated to hear what it would be like to work at BT Sport and was able to grab a couple of minutes in the Green Room with ex-Women’s football and England legend Rachel Brown-Finnis. ‘It’s amazing! I do a couple of different things here so I’ve covered Women’s Football and some live games which has been a real privilege seeing as I finished playing a couple of years ago and now I have the opportunity to talk about Men’s football which is the first time I have had the opportunity to do on TV”. “Before you started working in TV, did you realise how much work went into making a show like Score?” “Not really, it’s when you get given the call sheet and theres like 100 people on it and then you get an idea then of just how many people it takes to get this thing on the airwaves! When you work on a game here in the studio, there’s a lot of people in offices doing things that you don’t necessarily get to see who are all putting it together. When you go into the studio and it’s the biggest studio you’ve ever seen you kind of get a feel of the scale of the operation, but it is fascinating to meet all these people who make it all tick and make it a seamless production”. Similarly Chris Sutton said he felt naive about the amount of work that goes in behind-the-scenes. “I was one of those people who before I got into television, where you think it’s an easy operation to run and not a lot goes into it. Well, I was wrong once again! It’s a massive operation and so much goes on to make things work and it’s great working for BT”.

I’ve always wanted to know why a lot of ex-players take the route into punditry and I was lucky enough to speak to Jermaine Jenas about why he chose punditry as the next step in his career. “I’ve been doing it for a few years now and I didn’t really see myself doing it. I didn’t know what I was going to do after my career had finished, I don’t think a lot of footballers know. I think if you know exactly what you want to do after your career, you’re very lucky and you’re very fortunate because it’s a test in time, just as a human being; it’s what you’ve done your whole life and it’s what you know. You wake up every morning, you’re told exactly what your doing, where to be and what time to be there and then you go home. And then, all of a sudden, you’ve got nowhere to go! So the media has played a great role in me having a routine in my life and making sure I’m still involved in football, it keeps me busy and it keeps me active and what a job! I’ve gone from playing the game and loving it to talking about it. It doesn’t get much better than that!”

It seems to be something that a lot ex-professionals have to come to terms with and Rachel went into more detail about her life after football and what advice she has for any young students looking to get into television. “I was a footballer until I was 35, I retired at that point and then sort of started again as far as ‘what am I going to do?’. But I’d been to Uni and I’d qualified as a teacher so I always had that in the bank ready to go, but I’ve realised now that now I have started off this career in media that it’s all about getting your hands dirty, giving things a go and saying ‘yes’ to every opportunity that comes up. You can build up a portfolio of experiences so whether thats being a runner or something its about people getting to know you and having that portfolio of what you can do. My philosophy has been to try and take on as many roles within the range of what the media covers so you can get a feel for everything and an understanding of how things run and what needs to be done. So get out there, offer your services and put yourself out there to learn new things and to meet new people”.

By the time we’d gone behind-the-scenes, walked around the studios and had a chat in the Green Room with some of the pundits, it was almost time for us to go. But not before we were able to watch in the Production Room of Studio 1 where Score was about to go live. It was thrilling to watch the production team going through their process and getting everything ready to go live to Mark Pougatch. Matt was in the hot seat and was already speaking to numerous members of his team and others as the show began. We left just before the games were about to kick off and when their work was really about to begin! The experience at BT Sport really was an exceptional one. It was an eye-opener to the level of work that goes in behind-the-scenes and was a fascinating insight to anyone interested in working on a live television production. Thank you BT Sport!

BT Sport Score is the place to keep up-to-date with all the news as it happens on a Saturday afternoon. Watch live on BT Sport 1 every Saturday at 2.30pm. For more information visit bt/com/sport

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