MA Journalism student Leanne Johnson visits the Sky Sports headquarters to see what goes on behind the scenes of Britains most popular football show, Soccer Saturday.
Since attending the university talk with Soccer Saturday host Jeff Stelling, I was given the opportunity to spend a week with the Soccer Special team to understand why a show which shows no actual sport, has become the favourite for football entertainment.
After signing in at Reception I was collected by a ‘runner’ who kindly gave me a tour of the grounds and showed me where the magic happened in the studios. A real Formula One car was parked in reception, treated as part of the decor.
I was then taken to my designated work area for the week and to meet my Soccer Saturday team. Immediately I was greeted with smiles and friendly faces from a group of around eight people. I was pleasantly surprised as half the team were women.
I was introduced first to the producer of the Soccer Saturday show, Ian Condron, who immediately asked me if I was interested in staying to cover the Soccer Special which was filmed that evening. I said yes straightaway excited at the prospect of watching a live show, however the thought of a twelve hour shift on my first day did not occur to me till I was leaving the office at 10.30pm that night, exhausted but happy.
That night I was sent a text asked if I was interested in accompanying sports reporter Johnny Phillips on a trip to Manchester the next day, to interview Aston Villa’s goal keeper Shay Given.
Seeing Johnny reporting live on Sky Sports previously, I was pleasantly surprised at how down to earth he was. When asked about his preparation for the interview that day he simply said that he had not done any, and that with some footballers he feels he knows them enough to be able to ask them questions off the cuff rather than from a notebook.
The interview was based around Shay’s involvement with the Macmillan charity as a result of losing his mum to Cancer at a young age. During the interview he explained about his current plans for fashion shows to be held across the country, involving premiership footballers modelling clothes in a bid to raise money for the charity.
The whole day went according to plan as the interview was a success, and we were soon on the train back to London after only a couple of hours in Manchester for another busy couple of days in the office.
During the next few days, work was based around preparation for the end of the week show, Soccer Saturday. I was taken to observe the Sky Sports News being filmed in the studio with presenter’s Kirsty Gallacher and Julian Warren.
Watching from the gallery the atmosphere became more electric throughout the day. It seemed that all the free coffee and chocolate which was scattered around the offices seemed to supply that late night boost which everyone thrived off.
As information was constantly flooding in about Muamba’s cardiac arrest, there was constant breaking news throughout the day.
One thing I learnt about working in television is that the days are longer than an average office job. A couple of days during the week I worked twelve hour days, just to fit in everything that needed to be done for that day.
During one evening I was given the opportunity to watch the boxing show, Ringside, being filmed live.
There was a few hiccups throughout the filming, with stress running high through the office. As the director barked orders to staff about picking up the pace during the show, apologies were exchanged once the show ended explaining that it was a result of the high pressure environment of working in a television studio.
As Saturday came around the panel of Soccer Saturday presenters started pouring into the office. Each day I needed to be collected from reception by a member of staff and that day I was collected by Soccer Saturday pundit, Phil Thompson.
On our way into the office, Phil made a joke about finding me on his way into work shouting: “Look what I found!”.
The usual pundits there that day included Matt Le Tissier, Paul Merson, Charlie Nicholas and Soccer Saturday host, Jeff Stelling.
Considering it was suppose to be the busiest day of the week for the Soccer Saturday team, everyone seemed very relaxed with everything under control.
The atmosphere was laid back with jokes being said and footballs being thrown between the pundits and staff, it definately excelled a happy working environment.
Once in the studio with the live show started, behind the scenes became as entertaining as watching the live show. Jeff was receiving constant messages once the 3pm kick off came round to remind Phil that he had a microphone on and that he did not need to shout so much when commentating the game he was watching.
During part of the show I was given the responsibility to use the cameras with the supervision of a cameraman to film the show. All the staff seemed happy to speak to me when they learnt that I was there on work experience, offering their advice on the best way to start a career in the television industry.
Overall my experience at Soccer Saturday was a positive and enjoyable one, where I learnt exactly what it was like working behind the scenes in a broadcasting environment.