Monday 20 August 2012

Neville: Honesty key to success of Monday Night Football

Gary Neville looks back on his first season as an analyst on the popular Sky Sports show

Gary Neville (right) gives his incisive analysis on Monday Night Football

Sky Sports' Monday Night Football (MNF) returns to our screens this evening for Manchester United's Barclays Premier League trip to Everton.

Ahead of tonight's show tactical analyst Gary Neville and MNF producer Scott Melvin reveal in the Premier League's Season Review 2011/12 what it is that has made the show such a success.

Were you ever concerned going in to MNF that people might think you might have too much of an allegiance to Manchester United?

Gary Neville: We put that issue to bed after just a couple of shows. I don’t think I’ve held back all season and I’ve spoken honestly about every club. I have always said that you can’t con football fans. They will see right through you. You can’t treat fans as idiots, they study the game, they read everything that is out there, they watch football intensely and they know a lot.

"I've always said that you can't con football fans - they will see right through you"
Gary Neville

When you go to a match you talk to football fans and you get the feeling of a football club – it’s important to understand that when you are in broadcasting. You are never going to please everybody all the time but that’s life, you just try to do the very best that you can.

Everything I have been told about how we should work at Sky is that we try to tell the good stories as much as we possibly can. We are not looking to have a go at people; we are out there to tell everybody how brilliant Premier League football is.

Twitter has become an essential element of the show, how did that come about?

Neville: In recent times there have been accusations that fans have been getting further away from sport and its stars. But with social media there is a feeling that it’s going back to basics, where the fan and the player or the broadcaster can see the intimate side of people in a way in which they have never done before.

It’s inevitable that it will only become stronger in all aspects of the media. Twitter was introduced into MNF just for that reason – fan engagement. MNF set up its own Twitter feed during the season and it just grew and grew with fans asking more and more questions.

The production team felt that it was time to add an element to the end of the show whereby people could ask questions about items that would never normally get discussed. This is one of the first live football shows that has had Twitter as a live interaction piece.

"Twitter users have actually become the third studio member"
Scott Melvin

Scott Melvin: Twitter users have actually become the third studio member and it provides questions that we wouldn’t necessarily have thrown in. We found that Twitter just went berserk whenever MNF was on because there were no other matches being played. We would have been silly not to try to harness that activity in some way.

We originally planned a 10-minute section but because so many questions come in to Gary, we have ended up doing half an hour pretty much. It gives us a chance to cover more of the weekend. There’s also a miscellaneous section where anything goes and it certainly keeps Gary on his toes.

Neville: It certainly did, but I like that about Twitter. I probably wouldn’t have gone on it if I was still playing. But the fact is you can’t really stop it now and it’s often the quickest source of information. I’ve seen this year things that I would have never of seen in the past, I’ve seen newspaper stories leaked at 8pm, been rubbished by the club and the player by 8.30pm and it’s a dead story by the morning after. It is very helpful for me in the sense of the information that I can gain from it.

Is technology still an essential element of Sky’s work?
Melvin:
It is but only if it is there to add. If it doesn’t add, we don’t use it. Sometimes the best thing you can do with a goal is nothing. If someone has just blasted in a goal from 30 yards, there are times when the best thing to do is to just show it. You don’t do it for the sake of it, because then it becomes gratuitous and unnecessary and that’s when I think people tire of it.

"Some of the tools that we use on the show are absolutely brilliant"
Gary Neville

Neville: That said, some of the tools that we use on the show are absolutely brilliant. For example, the magnifying tool which we use when talking about a goal-line incident or whether somebody has made contact in the box. You can magnify the moment to the point where you can actually see it – that is where technology is at its best in MNF.

The co-commentators, who are up there saying it as they see it with the live pictures, have not got time to look at any magnification of an incident. But we can slow it down at half-time in the studio and give them information that Geoff Shreeves or the commentary team can use. I don’t think I’ve held back all [last] season and I’ve spoken honestly about every club. I have always said that you can’t con football fans... it’s important to understand that when you are broadcasting."

The above interview was take from the official Barclays Premier League Season Review.

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Key Points

  • Monday Night Football returns to our screens tonight
  • Gary Neville discusses what has made the show a success
  • Social media has played a huge role in involving football fans