Friday 25 October 2013
Crystal Palace take on table-topping Arsenal on Saturday in the 12.45pm kick-off, and Ray Stubbs will be reporting on the match live from Selhurst Park for BT Sport in a live free-to-air broadcast. Ahead of the London derby we caught up with Stubbs, to get an insight into what it is like to report on a live Barclays Premier League match, a taste of the "buzz" he feels in the build-up to kick-off and why he describes the 2013/14 season as a "fascinating" campaign.
Premierleague.com: What time do you get to the ground on matchday?
Ray Stubbs: I like to get there as early as I can. For a 12.45pm kick-off I like to get there at around 9am. Everyone meets up, talks through the day and chats about the programme ahead. There is an army of people who have been there the day before and sometimes even through the night - so many people putting everything in place. It's a massive operation, and technically there's a lot of things to check.
"There is an army of people who have been there the day before and sometimes even through the night"
PL.com: Where do you go next?
RS: I'll find somewhere and read the matchday programme and take a look at the papers. It's the sort of thing I've been doing in the football season on a Saturday for as long as I can remember.
PL.com: When does your working day start?
RS: When the teams arrive, that is a key point of course but before that for a few hours before we go on air, the work is well under way, and we see all the workers inside the stadium preparing for the arrival of 40,000 or 50,000 people, depending on where you are. There's a buzz of anticipation from the moment you get there and that buzz increases when the teams arrive: when the coaches pull up and you see the players and managers getting off the bus.
PL.com: From this season you get to talk to a player before the match, don't you?
RS: Just after they've arrived a player from each club comes out of the dressing room and gives us a pre-match interview looking forward to the match. We are very appreciative of the co-operation of all the clubs, because now we get the chance to speak to different players and get their thoughts and an overview of the game that lies ahead. They've got their game head on and you start to feel the build-up to the match.
PL.com: When do you know who is going to play?
You're never totally sure about who's going to play, so things build up to when the teams get handed in and the managers and the skippers go into the referees room. A couple of times now on BT Sport we've been able to film the representative of the home club reading those names out. If we can, as soon as those names come out of the referee's room we cover that live so that viewers know who's playing straight away and so we can try and react. When the teams come out it takes the anticipation up another level.
"Nowadays broadcasters get very good access and you get a real sense for the match as a result"
PL.com: When do you get to speak to the managers?
RS: When the players gather in the tunnel to go out for the main warm up, it's around that time that the managers very kindly come out and give us their pre-match interview. Key for me always is being fair and balanced in speaking to them - they have big jobs to do and I respect that, as does BT Sport. Their thinking about their team selection, their assessment of the opposition and the challenge they will face on the day is very interesting. It's good to hear from them and we are grateful for their co-operation.
PL.com: The build-up to kick-off is so much more scrutinised nowadays, isn't it?
RS: It is. One of the moments that really grabs you is when the players come into the tunnel just before kick-off. Nowadays broadcasters get very good access and you get a real sense for the match as a result. That's the next little gear change.
PL.com: Where do you sit during the match?
RS: Generally, we've got a pitch-side place on the touchline. And there's an interview area where we will conduct and plan the pre-match and post-match interviews. My colleague, floor director Chuck Taylor, keeps everyone in touch with what's going on in the tunnel area around substitutions or other developments, and can pass on that information to our commentary team, myself and the production team on-site.
PL.com: Meanwhile, you have got a whole broadcasting team presenting the programme from the studio, right?
RS: Yes, there are Jake Humphrey and his guests at Olympic Park, Steve McManaman, Owen Hargreaves and David James, plus guests. At the match itself there's myself plus - depending on the game - commentators Ian Darke or Darren Fletcher, co-commentator Michael Owen and former referee Mark Halsey. There is lots going on with many different people involved behind and in front of the cameras. There's a plan, but everything is very flexible, everything is adaptable.
PL.com: What happens after the match?
RS: Post-match all the clubs are very co-operative and helpful and what we try and do is talk to the man of the match. On the final whistle we generally ask for a couple of players to come to our interview positions and we interview them as soon as possible. Then when the managers have spoken to their players in their dressing rooms they come out and say what they think of the match. And there are always two sides of the coin; winners very happy and losers not so.
"All things are possible on any particular day and that is why the Premier League is so exciting"
PL.com: Despite your extensive experience, do you ever get nervous before a match?
RS: Yes. I care very much. I am part of a very big team and you want to play your part to the best of your ability, so, yes, I do get slightly nervous, I always have done and I guess I always will.
PL.com: What are you looking forward to about Saturday's match?
RS: Every week throws up a different set of circumstances and a different story, which I find fascinating. On this particular week you've got a team that has been struggling and the manager Ian Holloway has stood down with incredible grace, humility, honesty and I've a massive amount for respect for him, as he has done this because he thinks it might help Palace. There's a Crystal Palace team that have had a really tough time in the Premier League after the absolute elation of promotion, and an Arsenal team who we all know have great style and their standard of football is terrific. As with every single Saturday, regardless of the fixture, every Premier League point is priceless and the two teams are absolutely going full-pelt to get them.
PL.com: Do you think it will be an open game on Saturday?
RS: The unpredictability of this Premier League means that nothing would surprise me. I've felt that from the first Saturday and nothing has yet happened yet to persuade me otherwise. All things are possible on any particular day and that is why the Premier League is so exciting. You never quite know what's around the corner. It's a fascinating Premier League.
PL.com: What do you make of Arsenal's start to the season?
RS: They've been terrific. We all know the quality of the football they're capable of playing and about 18 months ago I remember them signing a lot of their young British players up on long-term contracts. I think that was the first big step of a plan to push on. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger picks and chooses his players very carefully. Mesut Ozil arriving was clearly a great deal for them and Olivier Giroud is a top player. Wenger always said last season that once he settled in and felt comfortable in his surroundings he would be a great player for Arsenal. And there are so many great players.
PL.com: Is it true your viewers can watch for free on BT Sport this weekend?
RS: Yes, all the channels are available on an unencrypted basis this weekend, which means you don't need to be a subscriber. It's a real opportunity for fans to sample the line-up on BT Sport over a typical sporting weekend, including this live Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Arsenal on Saturday.
12.45pm Crystal Palace v Arsenal | #CRYARS | Matchday Live >>