WHEN Celtic faced Manchester City on a wet Wednesday in Glasgow all the action from whistle to whistle was beamed to pubs, bars and homes across the globe – a feat in broadcast engineering that takes a team as tightly knit as the players on the pitch to pull off.
For BT Sport, planning the logistics of catching every kick of the ball on camera began at the Champions League draw in August with discussions between the broadcaster, the clubs and UEFA commencing almost as soon as the teams were drawn from their pots.
Forward planning for a Champions League night in the UK is crucial for BT Sport as the firm shoulders the responsibility of broadcasting the feed that will appear on screens from Tallahassee to Tokyo with the requirement that coverage follows a tight running order set out by UEFA down to the second.
The return of Champions League football to Scotland on September 28 was no different, with BT Sport’s outside broadcasting trucks arriving in Glasgow’s east end on the Tuesday followed by a team of around 100 on matchday.
Operating the 16 cameras covering Celtic Park on the night and ensuring every trick, turn and tense moment is captured is a big enough undertaking, but with the added tasks of instant replay and a live studio inside the stadium, topped off with an audio feed and a wild night of weather, there was plenty to keep the team busy.
Keeping on top of it all was match director Grant Philips, who reckons the role of BT Sport at any game is to give viewers the best seat in the house throughout the game.
This for me is the greatest stadium for Champions League football.
“We try to give viewers the sense they’re watching the match from the best possible location,” said Philips.
Part of creating the best possible viewing experience comes down to the technology used by the BT Sport team, which has evolved at a rapid pace in recent years.
Matches on BT Sport, including September’s Champions League tie at Celtic Park, are now shown in ultra-HD – a format introduced by the broadcaster in August 2015. While the new tech brings changes, Philips said his job, and the job of his team, remains the same.
“It’s simple, we’re trying to put the football on the telly,” he said.
As the crew is busy labouring away throughout the match in a pen of over one dozen trucks and vans parked outside the stadium, inside the ground BT Sport’s roster of pundits present their show under bright studio lights and above thousands of boisterous fans.
BT Sport football expert Rio Ferdinand said he has “been lucky” to transition from a footballing career to his new role at a broadcaster that’s “very much a team-oriented company”.
“The people are at the core of it and they want to do well,” said Ferdinand.
While in the past, a win for Ferdinand on a Champions League night would have been an on-the-pitch affair, the former Manchester United defender’s new goal is to bring fans into the game as much as possible.
“I think we’re trying to always make sure people get a clearer and more concise insight into the games,” said Ferdinand. “If we can get someone who watches a game every couple of weeks to go ‘oh I didn’t see that’ then we’re doing our jobs.”
With the first goal of the Celtic Man City clash coming within three minutes and a final score of 3-3, the Champions League’s return to Glasgow gave the studio team plenty to talk about – a shock for bookmakers but not for all.
Fellow BT Sport football expert and former Celtic forward Chris Sutton was bullish about the spectacle on offer when talking to SLTN in the hours before kick-off, and not far off in his prediction of how the evening would proceed.
“I think Celtic back in the Champions League is an enormous thing,” said Sutton. “This for me is the greatest stadium for Champions League football, pre-kick off it’ll be a special night.
“The crowd play a big part; if Celtic start fast and they get an early goal then it will be unbelievable.”
• BT Sport is your home of unmissable live football from the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and the Premier League. Visit btsport.com/business for more info.