MOTD to start Salford broadcasts
Gary Lineker, Mark Lawrenson and Alan Hansen will appear on the first Match of the Day in Salford this Saturday.
Seven years after BBC Sport's relocation from TVC was confirmed, the flagship show will come live from the MediaCityUK studios on Bonfire Night.
'It's a good day for fixtures, all the big guns are playing,' series producer Ian Finch told Ariel.
Football editor Andrew Clement added: 'It's quite handy that it's also Alex Ferguson's 25th anniversary as Manchester United manager and they're playing down the road.'
The biggest difference for viewers will be that the programme will now be made in high definition. There are also 'graphical tweaks' and the sofas have been replaced by chairs.'Larger pool of on-air talent'
MOTD shares the same studio space as Football Focus, which relaunched at the new BBC North headquarters in August, and the set has already picked up an RTS nomination for production design.
'It's been designed so it can break down easily, be shipped out, brought back in and put back together really quickly,' explains Finch. 'That keeps the costs down because we only have to pay for the studio for two days as opposed to a whole week as we did in London.'
Clement says the new set looks 'terrific' but is keen to point out that the programme is primarily about football and not the production aspect.
'There's a lot of sensitivity about which teams feature where in the programme, we're well aware of that and try to strike a balance between editorial and a knee-jerk reaction to put [current champions] Manchester United out first, which is not the intention by any means.'
However, he's 'pleased' that Alex Ferguson is now talking to the BBC after his seven-year boycott of the corporation. As to whether the manager will appear on a BBC set in future, Clement jokes, 'One can but ask.'
The MOTD move coincides with Manchester City and United's position at the top of the English Premier League. Clement adds: 'You'll find a different raft of guests on Match of the Day 2, we can start to plunder more guests from the north west…I guess we've got a slightly larger pool of talent to choose from in this area so that'll feel different.'Wages controversy
The show's relocation from London is part of the BBC's effort to better represent the UK, but the MOTD team are wary of making the show north-centric.
'Our job is to tell the story of what's happened on the day…we are still broadcasting to the nation as a whole,' says Clement.
BBC Sport had the highest staff take-up (58%) among the four departments moving to Salford (the others include Children's, Learning and Radio 5 live) and a new pool of freelancers from northern England is now working on the show. Clements admits: 'We've lost some people but we've also retained a lot of very good people. We're obviously looking to recruit new people as well.'
Having started in 1964, the Saturday show currently draws around 4-5 million viewers, while MOTD 2, which is presented by Colin Murray on Sundays, attracts 2-3m. Ahead of its Salford relaunch, the programme has started a Twitter feed this week (@BBCMOTD) and 1.2 million people have joined its Facebook group.
The show's transfer means regular pundits Hansen, Lawrenson and Alan Shearer will now be travelling a shorter distance from their homes to the Salford studios. However Lineker, whose BBC contract runs until after the Olympics, will have a longer trip.
Hansen attracted controversy recently after the Sunday Telegraph claimed he was paid around £40,000 for every MOTD appearance (which is more than the average BBC annual salary). A BBC spokesperson said: 'We remain very happy that Gary Lineker and Alan continue to lead our football output so successfully.'
Match of the Day, BBC One and BBC One HD, Saturday, 10.30pm.