Editor on working for Match of the Day

Richard Hughes in gallery Richard Hughes has been the editor of Match of the Day since 2013

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Some say that if you can't play professional football, the next best thing is to work on its coverage. And so, for many, working on Match of Day is a dream job.

Richard Hughes, series editor for Match of the Day, tells Ariel what it's like to work on the iconic show.

How long have you been at the BBC and Match of the Day?

I've been Match of the Day editor since last year so this is my second season. Before that I was editing Football Focus for two years, after we moved up to Salford.

I worked on my local newspaper for three years before joining the BBC around 15 years ago. There was a job advert that mentioned the Sydney Olympics so I went for that and got it. I also worked as a journalist on the website and after that I went back to TV sport as an assistant producer, then moved on to producer and editor. So I've been in TV sport for 12 or 13 years now.

I first worked on Match of the Day in the sub-editor job. I'd be in the studio with Gary [Lineker], writing copy, giving him facts and figures, doing research for the commentators - a lot of background stuff - so that was the first taste of it.

When I became assistant producer, that's when I started doing match-edits on Saturday. I've done a lot of other sports - I'm also the editor of rugby and golf coverage.

How many people work on Match of the Day?

Jim Clarkson in the gallery Previous MOTD fact finder Jim Clarkson at work in the 1970s

It's probably up to 30 production staff on a weekend so there will be 10 or 12 producers, editors, director, studio floor staff and then there's a commentator at every game.

How does an average week begin?

I'd say it begins on a Tuesday. We watch the show back with a more critical eye than if we were at home. We review things that went right, review things that went wrong. We catch up with the commentators and producers, and discuss any technical issues from the outside broadcasts, or any editorial issues or complaints.

On Wednesday, you start turning your attention to Saturday, going through the fixtures, looking for potential themes for analysis and any VTs we may be doing.

As the week progresses, it's just keeping an eye on developing stories, any new signings if the transfer window is still open, and speaking to the commentators, pundits and Gary.

All the prep might go out of the window on a Saturday if the games don't turn out how you expect but it's much better to go in prepared. There's a lot of prep work and I also do the planning for the rugby and golf stuff during the week.

How do you balance working on different sports?

For the Six Nations, I'll be doing Match of the Day at Christmas and January but I'll also be doing a bit of planning for the rugby. Once it starts, I'll come off Match of the Day and do the Six Nations.

There's a really strong team of editors in football so people move around a bit.

Alan Parry, Tony Gubba, Jimmy Hill, Barry Davies, and John Motson Alan Parry, Tony Gubba, Jimmy Hill, Barry Davies and John Motson featured on MOTD in 1981

What happens on a Saturday?

We'll get in for midday. Ian Finch, who is series director, and I will be in for the 12.45pm kick-off. The pundits will be in, we'll watch the game, talk through any analysis and basically get ready for 3pm when there's up to six games. Each pundit will get one game to look at closely and we'll have the other games on in the background. We'll be watching up to six games at any one time.

Can that be a bit crazy?

It's OK, you get used to it because you've got your two main pundits watching one game each closely so that's covered. The other games will be going on so you'll see when the goals go in. There's a producer assigned to every game so you're also in touch with them to get a closer eye.

That takes you through to 5pm, then I sit down with Gary, start doing some scripting and do the match running order for the show, which is quite controversial sometimes.

How do you come up with the running order?

You go into Saturday with a few thoughts on the games that might lead the show but it so often gets turned on its head depending on what happens. Despite what people think, there's no preconceived agenda against any teams. It's no different to what the Sunday papers lead on the day after.

Des Lynam holding BBC Sport football Des Lynam hosted football highlights for both the BBC and ITV

The order is evolving through the 3pm games. Once you get to 5.30pm we've got a pretty good idea of where we're going but then there's the late game, which can turn the show on its head if that's dramatic. We confirm the running order on the final whistle of the last match and that's when Gary tweets it out and starts getting the reaction.

It's striking a balance between the story, which might involve one of the top teams, and the match, which might be an unbelievable game between two of the less-fancied teams. People like goals and that's what we try to show as quickly as possible.

But no one agrees with it so it doesn't really matter anyway. The main thing is we show all the games and we show more action from the games than we used to previously. So every team gets at least six or seven minutes of action.

Does Gary's views make a difference?

Start Quote

There are a lot of people who watch the show who aren't on social media”

End Quote Richard Hughes Match of the Day

He'll have a view, they [the pundits] have all got strong opinions. They're all big, big players, they've come from that environment, they're used to speaking their mind. I work with Gary and the final say comes down to me but you'd be stupid not to listen to someone of his experience and standing in the game.

What happens after the final whistle?

It's a case of fine-tuning the analysis with the pundits, going through what they want to talk about, working out the durations. That's the key thing - you want to get as much action as possible because it's a highlights show, it's not an analysis show.

The pundits would like to do 10 or 12 minutes analysis on some games but there just isn't the time to do that. So you're working with them to nail down exactly what they want to say and give them an idea of how long they have.

Have changes to match times made a big difference?

It's quite good in some ways. If all eight games are at 3pm, it's a lot harder to keep across them. But now we've got a game at 12.45pm, we can watch two games closely at 3pm and then the 5.30pm - that's 50% of the games we can really watch closely and analyse carefully while keeping across all the others.

How important is social media?

Alan Hansen, Gary Lineker and Mark Lawrensen pose in sunglasses Even in shades, Alan Hansen could spot "terrible defending"

We've introduced social media voting into the show. I think goal of the season got 120,000 votes at the end of last season, which is significant. Match of the Day was the most-tweeted about show on television this weekend - about 50,000 tweets and Gary's got 3m followers, so it is a big thing.

You've got to be careful to keep it in perspective - it's not the be-all and end-all. 50,000 tweeters represent 1% of the 5m audience that watch the show. They're quite a vocal presence but there are a lot of people who watch the show who aren't on social media.

How will it work with a new pundit panel now?

Alan Hansen has gone so I don't think you can ever replace him. He did it for 22 years, he was the dominant figure in football broadcasting for a really long time - his analysis and his unique style, you couldn't really attempt to copy that.

What we've done now is rotate the pundits on a more regular basis - Alan Shearer is the core man but around that we've got Phil Neville, Danny Murphy, Ruud Gullit, Robbie Savage, and Rio Ferdinand is going to do some shows around his playing commitments. All different characters, talents and skills. Then we had Thierry Henry last season, Vincent Kompany and Roy Hodgson.

Will they return this season?

That's on an ad-hoc basis. The thing about getting someone who is still involved in the game is that they are a little bit limited in what they can say. They can't really be critical about players they may be playing against next week or players they have managed.

Danny Murphy, Robbie Savage, Alan Shearer, GARY LINEKER, Rio Ferdinand, Phil Neville Match of the Day will have different pundits every week

What did you think of the reaction to Phil Neville's commentary during England's World Cup match with Italy?

I think the first thing to say is that Match of the Day on a Saturday is a very different thing to co-commentating on a live football match. No one could ever argue with Phil's tactical analysis, his appreciation and understanding of the game. He's won six Premier League titles, he's been involved in Champions League wins, his credentials are absolutely first class. I think he'd acknowledge it wasn't a great night for him with England [vs Italy] but co-commentary is completely different from studio analysis. He's super-keen to work hard at it and he'd be very good at it.

Do you think people under-estimate the skills involved in punditry?

Gary Lineker, Russell Brand and Alan Shearer watching the matches Russell Brand (centre) joined Lineker and Shearer for a Sport Relief MOTD special earlier this year

Yeah, it's a big thing. They're footballers and they've come from an environment where they've played football for 20 years and then, sitting in a television studio, becoming a broadcaster, is a very different skill really.

Look at what Gary did in his early [broadcasting] years, he was doing Football Focus, Radio 5 live - he learnt to become a good broadcaster. It didn't just happen overnight. It's something we work hard with pundits all the time to help them develop but yeah, it's not easy.

It's not easy to say things in three minutes succinctly. Sky do it brilliantly but they've got a lot of time - they can spend 15 minutes looking at a corner if they want to. At Match of the Day, you have about three minutes to get across your point and do some analysis. The time is the hardest thing to deal with for them.

Will you have women on the pundit panel?

The position is that, for Match of the Day on a Saturday, we use people who play top-flight Premier League football and that's what works for the show. If you look at the BBC football offering, there's lots of different programmes that offer different perspectives. Gabby's [Logan] presented Match of the Day and Football Focus has had female guests on. As a football offering, it's something we've worked quite hard on. But for Match of the Day the position is the pundits need to have played in and won the Premier League.

What advice do you have for anyone who wants to work at Match of the Day?

Start Quote

There are definitely worse jobs out there”

End Quote Richard Hughes Series editor, Match of the Day

First up, whatever you're doing, whether it's sport, economic or politics, you've got to love the subject and be passionate about it. I love sport, I love watching and reading about sport, I'd be doing it at home anyway so to come in and do that for work is fantastic.

I'd say don't be shy, especially if you're at the BBC already. There are so many people you can speak to, you can learn from. There are training courses you can do, make the most of every opportunity because it's up to you to go and speak to people because otherwise they don't know you're around.

Be prepared to compromise, it's live TV - things go wrong every week, although hopefully you don't notice it at home but you've just got to roll with that. I'd say trust your instincts as well. If you're doing the show, don't edit by committee, don't ignore the people and experience around you but at the end of the day, it's your call.

What's it like for you personally?

It's fantastic, it's an iconic show. All the press around the 50th anniversary - it's been an amazing reaction to the show. It just makes you realise what an important television programme it is and the place it occupies in the nation's consciousness so to be able to come in and edit that, and essentially watch football all afternoon, yeah, there are definitely worse jobs out there.

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