- 18 Jun 08, 07:50 PM
With the exception of the early stages of Japan/Korea in 2002, our studio team has been based in a host country for all the recent major football tournaments. This has all sorts of advantages but can mean we have to rely on viewing figures and anecdotal evidence to assess the impact back home. With none of the UK's teams making it to the party out here, the reaction at home to this tournament is particularly difficult for us to gauge.
I acknowledged at the outset that, with no home interest, some of the viewers who would normally be swept along by national fervour may not tune in as assiduously this time. However, Tuesday's audience of 7.4m for Italy's win over France (with another 850,000 watching the Dutch on BBC3) is pretty close to the size of audience we would expect for a comparable game in any previous tournament.
Encouragingly, it would seem the vast majority of football fans are, like us, enjoying a sporting festival free from the emotional rollercoaster ride that accompanies following their own team.
And I know for a fact that many Scottish, Welsh and Irish viewers are particularly pleased that England are not featuring in the coverage, bar the occasional reference, or quote from Slaven Bilic and others in a Croatian context. We also appreciate the fact, as reflected in the BBC's marketing campaign, that there are many UK viewers who are actively following a team. For example, I imagine the Turkish community in Stoke Newington enjoyed themselves on Sunday night!
This is my 10th major football tournament working for the BBC, either in London or on site, and so far it's one of the best. The football has largely been outstanding and, in an era when club football is so dominated by money, there's something refreshing about a tournament where the a coach is dealt a hand of cards in terms of who qualifies to play for him and has to get on with it.
In the modern era, Croatian and Dutch club sides will always struggle to compete with clubs from the leagues of the bigger countries, but no amount of Russian, American or anyone else's money can prise their players away on the international stage.
As I've explained before, most of the production team is based in hotels and an International Broadcast Centre in the outskirts of Vienna, while the studio team is in the city centre.
As the go-betweens for the presenters and producers, my fellow editors and I have subsequently become experts on the excellent Viennese public transport system. And while we're slightly sorry to be missing out on impromptu breakfast conversations which occasionally give birth to programme ideas, the set-up is generally working well, and providing a lot of material for all of our various BBC Sport platforms.
The IBC is located in one of those big, edge-of-city conference centres, not unlike the NEC in Birmingham, and is currently a temporary home to broadcasters from Europe and beyond.
Being here puts us at the heart of all the massive variety of footage which is now fed in from the venues and elsewhere. Just to give one example, we are able to record a full 90 minutes of a camera continuously focused on any coach during a game. Hence those bench shots of joy or despair we play in at half-time or use in a music montage like the one which closed Tuesday's show.
We can also trade material or knowledge with the other broadcasters. We've already shown a very orange advert one of our producers saw on a tape borrowed from our Dutch colleagues at NOS, while we're always looking for Spanish, Turkish and other commentaries to accompany their big moments.
I've even found myself being interviewed by other broadcasters looking for a British angle on a range of subjects. Quite why anyone in Spain or Poland wants to know what i think about Aragones not picking Fabregas, or the host nations being seeded I'm not sure, but there you go.
Last Saturday, I was particularly grateful to be working in such a cosmopolitan environment. I was editing the highlights show and we'd sent a crew to Luiz Felipe Scolari's eve-of-game press conference where we'd been told he would speak about the Chelsea job. Our crew duly recorded a full half-hour and thought they were also recording the simiultaneous English translation.
The material was fed to us shortly before transmission, but in the press conference scrum the camera was knocked and somehow didn't record the English translation. So we had the unedited footage of a press conference which we knew contained quotes that would be all over the Sunday papers but no means of working out was said when. And we were about to go on the air.
Fortunately, our executive producer dashed to the Uefa office where a Portuguese chap called Rico was about to knock off for the evening. Not only did he translate all the material, but he became the voice of Scolari on the edited package. Rather shamefully, all we could rustle up to thank him at 1am local time when we came off the air was a bottle of wine which was lying around and a cake probably intended for someone's birthday. And our eternal gratitude.
Whether, as a result, Rico was sorry that the British broadcasters hadn't stayed at home with all of our teams was difficult to gauge, but he was a good guy and seemed happy to have helped. If, in return, Portuguese TV are desperate for a hastily improvised soundbite on Uefa's insistence on head-to-heads taking precedence over goal difference, i'll be delighted to oblige!
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