BBC BLOGS - Sport Editors
« Previous | Main | Next »

Gearing up for the World Cup

Post categories:

Phil Bigwood | 13:00 UK time, Saturday, 13 March 2010

As Executive Producer, I'm responsible for the production of BBC TV's World Cup coverage. This involves all sorts of things, from deciding what technical feeds we'll need for a match to set design and what Gary Lineker's chair should look like.

I know that some of what we do on TV carries an element of mystery with it, so I hope to use this blog to explain what we're doing, why we're doing it and to answer your questions along the way.

This year's World Cup is the first to be held in Africa and will be a truly historic event. We'll be doing our best to cover both the tournament itself and the diverse cultural and political aspects of Africa. World Cup 2010, like no other football event before it, is about more than just what happens on the pitch.

We are less than 100 days away from the big kick-off, but my planning began in 2007, working throughout with our editorial, production and technical teams.

From the outset the most difficult decision was where to base the BBC's main TV studio.

We try, where possible, to present from the host country because feedback tells us that our audiences expect this kind of closeness to the action and that it adds to your enjoyment of the whole event.

Past studios - remember the Brandenburg Gate in Germany 2006 or the one in Paris for France 98 - helped us to create programmes that left TV audiences feeling immersed in the tournament. I believe this will be more important than ever in South Africa.

One option was to broadcast from Television Centre in London. This would have detached us from the action and would have diminished our ability to cover stories on the ground. Programmes would have arguably not been as engaging and would have been devoid of the atmosphere that is so crucial to a World Cup. I felt we had that issue in 2002 when much of our early programming came from London.

As importantly, however, our studio in TV Centre does not have the facilities to broadcast adequately in high definition, which I think would have disappointed a lot of people, given the profile of the event.

So to maximise audience engagement and enjoyment of the tournament we agreed that we should be based in South Africa.

But where?

The new Cape Town stadiumTable Mountain will provide a spectacular backdrop for the BBC's coverage

The huge distances involved made the prospect of hopping from ground to ground impractical and ridiculously expensive. So we opted for one fixed base and it came down to a straight choice between two cities: Johannesburg or Cape Town.

After much debate, we went for Cape Town and our studio will be on the roof of a hospital, with great views of Table Mountain.

Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for so long, is also visible and downtown Cape Town, where Mandela made his historic address from the balcony of City Hall following his release. This year is the 20th anniverary of that address.

We chose those views because we believe they are the ones that will resonate most with UK viewers. But we are perfectly placed for the football as well. Cape Town Stadium (formerly Green Point) is just a few hundred metres away. As many games will be played there as at the venue for the final, Soccer City. England will play there against Algeria and could potentially return for a semi-final (here's hoping!).

This one venue ticked all the sporting, political and cultural boxes we felt needed ticking. No other location came close.

We thought long and hard about hiring a main presentation studio at the International Broadcast Centre (IBC) in Johannesburg, but Cape Town's backdrop won the day. The IBC is sited near Soccer City stadium, in a former mining area with the city skyline in the far distance.

Once the competition is over, the Cape Town studio will be flat-packed with a view to reusing it at other events.

As far as staffing goes, I'm pleased we have been able to reduce numbers compared to 2006. In terms of TV Sport, we'll be sending a total of 190 to South Africa compared with the 210 staff who travelled to Germany. For Radio, the numbers are 48 compared to 69 and News will also send fewer staff than the 57 they had at the last World Cup. This is despite the fact our output will have grown since then and we will be working in a much more logistically challenging environment.

We will be on air for many hours on TV and, as you'd expect, will be offering extensive services on radio, online and on the red button and across the BBC's News outlets.

We will be covering 32 games live on BBC TV and showing highlights of all the others and will have around 110 hours of domestic World Cup coverage across BBC1, BBC2 and BBC3. There will be over 100 hours of red button coverage and also over 100 hours of content on the BBC Sport website.

The website team in South Africa will also be providing live text commentaries, match reports, blogs, interaction with site users and also hosting Q&A's with BBC Sport pundits.

Radio are covering all matches live and total radio hours will be above 250, taking in all the 5 Live programmes being presented from South Africa during the World Cup. News will be providing coverage from 5.00am until at least midnight each day across all its outlets and platforms.

Italy won the World Cup four years agoCurrent holders Italy begin their defence against Paraguay in Cape Town on 14 June

I'll go into more detail about scheduling in a future blog, but it is probably worth noting that a number of the people working on these services will be returning early or staying for a short duration.

We are satisfied that this number of staff is not large for an operation of this scale, in a country this size and with issues around transport and security.

The UK is regarded as one of the major World Cup players in broadcasting terms, yet some of our colleagues from Europe and South America will send many hundreds of people to the tournament, in excess of the numbers for the BBC and ITV combined.

I therefore believe the UK broadcasters run a pretty lean operation given the complexity and enormity of the event..

Don't get me wrong, it will be a privilege for all of us going to work in South Africa and we can't wait to get started, but there's plenty to do.

Before the event I will outline the sorts of things the different areas of the operation are involved in so that, hopefully, there's more information and background available.

If you have any coverage ideas, I'd like to hear them and if you have any questions, I'll do my best to get answers.

Next time around, I'll update you on how the host nation is preparing itself and what the stadiums are looking like......


  • Comment number 1.

    Have you decided which matches will be on BBC & ITV? Also, how about getting some new pundits, the old guys are getting a bit boring.

  • Comment number 2.

    One request - absolutely no mention of the word "England" during coverage of matches not involving England (and perhaps £1 to Sport Relief everytime it is. After a couple of Motson matches we could rebuild Haiti!)

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    And no doubt this license fee payer would prefer that Delphsider as would many others. I'd rather the Beeb spent a bit extra to make this a bit special than skimped aqnd left us all feeling a bit flat, as was the case after the 2002 WC. Good blog and can't wait for the tournament to kick off!

  • Comment number 5.

    @Phil Bigwood

    Ignore the anti BBC comments, it is hardly a holiday for the staff, especially when there is more work for less people than last time.

    Does the BBC have a plan if England get to the final or do you get a stadium box for broadcasting if England make the final?

    It would be good to see a preview style show of the country the World Cup in like the Ski Sunday team did in Western Canada. You can make a programme about the country, key moments in history, visit some venues and the people who live near them.
    It would be good to see a small segment on each city as each venue has a game played at it on the BBC covering that city and its region and meet people from that area and the fans. As the rounds progress you can update these segments.
    It would be good if the BBC provides any additional content via the red button, the BBC broadcast live music concerts from the Olympics games this year.

    For the benefit of viwers if the BBC broadcast the early afternoon England game can the BBC have an evening repeat on BBC 3 and the BBC HD channel? If the BBC do only show 1 England game from the group stage it should also pick Portugal v Brazil to make up for having only 1 group stage game.

    If you are providing HD can you please include 5.1 surround sound. As the BBC HD website recommends viewers invest in one the BBC and ITV should bring the games in 5.1.

    Will you employ any signal delay technology so that the HD pictures and SD pictures in digital are seen at the same time? Think summer time, neighbours windows are open and you hear shouts before you see the HD goal.

    As the World Cup clashes with Wimbledon can you guarantee that only Wimbledon fixtures with a British player and the Mens and Womens final will have priority over non-England games.
    Is the BBC Sport department making sure with Wimbledon there are no Andy Murray matches taking place on the same day as an England match? Considering how long a tennis game can take it would be a bad move to schedule them on the same day.

  • Comment number 6.

    Cape Town is looking forward to the BBC in Cape Town.
    I am in particular looking forward to BBC World News being presented from Cape Town.

    In terms of "isolation", the Cape Town - Johannesburg air route is 5th busiest air route in the world.

    The IBC in Johannesburg is surrounded by mine dumps, as of yet has no accommodation on site, is far from major hotel hubs and will therefore require transport from main hotel hubs to the IBC each day and is expensive to rent.

  • Comment number 7.

    I have searched the BBC sports schedules and can find no mention of the 2010 Paralympic Games currently taking place in Vancouver. I am very disappointed that it appears that the BBC is not providing coverage of this major international event. I have yet to see or hear the Games mentioned on BBC news, other than Mike Bushell carrying the torch. Come on BBC, the Paralympians deserve some coverage. Alan Hale

  • Comment number 8.

    YES! One major request that'll improve your coverage 100%.

    I don't mind you using the usual pundits too, but you need to employ Tim Vickery for all South American matches.

    He's one of the few pundits in world football who's every word I believe.

  • Comment number 9.

    Can't wait.

    Have you guys made the Opening sequence yet? loved the Euro 2004 one.

    And what are your plans for the noise of the Vuvuzelas? Will the noise be drowned out?

  • Comment number 10.

    Usual reports of the BBC daring to spend money to cover an event in the press today. £6m actually though sounds very reasonable to cover at least 32 games (less than £100,000 an hour, which is way cheaper than a couple of episodes of EastEnders) - though I'm not convinced on the need for nearly 300 staff considering you only needed just over 400 to cover the Olympics - which is way more than three footy matches a day.

    However, would be quite fun just to make a point to the press if you just didn't send out anyone and see what they think when you've got games with no commentary and a blank screen during half time and at the final whistle. (Though actually on second thoughts I think many people would quite like that!)

  • Comment number 11.

    If there is any event that the BBC should spend extra to try and get value for money for its viewers, then it should be the FIFA World Cup.

  • Comment number 12.

    Media reports telling a nation of football fans the BBC and ITV shouldn't spend enough when they have already cut costs to cover the event will only lose them sales. I'm sure they will be all full feature pull outs in June to cash in as well.

    @, gunner-zp

    Vuvuzelas wern't a problem at the African Cup of Nations. Fans beating drums are far worse for noise issues.

  • Comment number 13.

    Will anyone beat spain? Arguably the 3 best centre midfielders in the world supporting probably the two most natural finishers in the world, with amazing strength in depth and a much improved defence including probably the worlds best keeper. Anything can happen in 90 mins but I can't see it happening. Anyway really looking forward to it, hopefully I can still get BBC coverage as I'm in Spain for the final! An England Spain final would be amazing.

  • Comment number 14.

    As somebody who has just joined the woodland trust, I respect anybody called Phil Bigwood.


    1) Who will be commentating for BBC TV? I understand Motson is packing it in.

    2) Will the Five Live World Football Phone-In continue throughout the summer?

    3) Will you be getting a video archive up on t'interweb in the build-up to the tournament?

    4) I really enjoyed the "World Cup Stories" series in May 2006. Will it be repeated?

    5) When do you divvy the games up with ITV?


  • Comment number 15.

    I quite like the usual pundits and please ignore those who are calling for them to be replaced. I also agree with a previous post about not mentioning England during non-England games. Despite them not even being at euro 2008 they were still mentioned by the bbc and itv every other sentence.

    I would quite like some build up shows maybe just available online previewing topics that maybe not big enough to be included in the main broadcasting shows, topics such as profiles of young players to watch out for, the form of some of the potential stars during this season, and interviews with players we don't normally get to hear from on the BBC, although I hope you don't waste them like the Ibrahimovic interview where he spent half the interview answering questions about Mourinho.

  • Comment number 16.

    Now that David Beckenham is not available to play in the World Cup, why not signed him as one of the team of experts to comment on the matches, before ITV sign him up.

    Peter Patterson

  • Comment number 17.

    "As importantly, however, our studio in TV Centre does not have the facilities to broadcast adequately in high definition, which I think would have disappointed a lot of people, given the profile of the event"

    Does that mean the BBC will finally be broadcasting the football in HD?

  • Comment number 18.

    What I don't get also is exactly what the BBC would reuse this studio for. Everything else the BBC covers has studio arrangements in place, and the big events all have their own broadcast centres, so reusing the studio there would incur extra cost again.

    Also, if you don't like the views at Johannesburg can't you just green screen in the views you want! Indeed going the CSO route could put the hosts in the right city for the right match - at fairly minimal cost.

  • Comment number 19.

    I'd love to be an exec producer - can I assist you, no charge!

    The things that you can do - to improve:

    In the game:

    - Could we have at least ONE 'knowledgeable' expert / commentator?


    - Distance to goal and mph of the shot
    - Stats of players on introduction. Not everyone knows every player.
    Builds interest!
    - Cameras near the posts to capture the 'agonisingly close'!
    - Use fly-cam for over-head video. There's a new 'noiseless' one, I hope!
    If it could 'follow' the trajectory of the ball...!
    - 'Reaction shots' - cannot ever have enough of them. esp. animated ones!

    Off the game:

    - Why people should visit the venues and the cities. A tourist look.

    Etc. Etc.

  • Comment number 20.

    HBS provide all the camera work at matches, as they have at previous World Cups. This World Cup will use the most cameras ever used inside a World Cup stadium to capture the action. This host broadcaster service, I assume is not related to BBC

  • Comment number 21.

    @ Alan Hale

    The Paralymic Games are covered here:

  • Comment number 22.

    More cameras doesn't mean better though - just means the potential for more cuts from camera to camera, which might not be a good thing.

    Re: technology - the FIFA dictator would probably not allow broadcasters can do this, but considering Hawkeye was used both in cricket and tennis as TV aides before being used for official decisions, would it be feasible for it to be used in a similar manner in football. (Not that it's needed - everyone but bloody Batter knows the 20 yr-old+ video replay technology would be sufficient in quickly determining most decisions)

  • Comment number 23.

    Hi Phil

    Re: Commentary Request-World Cup 2010

    I have been a devoted viewer of BBC football for several decades, the coverage is first-rate, utterly engaging commentary from presenters with a genuine knowledge of the game.

    Like many others I look forward greatly to seeing the forthcoming World Cup, a feast of international football which eclipses all domestic and regional competitions. However I have noticed watching BBC coverage of both the World and European competitions, an increasing tendency for comments to feature throughtout games, that reference the Premiership, and or/what Premiership clubs are interested in such-and-such player.

    Now some may consider this is relevant information, yet for me I cannot help but feel constant references during World Cup games to "the Aston Villa striker...Chelsea midfielder" etc devalues the magic of the viewing experience (plus fans are already acutely aware of which player belongs to a particular Premiership team).

    I hope you may agree that the World Cup is supposed to over-arch all domestic competitions, it is unique, and as I say, magical. That status is somewhat demeaned when, during play itself, commentators are speculating about which Premiership side is interested in players on display.The message this suggests is that World Cup is some sort of 'cattle market' for the Premiership.

    I'm pretty sure fans want nothing else than be totally immersed by this global event, to relish in the internationl skills on display, not to be reminded at regular intervals about our domestic leagues.

    I sincerely hope you may give some thought to these points and that the World Cup will be presented with the usual degree of excellence, only the BBC brings.

  • Comment number 24.

    Wow!Being British & having lived in Cape Town for 16 years & Johannesburg for 25 years,sincerely hope the BBC is not going to be making an expensive mistake......
    Has anyone researched the weather patterns in these two locations?
    Johannesburg June/July...Crisp,clear blue skies sunshine all rain! Light & sunny from early in the morning.
    Cape Town June/July....Grey,Dark clouds,mostly rain & mist all winter, especially comming off the sea. Sunrise much later.
    All glass, rain running down...with the sea mist/ rain or storms off the sea, need cleaning every day. Yes Cape Town very picturesque on a nice day, but there are not many in the winter. Sincerely hope BBC gets the views they expect... Good Luck & hope it all works out. Excellent coverage for Cape Town Tourism... well done guys! All the best to Cape Town & the BBC.

  • Comment number 25.

    Are the rights fees for the World Cup split 50/50 with ITV, or do the BBC pay a larger share because as in 2006, the division of matches seems to be in the BBC's favour when it comes to England. ITV may get two guaranteed group games, but the BBC gets every knock out game. ITV can simulcast the semi and final if England make it that far (so don't really know why I'm bringing this up), but we all know what happens when the BBC and ITV broadcast the same game.

  • Comment number 26.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 27.

    How long until the world cup wallchart from the BBC will be available on the website?

  • Comment number 28.

    Some good points raised by some of the posters above. A preview show of the host nation and each hosting city would provide excellent context and definitely add to the viewer's experience of the World Cup on television. South African cities other than Jo'burg and Cape Town don't get too much coverage on a global scale so promoting them would be a great way to set up the tournament. I also agree with the poster who wanted World Cup Stories back on BBC2, I watched it every Sunday night in the build up to the 2006 World Cup; it really increased anticipation for the tournament plus it was a great show!

  • Comment number 29.

    I have a few ideas....

    I would like to see a series of programmes to be aired looking back at previous world cups, one episode for each world cup. Obviously the most recent ones would be easier to do, in fact I think the BBC have produced world cup review shows before so just replaying them would be good to get everyone in the mood.

    A countdown through the best ever stadiums to be used in the World Cup, in terms of design, atmosphere, history etc.

    Perhaps an hour long show, looking at each team in the group, that makes 8 episodes and gives every team a good 15 minute description. Shorter is budgets are too tight, much shorter, like a 20 minute episode then.

    Similar to Baddiel and Skinner, BBC have enough contracted comedians from the likes of Mock the Week, who could assess daily the goings on in the competition.

    Obviously you will have your customary best goals and best saves ever clips...

    I would also like to see reporters standing by in the various fan parks in South Africa and the 7 in the world, especially the one in London. It will provide good context for how its being viewed across the world. I am sure you previously considered fan parks during 2006 but this time, for the first time, there are a limited few around the globe including one in London. This will provide positive publicity for our 2018 bid. I also hear that certain venues will be broadcasting the game in 3D, would be good to get an insight into that too.

    AND FINALLY, something else I would like to see is.....
    BBC delve into social networking for the World Cup - i.e. facebook, twitter with updates etc.
    i imagine there will be blogs... can that not be video blogs - i.e. a youtube channel? and something else for iplayer?

  • Comment number 30.

    lots of good ideas..especially the pre world cup previews to build the excitement...My idea??? On the red button or the bbc3/4 channels,to show highlights of old classic matches?? eg...italy v w germany - 1970....france v w Germany 1982.....Algeria v W germany 1982...Brazil v Anyone 1982!!....Engalnd v argentina 1986 & 1998.....And even some more obscure games,like poland v Peru in 1982 and South Korea v Italy 2002.....Maybe im the only sad one who would love to spend all day every day watching old world cup games...But maybe im not!!!! :-)

  • Comment number 31.

    A choice between Jo'burg and Cape Town is a no brainer and you did make the right choice, despite what an earlier commentator mentioned about the weather. The missing bit of info on the weather was that it is likely to be -3C and frosty every morning in Johannesburg, while Cape Town can't get that cold because of all the rain..oops, sorry.

    A possible series you could do is on the South African premier soccer league teams around the country, who will benefit from the use of the World Cup stadia once the world press leave and what they in turn are doing to benefit youngsters in their regions.

  • Comment number 32.

    Phil Bigwood said

    "If you have any coverage ideas, I'd like to hear them and if you have any questions, I'll do my best to get answers"

    Yet he has not done this

  • Comment number 33.

    Looks like the BBC have listened to one my suggestions about social networking:
    "Send to us at, and keep an eye out for our pages on Facebook and Twitter, soon. "

  • Comment number 34.

    Looking forward to the coverage - am in South Africa and the atmosphere has been abuzz with excitement for months now already... countdown clocks at every turn!

    Good choice on Cape Town by the way!

    Sizwe (South African blogger)

  • Comment number 35.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 36.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 37.

    Any chance of seeing a preview of the polygon shaped glass studio?

  • Comment number 38.

    I am a avid football fan and I particurly like to watch World Cup football. I was wondering what the average percentage will be of women watching the World Cup?

  • Comment number 39.

    We are eagerly awaiting the BBC's worldcup football coverage and its first-class commentateries who have a genuine knowledge of the game.

  • Comment number 40.

    Nice town and beautiful stadium.

  • Comment number 41.

    Music for the coverage?

    My vote goes to running Prydas Emos with the highlights bit. Banging feel good anthem that just builds and builds. Summer Football festival music. Check it out.......................

  • Comment number 42.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 43.

    It was a great world cup and the host were fantastic.


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.