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Grassroots football on the BBC: why we're streaming FA Cup qualifying rounds

Ken Burton

Producer and Director, BBC Sport

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Setting up a camera to stream Deeping Rangers v Kidderminster Harriers

BBC Sport began live-streaming matches from the FA Cup qualifying rounds last year, and ahead of this Saturday’s North East derby of Dunston UTS v Gateshead, director Ken Burton explains how it's done.

The idea came from the early rounds of the Rugby League Challenge Cup, where we pioneered having a single camera on a scaffold tower streaming the whole match live. It was very well received and the football unit saw it as a great opportunity for the FA Cup and for putting more grassroots football on.

The pictures are sent back live by a two-person team with graphics and commentary added in Salford. Conor McNamara, Mark Scott, Danny Webber and Leon Osman get what it’s about and how much it means to the teams and to the viewers, and they encourage people to get in touch during their commentary.

And people do get in touch on Twitter with the hashtag #BBCFACup. They might be watching their home town team that they never thought would be on television, or seeing a work colleague playing on screen, or doing a shout out to their own team as they watch on a mobile device on their way to another FA Cup game later.

Even though it’s a single camera with no replays, no cutaways, and if it’s raining you can see the lens being wiped, people are staying and watching online and on the Red Button.

When Maltby Main FC played Frickley Athletic in the first qualifying round, Maltby goalkeeper James Pollard made an absolutely extraordinary double save, and thanks to working with colleagues across the BBC it was on the homepage within minutes

We got a letter from the club saying it was the best game in their history, even though they lost 2-1, and thanking us. It’s a lovely letter to have, and one of the things that make all the travelling up and down the country installing the cameras and standing in the rain worthwhile.

Never underestimate how much non-League grassroots football is valued both by its watchers and by its participants.

BBC One’s Football Focus tells viewers when we’re going to stream games and where to watch on the website. They tend to dip in to live games, and during the last two they’ve nearly had a goal on both occasions.

Friday night local and regional sports bulletins are also now being broadcast from the football grounds we’ll be streaming from the next day, so it’s all coming together across the BBC.

You can watch Dunston UTS v Gateshead live on 20 October here.

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