- 4 Jun 08, 07:30 PM
When none of the home nations qualified for Euro 2008, BBC Sport, as rights holders, had two options:
Either we could do what our predecessors were obliged to do in the same circumstances back in 1984 - sulk, lick our wounds, and scale the coverage back to a bare, begrudging minimum (only two live games were shown).
Every game will be live on BBC Radio 5 Live or Sports Extra, televised live on either BBC or ITV, while every game that BBC TV shows live will also be available to watch live on the BBC Sport website. Some action will also be available on your mobile phone.
After all, the '84 tournament, in common with most European Championships, was a wonderful event even without our participation. In fact, with the honourable exception of Euro 96, the UK's national sides have contributed very little to the tournament's illustrious history.
The BBC's marketing campaign "Euro 2008: who will you support?" seems to have struck exactly the right note. We're aware that not all the casual viewers we attract every other summer will flock to us this time, but, if you love your football, it would seem perverse not to follow many of the world's - and our domestic league's - best players throughout as open and entertaining a tournament as this one promises to be.
In fact, we've featured several them in our opening titles sequence, set to the 41st Symphony of an Austrian composer by the name of Mozart.
We're in the process of setting ourselves up in a studio in downtown Vienna. We've established a production base in the International Broadcast Centre - for any film buffs among you, we're close to the Ferris Wheel from which Orson Welles philosophised so memorably in "The Third Man" - and will be sending reporters and commentators to various parts of Switzerland and Austria.
And, for the first time, we should be able to offer a genuinely multimedia package to the licence payer. "More platforms than a Bay City Rollers concert" could be the slogan if 1970s references were allowed in such a cutting-edge context. The contract we have with Uefa enables us to broadcast action both interactively and online (for example, via the iPlayer) as well via the traditional TV and radio outlets.
As I've frequently had to point out during the regular season, we do not have this contractual luxury with our week-in, week-out Premier League coverage, so this is a real opportunity for us to provide an expanded service.
We should also be able to maximise the value of all of our material. The technology now available to us will allow us to pool, say, a high-profile interview from a training camp so it can quickly appear on Radio 5 Live, BBC Sport website or the BBC News Channel.
At home or at work, those of you in the UK will be able to watch a wide range of material around the clock via the red button, online or on your mobiles - any action you've missed, classic Euro archive action, and interviews and feature material from our roving crews, for example.
We're also reprising a popular feature from the last World Cup with a daily behind-the-scenes look at our operation and off-duty talent (a kind of DVD extras feature) which we're calling "Match of the Day Unplugged".
I'll try to provide what insight I can from a production point of view with a regular contribution to these blogs - a kind of "Match of the Day Undressed" (or "Unhinged") if you like. As one of the two editors who will be in charge of all the live and highlights shows, I will be at least partly answerable for the TV coverage, and working closely with those responsible for the rest of the BBC's output. So here's to a great tournament all round.
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