Teacher resources: How to write a match report

Manchester City v Manchester United Telling the story of a match is more difficult than you might think

Watching sport and writing about it is a dream job for many people.

But how do you write a really good report which tells the story of the match and really makes the reader feel like they were there?

There's lots of different ways of going about it, but here are some general rules about the art of writing a match report.

  • NB this guide is written with football in mind, but is equally applicable to lots of other team sports like rugby, hockey etc - and most of the basic principles can be applied to all kinds of other sports.

DO YOUR RESEARCH

Try to find out about the players, managers and the situation at the teams involved. Look at the league table so you know the significance of any result and read newspapers/websites and watch the TV/listen to the radio.

Is the manager under pressure? Is a young player being talked up as a candidate for his international team? Did somebody from the club say something interesting in the pre-match press conference? Try to anticipate what the story might be - but be prepared to ditch this idea if things don't turn out the way you expect!

All this information will help you when it comes to writing reports - making it more interesting than a list of "this happened, then that happened, then this other thing happened..."

GET ORGANISED!

Batteries Remember the basics!

Don't overlook practical things! Try to get to the match in plenty of time so you soak up the atmosphere - it's very stressful struggling through traffic with kick-off approaching!

And check that you have everything you might need: a pen and paper, clipboard, batteries for any equipment you might be using (cameras, dictaphones etc)

Find where you're sitting and get yourself set up. Even if it's a school game and you're standing on the touchline, think about where you'll get the best view.

WRITE IT DOWN!

It's not a memory test, so don't turn it in to one! If you rely on memory, before you know it you'll be getting players' names mixed up and confused about the order that things happened in! Get your notepad out and get scribbling!

One tried-and-tested method is to have a notepad and draw a line down the middle with the home team on one side and the away team on the other and jot things down whenever something of significance happened - in football, this would be goals, red and yellow cards, good chances, bad refereeing decisions etc.

A reporter's notepad Jotting down the action as it happens will help you recall all the important details

And you also might note more general themes as they occur to you: "Team A lacking a cutting edge" or "Team B controlling midfield" and so on.

You might want to develop your own shorthand eg YC for yellow card, MC for missed chance etc - as long as it saves you time and you can decipher it afterwards, it's fine!

At half-time, read back over your notes and highlight the most significant events - a missed chance in the first five minutes that seemed important at the time might not be quite so crucial if the team is 4-0 up!

See if any general themes are emerging - is one team losing possession too easily or is one player having a nightmare that is affecting his team?

Carry on with this in the second half.

PLAN YOUR STORY

Review your notes again at the end of the match, obviously with the final result in mind.

What was the most significant thing that happened? Was it a late wining goal, or an early sending-off? Or perhaps it was an easy chance squandered?

Or is it the fact that one team has moved out of the relegation zone or gone top of the league?

One good test is to think about what you would tell your friends if they asked you about the game. If, for example, you were talking about Man City v Man Utd in April 2012, you probably wouldn't say "...well in the first minute, Man Utd had a corner and then in the third minute Gael Clichy overhit his cross..."

You'd naturally go straight to the most interesting thing, which might be the winning goal or the fact that Man City had moved closer to winning the title.

GET GOING

This most interesting thing will probably feature in the introduction of your report, and then you can move on to the other major incidents.

Don't feel like you have to mention everything you noted down - concentrate on the most important events. Remember that it's an overview, not a blow-by-blow account.

Try not to rely too heavily on clich├ęs and make sure you get details like players' names and positions correct. Nothing undermines a report more than getting basic information wrong!

With an online report, most people read a few paragraphs and then click away to something else so make sure that all the main details are fairly early on in the story. Don't leave the winning goal until the last sentence!

And think about how long your report should be: if it's for a school newspaper, maybe find out how much space there will be and adjust your report accordingly. As a general rule of thumb, keep it short and sweet where you can.

Try to add context, which might be general point about a team lacking ability in midfield, a specific fact from the match - eg that fans were chanting for the manager to be sacked or explaining what the result means in terms of the league table.

Details like that help readers to understand the game much better.

ANYTHING MORE?

As well as writing the report about what actually happened on the pitch, you may also want to include some insight from the players or coaches involved.

If you can speak to them to ask what they made of the game and the key incidents then great. If not, keep an ear out for what they say to other journalists at press conferences etc. If you think it's relevant to your story then work out a way to include it.

BE BALANCED!

BBC presenter Sonali Shah gives her top tips for reporting on sport events and stories.

You may be a fanatic Arsenal fan, but if your report of a 1-1 draw is all about how brilliant Arsenal were and how terrible the opposition were, people probably won't take it seriously.

Think about your audience. If you're writing for an Arsenal fans' website then by all means focus more on Arsenal - but still maintain some balance. If the other team played well, then say so!

At the BBC, the audience is very wide and varied so journalists strive to be impartial and not let their own feelings as fans get in the way of their reporting.

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