Our resident media mogul Nick Heath (@rugbymedia) continues his series that gives us an inside track on life in the rugby media and his journey to the top. Or even middle.
The fourth round of the RBS Six Nations saw England find enough in the tank to beat Scotland but the day held a slightly different ambition in my mind as during the subsequent women’s game, I made my debut as stadium announcer. What dreams are made of. Well, my slightly odd dreams.
The day started with a production meeting at 1pm from the guys at event360 who produce the event side of the full sporting occasion. This takes into account every aspect of the day, including the forces parades, tributes, music, pyrotechnics, announcements and team entrances. I was sat alongside Simon Ward, the regular voice of the ground, as every moment on the schedule was examined in detail to ensure everyone knew what their role was. The schedule had started at 6am and finished at 7pm.
The first entry showing ‘NH’ was at 5pm to welcome the women’s sides. Due to the limited space in the production booth directly over the tunnel, it was suggested I retired back up to the media gantry overhanging from the West stand until the second half of the men’s game when the team sheets for the women’s match would be available.
As the clock stroked 50mins, I ensured my “T” pass (for Tunnel!) was affixed to my coat jacket and headed down. Once out on the concourse outside the stadium, I realised that this was the first time I had ever had such a pass – I was able to pass through the official doors of the stadium and directly into the rear of the tunnel, walking past the dressing rooms while the game was on, to pick up the teamsheets. My heart was racing.
I took the team sheets back to my seat and studied the names. The trickiest was the surname ‘McKerlie-Hex’ so I ran that one off the tongue a few times. When the time came, Simon Ward vacated the seat to fulfill his responsibilities with O2 in the ‘Blue Room’ and I took my place. “Three minutes until headshots,” I was told. This is the run through of the teams in tandem with each player’s headshot slide appearing on the big screen. I’d seen SW practise this earlier by reading the team out at a steady rhythm as the graphic operator followed his lead.
As I began the Scotland team, I immediately panicked as I heard the level of echo on the system. It was probably less than half a second but enough to almost put you off! Eg. “Ladies and g..(Ladies and gentlemen..)” I carried on regardless. With both teams done, I then waited for the hand signal from a colleague below me watching the teams assemble in the tunnel. On cue, I introduced our visitors Scotland and then England and on they ran.
England kept me busy as they romped to an 89-0 lead. It was all fairly plain sailing until the replacements started coming on. I just about kept up with things. The main problem is that without knowing the faces, you need to confirm the name of the player coming off. Seeing as they run towards you, you can wait anxiously hoping for them to turn around as they sit on the team bench before you see what the number is on their back. Luckily, the BBC producer had a radio line into the technician alongside me and was able to feed us the info so that we were kept abreast of things almost before they happened.
The final surprise was when the women’s RFU officer came and asked if I would present the Player of the Match award as the BBC would go off air on the final whistle. A radio mic was thrust into my hand and at 80 mins I shimmied down to pitchside. Heather Fisher was called over and then just as I was about to make the announcement, I noticed a broadcast camera in my face – the BBC had not gone off air yet. I went ahead and presented Heather to the crowd and was wondering if the BBC’s final words were being spoken over visuals of little old me – they were. I had inadvertently made my televisual debut.