THE ever-closer symbiosis between the SRU and BT Sport which has developed in the past year and a half reached a new level on Saturday as the digital channel was, for the first time, host broadcaster for a Scotland game.
The previous weekend’s match in Turin was also on BT, but that was through the local Italian broadcast feed, so Saturday was the first chance for the company to run the televisual show on international day at the stadium which now bears its name.
Last May, BT signed a long-term sponsorship deal with the SRU, thought to be worth in the region of £20 million, which included naming rights for Murrayfield. A good chunk of that money has been put into the launching of the four regional BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academies and earlier this year it replaced RBS as shirt sponsors of the national teams in a record deal. At the time of that announcement, the SRU director of commercial operations, communications and public affairs Dominic McKay described BT as being “very much under the skin of Scottish rugby”.
Sunset and Vine is the production company that handles BT’s rugby output and its senior producer, Titus Hill, took The Scotsman on a behind-the-scenes tour of the operation.
In total, a staff of 75 are involved in producing the live broadcast, with setting up starting from midweek onwards. The main nerve centre is a collection of trucks behind the South Stand, where the cameras, sound and graphics are orchestrated by the director.
We find presenter Martin Bayfield, commentator Nick Mullins and co-commentator Ben Kay having lunch in one of the less-than-glamorous trucks. Former England lock Bayfield consoles himself as he hunches over his chilli con carne with the knowledge that the vehicles used at Formula 1 are even more cramped. The mood is relaxed and Mullins, who is working on his match notes, jokes: “The only thing which is worrying us at the moment is whether or not I say ‘thanks Bayfs’ when he hands over to me. I’m thinking ‘no’ as it would give the wrong impression that we actually like each other.” When the time comes Mullins opts for a simple “thanks Martin”.
The Scottish flavour is added to the mix with Al Kellock pitchside and Chris Paterson joining Mullins and Kay in the commentary box. Of course, Kellock and Paterson are SRU employees in their ambassadorial roles, but Hill insists that there is no editorial pressure from Murrayfield.
While the future of Six Nations and World Cup rugby is secure, for now, on terrestrial television, BT Sport’s rugby output is growing all the time, with both European tournaments, England’s Aviva Premiership and more international coverage like this Saturday’s France-Scotland game in Paris, and given the close relationship with the SRU, you would expect more Scotland games appearing on the channel in the coming years.
• France v Scotland kicks off at 8pm BST on Saturday 5 September, exclusively live on BT Sport 1. BT is at the heart of Scottish Rugby, broadcasting three of Scotland’s Summer Test matches exclusively live in the UK. BT’s association with Scottish Rugby also sees them sponsor Scotland 7s, Scotland’s club league and cup competitions and Scottish Rugby’s four new academies, as well as BT Murrayfield.