As governments across Europe begin to ease lockdown restrictions and allow sport to return during a pandemic, a production team in the UK has quietly been getting ready. BT Sport, which typically produces and broadcasts live Premier League football (soccer) in 4K HDR on a weekly basis, has moved nearly all of its production team remote. Live football returns in Europe this weekend for Germany’s Bundesliga, and producers, directors, and commentators will go live in makeshift home offices just a few steps away from where they usually sleep.
“We’ve been doing 7 live shows every week during lockdown all remotely,” says Jamie Hindhaugh, chief operating officer at BT Sport, in an interview with The Verge. “You learn different tricks and traits, and you understand how different people interpret what you’re saying.” These smaller live shows have been a learning curve, allowing the production team to create a virtual TV studio and prepare for the return of live football. That’s involved moving kit that would normally be operated in the back of a van or studio into people’s living rooms and garages.
BT Sport’s production team is typically stationed in an office in Stratford, East London, and they’re often at the cutting edge of tech like 8K broadcasting. But nearly all of the team is now working remotely after the UK government implemented stay-at-home guidelines nearly two months ago. We’ve seen British TV networks and live entertainment shows adapt to the new rules in varying ways in recent weeks, with some shows halting production altogether and others carrying on in environments where it looks, to the viewer at least, like there’s little social distancing going on.The eyes of the world will be on the German Bundesliga this weekend as it becomes the first major European soccer league to return amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The country has 174,098 confirmed cases of Covid-19 with 7,861 deaths, according to the latest figures, but Germany’s Football Association (DFB) has worked closely with league organizers (DFL) and hope strict safety protocols will protect those involved when matches are played.
If the measures work, it could provide a template for other sports to get back underway. If they don’t, then questions will be asked as to why football returned so soon.
Philipp Köster, chief editor of soccer publication ’11 Freunde,’ puts it more bluntly — German football is on “parole.”
“This is an experiment with an unknown outcome,” Köster told CNN’s Fred Pleitgen.