Exclusive - Sky Sports presenter Kelly Cates has lifted the lid on the responsibility that lies with broadcasters in delivering the return of Premier League football, in a way that is sensitive to the events over the last few months and can potentially make up for fans not being allowed in.
Premier League football was played for the first time since 9 March as a result of the coronavirus crisis on Wednesday night, with the disease claiming the lives of nearly 42,000 people in the UK alone. Aston Villa and Sheffield United drew 0-0, while Manchester City thumped Arsenal 3-0 at the Etihad Stadium - both games featuring on Sky Sports.
Strict guidelines have been followed and will continue to be in place to ensure that football in England, through to the end of the 2019/20 season, can be played.
The most striking thing about football on its return, however, has been the lack of fans, with games behind closed doors to adhere to lockdown restrictions and social distancing measures.
The atmosphere is very different without a crowd, although broadcasters are trying to find ways around it to ensure that fans stuck at home are provided with an engaging product.
“[Crowd noise] is not the same but it’s much better than I thought it would be. I thought it would be a little bit ‘nice’, almost like a crowd watching fireworks or something. I was really worried about that… ‘oh, well played’, and that did not appeal," Cates told 90min’s Ben Haines.
“However, having listened to it, the guys who make this know what they’re doing.”
Fans who have been going to games for decades, perhaps without ever missing a match in some cases, are suddenly having to rely on someone else’s lens to consume their football.
That is the case for supporters of all clubs, but it is of particular note for Liverpool given the historic achievement of winning a first title in 30 years, which will be directly experienced by only a handful of people rather than thousands. Equally, pubs that would normally be packed for such a moment will remain closed and people must stay at home to watch.
“I wouldn’t be doing my job if I wasn’t prepared for that moment and it is something you have to take seriously,” Cates explained.
“The delivery isn’t going to be serious, but it has to have emotion and context and all of those things. But that’s not going to be the context of just what’s happening at the football club and it’s not just the context for Liverpool fans, it’s the wider context of what’s happening in the world and these extraordinary circumstances under which this will be happening.
“And it will happen in a context of not being able to show people going mad in the stands. Your default would be, ‘let’s see pictures of the players going over to the crowd’. It might not be won at Anfield, but if it were the first thought [as a broadcaster] would be ‘get the players going over to the Kop’.
“That’s the first thing you would want. You would want to position yourself on the pitch, down there in front of the Kop interviewing the players, interviewing the manager, pulling people over and getting their thoughts. All of that stuff, we won’t be able to do it.
“It will be a two-foot pole and [shouts], ‘Jurgen, are you really happy?’ Luckily, [Klopp] talks really well so it will be one question and we’re away. But just camera on Jurgen.
“Thinking about not having those images and not having that energy, it’s going to be really different.
“The difference is that what we’re going to see more of is the players celebrating with each other much more than you’ll see the players celebrating with the supporters. That can be really lovely as well and so it’s just a different way of doing it.”
?️ "Not having those images, and not having that energy, ??'? ????? ?? ?? ?????? ?????????."@KellyCates spoke to @benhainess about the prospect of broadcasting Liverpool winning the Premier League... in front of no fans! ? pic.twitter.com/RzVTllGGix— 90min (@90min_Football) June 18, 2020
For a presenter there is also an individual level of responsibility, given the situation across the world at the moment.
“I’m slightly nervous about going on air and thinking, how do you talk about this? How do you get this right? You can’t just come on and go ‘Yay, football’s back, the world’s fine’, because it isn’t. But it’s a really lovely thing to be happening,” Cates offered.
“But once the game gets underway and you’ve heard pre-match interviews, the first tackle that goes in, the first shot on goal, then it’s back to normal isn’t it?"
Cates also went on to share her thoughts over the last few months about whether football even returning at all was the right decision.
“All the way through it, my opinion on whether football was going to come back, and whether or not football should come back, kept changing.
“We can’t guarantee it, but we kind of know from all the medical advice that people are pretty much going to be as safe as they can be in that environment, that’s the first thing.
“The second thing is we’re aware that hundreds of people are still dying every day from Covid and we have to temper that slightly. But on the other hand, this is what we love and makes us happy, and something we all want to be part of.
“There was part of me that was desperate for football to come back and there was part of me that was worried football couldn’t come back in a safe way. There was a part of me that was worried if it did come back that it felt slightly insensitive.
“I don’t know what I feel, but I am really, really, really excited.”
Source : 90min