Bloody Hell! UK Football Fans Hijack ITV Pitch-Side Microphone
By Kevin Hilton
SVG Europe editor
The FA (Football Association) Cup brings together clubs from all levels of the game, from the high flyers in the English Premier League to part-timers, and, while that is the charm of the competition, it can pose problems for broadcasters and facilities companies working at grounds not designed to host a full-scale television production. The result for ITV viewers? A naked player and an f-bomb or two, courtesy of fans who stole a pitch-side mike.
During the Nov. 30 second-round match between lowly Histon, second in the Blue Square Premier, and Leeds United, one-time winner of the FA Cup (1972) and in the Premier League until 2004 but now languishing in the Coca-Cola League One, not only did heavy rain and strong winds affect both the play and broadcast, but a microphone was appropriated by fans, and a naked player was glimpsed during live post-match interviews following Histon’s heroic 1-0 victory and progression into the third round of the Cup.
Commentator Peter Drury apologised for the “blurry pictures” due to the rain lashing Histon’s grandly but misleadingly named Glass World Stadium, but ITV had to make a formal statement to apologise after the live transmission was disrupted by what was believed to have been a group of Leeds supporters removing a pitch-side microphone and chanting offensively, including, apparently, “ITV are f***ing s***.”
The technical crew, working for OB company O21 Television, cut the mic, and ITV issued an apology. An ITV spokesman commented, “Unfortunately, during the live broadcast of the FA Cup match one of our pitch-side microphones was removed from its position by some fans and taken into the crowd, where it picked up some swearing. The sound engineer immediately shut down all crowd sound and removed the affected microphone. We apologise to viewers for this incident, which was out of our control.”
He added that the situation was “down to the security at the club” and out of the hands of ITV and O21. ITV had brought in its own rig for the match, but the spokesman said coming to grounds that were not fully set up for broadcasters was “part of the magic of the FA Cup.”
As for the nudity, he said, “During the post-match interviews conducted amongst the celebrations following Histon’s historic win over Leeds, a naked player was very briefly visible in the background of the shot. As soon as this became apparent, the programme producer immediately cut to another camera. We apologise to any viewers who were offended.”