LONDON — On Jan. 5 and 6, ESPN’s UK operation televised what many sports fans consider to be the “start” of the FA Cup — the world’s oldest and most coveted domestic soccer cup competition.
While the tournament actually begins in August, the Third Round of the tournament — where the “giants” of the English Premier League enter and are matched-up against lower-league and semi-professional or amateur clubs — has provided innumerable shocks and fairytales over the years and is one of the key moments in the English sporting calendar.
The tournament, first held in 1871, is unique in the UK by allowing clubs of all standards to compete, from the largest clubs in England and Wales down to amateur teams. It means the tournament has become known for the possibility of so-called minnows becoming giant-killers by eliminating top clubs from the tournament. It is an attribute that is sort of the English soccer cousin to the “Cinderella” element of the NCAA basketball tournaments.[box color=gray size=small align=right]
· 90 Approximate number of staff on site
· 22 Cameras including ENG/ESPN
· 12 Outside Broadcast Vehicles including Satellite Uplink, F & TV, GFX, Security, Dining Bus for Talent & ITV SNG
· 6 Presenters, reporters, commentators and guests
· 91 Meals served
· 14 kilometers of cable into the stadium
· 60 BNC inter truck video feeds
· 2 MADI fiber optic inter connectors
· 30 Audio connections inter truck
· 9 LCD monitors in various locations
· 9 Specialist HD mini cams
· 1 HD radio steadicam
· 1 HD Super slomotion camera
· 1 X-mo
· 9 HDC1500 cameras
· 7 EVS XT2 hard disc recorders
· 2 M2000 HD tape machines
· 1 SRW tape machine
· 2 Digi Beta machines[/box]
As 2013 dawned, ESPN cameras were live at two Third Round matches that presented that opportunity for a so-called potential “giant-killing” upset: semi-professional club Mansfield Town (from the fifth tier of English soccer) versus Liverpool FC (Premier League powerhouse and seven-time winners of the FA Cup); and Cheltenham Town (from the fourth tier of English soccer and an amateur club as recently as 1999) taking on Everton (five-time winners of the FA Cup, currently fifth in the Premier League table).
ESPN covers the tournament on TV in several territories worldwide, including the home market of the UK, so the images captured by ESPN cameras were being beamed to ESPN viewers in the UK, Australia and parts of Latin America — as well as serving as a host feed for other TV partners around the world.
The photo gallery above reflects ESPN giving a half-dozen British soccer journalists an inside look at the distinctive style it brings to this uniquely English sporting spectacle.
ESPN will televise 25 live and exclusive FA Cup matches this season, from the First Round through to the Final, ensuring fans won’t miss any of the competition’s unique drama and storylines. As well as selected replays through the tournament, it has televised two matches in the first two rounds, three matches from the third to fifth rounds, two quarter-finals, one semi-final and the FA Cup Final. That coverage is augmented by ESPN.co.uk, ESPN’s news and information portal and ESPNFC.com, ESPN’s multi-platform, multi-language and multi-country global football brand, providing full coverage.
For each match, ESPN’s televised production and talent team bring viewers a 30-to-60-minute build-up from on site at the home ground. The custom-built, pitch-side set which draws on ESPN’s College GameDay match-day coverage in the US and brings viewers right down alongside the action. Other features of ESPN’s UK FA Cup coverage include in-match interviews with managers, cameras in dressing rooms (a fairly atypical feature in English soccer), pitchside post-match interviews with the managers and more.
ESPN Communications’ Paul Melvin and James Berg contributed to this post. For UK-based readers, ESPN UK has live and exclusive coverage of the FA Cup Third Round replay between Arsenal and Swansea Wednesday, Jan. 16 from 7pm UK time.