World Cup

FIFA World Cup Brazil presents unique opportunities for ESPN on-site match producer

Ian Darke (left), Matt Leach and Steve McManaman (right) before the Brazil vs. Croatia, the opening match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup at Arena de Sao Paulo. (Photo courtesy of Matt Leach)
(l-r) ESPN lead soccer commentator Ian Darke (left), producer Matt Leach and analyst Steve McManaman before covering Brazil vs. Croatia, the opening match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup at Arena de Sao Paulo. (Photo courtesy of Matt Leach)
Matt Leach with ESPN producers Andrew McConville (L) and Ben Cerny (R) at the ESPN set in Rio. (Photo courtesy of Matt Leach)
Matt Leach with associate producer Andrew McConville (l) and graphics playback producer Ben Cerny the ESPN set in Rio. (Photo courtesy of Matt Leach)

Matt Leach first took to the road as ESPN’s on-site soccer match producer during the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany, working with the lead commentator team of Ian Darke and Julie Foudy.

In 2012, he returned in the same role as Darke and his co-commentator Steve McManaman travelled through Poland and Ukraine calling matches of the UEFA European Football Championship.

This summer, Leach and his lead commentator team will travel approximately 9,500 miles in the group stage calling matches across Brazil.

So far in the competition, Leach and his team have called matches from Sao Paulo, Manaus, Natal and Rio de Janeiro. It’s been an exciting adventure, Leach said.

“We were flying from Natal to Rio after the USA-Ghana match [Monday, June 16]. We left at 2 a.m. for a 4 a.m. departure, but due to fog in Rio, we had to land in Belo Horizonte to refuel and wait for the fog to lift,” Leach said. “Instead of being in Rio by 7 a.m., we got to the hotel at 3:30 pm.”

Ahead of their second trip to Arena da Amazônia in Manaus for the much-anticipated USA versus Portugal match on Sunday, June 22 (ESPN, 5:30 p.m. ET), Leach spoke with Front Row about Brazil 2014:

Who is in your traveling party?
We are a traveling group of five – the commentators Ian Darke and his alternating analysts Steve McManaman and Taylor Twellman, our support AP (associate producer) Doug Whitehorn, audio technician Luke Williams and me.

I lean on Doug to handle our graphics communication with our team at the IBC (International Broadcast Center) in Rio de Janeiro, working with research during the match and assisting me in making sure the announcers have everything they need. Luke is a freelance audio tech from London who I worked with during Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine. He handles our technical set-up and communication to the IBC.

How did you prepare for Brazil and the 9,500 miles of travel in group stage?
I tried to learn as much about the country and host cities as possible. The more I can learn about the culture and the places we’re going, the easier it’ll be to get around. We knew the travel and the traffic were going to be difficult. So we knew having lots of patience would be key.

What do you like about your role as an on-site match producer?
These events are exciting because I get out of the truck. Our announce positions are in the stands, so it’s a vantage point I don’t often get, but moreover I have the opportunity to sit next to Ian, one of the best in the business, as he calls the matches.

What are some of the things you are still looking forward to in Brazil?
The overall experience falls in the “once in a lifetime” category. Team USA lifting the trophy wouldn’t be too bad either – one can always hope!

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