Rugby Union

Exclusive: BT Sport aims to take rugby to the masses

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Since BT Sport gained the rights to Aviva Premiership action last year they have made a concerted effort to bring rugby union to the masses.

One manifestation of this has been Rugby Tonight, their weekly round up of all things concerning the oval-ball, and GiveMeSport got an exclusive look behind the scenes this week to see just how it is all put together.

The show, which goes live every Wednesday night, is based in BT Sport's mammoth studios at the Olympic Park, Stratford.

And the the first thing you notice when you arrive at the 80k square foot site, is the grand scale of the operation.

They have created three interlocking studios in which they broadcast all of their shows, a space big enough to fit 4-and-a-half full sized tennis courts.

And this is where the likes of Lawrence Dallaglio, Ben Kay, Martin Bayfield, and Sarra Elgen go to work backed by an army of support.

The Rugby Tonight team brings fans exclusive highlights, in-depth analysis and more than their fair share of banter (usually directed at Austin Healy when he is on duty), utilising their hi-tech studios to create a fairly unique brand of sports show.

And Dallaglio explained the method behind the madness:

"Rugby is relatively young, it's only been a professional sport since 1995 and there was a way it was broadcast up to when BT Sport took over and you know we are very fortunate to have the resources and the ability to try and hopefully improve on what we've seen year on year," the former England captain explained.

These resources include a specially created fake pitch which is used to demonstrate the intricacies of the sport, and over 27 LED screens to show the stars of the modern game in all their glory.

The show also embraces social media and fan interaction, inviting a crowd of around 200 into the studios to watch (and participate) in the night.

And Dallaglio feels that is perhaps where they differ to more traditional rugby shows at present:

"It is about using everyone that is involved, and I think that is where we have challenged perhaps what's been done previously.

"The game is about the teams and the players that are playing so getting coaches involved, getting the current players involved, and getting fans involved (is important)," he explained.

Watching Dallaglio, alongside his fellow presenters, run through rehearsals you can see the effort and organization that goes into making the live show run smoothly. But, while they work hard to get everything in order, they clearly have fun doing it and a rugby ball is never too far away.

"It's a team effort, it really is in the same sense as it on the field as well. So yeah it's about everyone doing their job as well...

"We've got some great guys who work in the production and direction of what we are doing," he told GiveMeSport.

The show has proved popular with the rugby fraternity, and with the game as a whole continuing to grow, those in charge at BT Sport will be hoping Rugby Tonight can go from strength to strength:

"Rugby is getting bigger and bigger all the time and we as a broadcaster of the Aviva Premiership have a job to play in that.

“Each individual club is doing a fantastic job of marketing their own game but for those that can’t get to the grounds we are delivering it in their home as well," finished Dallaglio.

The show is aired at 8pm every Wednesday.

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Topics:
Rugby Union
Aviva Premiership

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