Robin Scott-Elliot: Presenters leave the safety of the studio at their own peril

View From The Sofa: World Cup cricket/Premier League, Sky Sports/ESPN
Click to follow
The Independent Online

At Murrayfield a few years ago the BBC dispatched a junior member of the production team with an umbrella to accompany Jeremy Guscott to a touchline presentation position. The umbrella soon came into its own, successfully deployed to protect Guscott from a mini-barrage of chips from the home support.

A Scot does not dispose of fried food willy-nilly but Guscott at close range was too much of a temptation, which only goes to show that the best place for television presenters or pundits at a stadium is in a studio, safely out of reach of the masses. It is better to put up with the odd vigorous waver outside the glass, mobile pressed to ear as he mouths "Can you see me?" with a manic grin, rather than a hailstorm of fast food – or toasted focaccia with mozzarella, beef tomatoes and pesto if you're at the Emirates.

Broadcasters have long been obsessed with where to put their presenters as they wonder how far to go in order to give viewers a flavour of the event. The best ever presentation gig was Sky's jaunt to the previous World Cup in the West Indies, where David Gower practically had his toes in the Caribbean and delivered most of the tournament with a "sod-you-lot-I'm-all-right-pass-the-rum-punch-Bumble" look on his face. He looks less chuffed this time around in his Isleworth bunker.

The BBC has a particular preoccupation with presentation positions, be it views of Table Mountain, or a water ferry stop in Sydney for the 2000 Olympics. Except the latter turned out to be played on to a studio backdrop via a fixed camera. The corporation was not amused when a soft drinks company rumbled them and plonked a merrily branded dispenser in shot.

ESPN seems extremely proud of its switch to outdoor presentation. On the whole, with two former BBC stalwarts in Ray Stubbs and Jon Champion at its heart, the coverage is sound enough, with the occasional employment of Robbie Savage the only obvious nod to its parent company.

But placing a desk beside the pitch appears as if ESPN has a director who has cast himself in the Robin Williams role in Dead Poets Society. "Come on class, it's a lovely day, let's take our desks outside – you too Savage, put the looking glass down and no, I don't care who is the fairest of them all." Expect soon to see Stubbs standing on the desk imploring, "Captain, who is City's captain?"

ESPN likes to offer a behind-the-scenes glance at Premier League clubs and Saturday evening brought us Rebecca Lowe getting into a lift for VVIPs, as the sign said, and then getting out again. At Eastlands they have a man in the lift to press the buttons; Lowe thanked him, made for the restaurant and was soon breathlessly disclosing that a "rosemary-infused leg of lamb" was on offer for the VVIPs' dinner. There was not a chip in sight, which might have brought a sigh of relief from Stubbs pitchside.