Belfast Telegraph

BT dials up a new era for sport - apparently

By Billy Weir

Did you feel it? Did you sense the earth tremble with nervous anticipation, an intangible somethingness in the air that signalled the arrival of a new and exciting dawn for sport on television? No, me neither.

Yes, BT Sport is among us, well those of us who have signed up or in my case been added on thanks to my wee broadband box, as the new channel limped into our lives at the weekend.

The first night was a getting to know you session and had the various presenters dandering about the huge studio showing us what was what. This gave it a slight feel of a visit to a showhouse, lots of moving from room to room, with people milling about, looking awkward and murmuring quietly, while wondering if there was a massive crack under that conveniently placed piece of furniture.

That remains to be seen, certainly as a new development on the block it will take time to settle in, but with Sky Mansions already lording it up the road, they will have to get a shift on at BT Towers.

The problem is they've moved in with a lot of their best stuff still in storage, the opening weekend's 'highlights' of the Emirates Cup, sevens rugby and live tennis in the middle of the night, not exactly setting pulses racing.

Saturday began with the BT Sports Panel, or BTSP if you're really sad, and this featured Tim Lovejoy and Matt Dawson. I would normally rather go to Castlederg with Ruth Patterson than endure that, and throwing Ian Wright into the equation isn't helping.

After Tim had told us of all the great things that we could expect (not yet, but be patient), he asked Matt, who is an ambassador for BT Sport (I think he said ambassador) to explain what BT Sports Panel was all about.

"We're a sports panel show, so we're here to talk about sport," he explained helpfully, and that was as good as it got really. Two hours of inane, self-indulgent tedium interspersed with pleas to vote by Twitter on anything to give their social media guru, Christian Howells, something to do in another corner of the house.

I thought that was something that only happened when the lions were roaming around Rome but hope sprang eternal that history would repeat itself and the giant pitch they play out sporting scenarios on would morph into the Coliseum but to no avail.

Jake Humphrey appeared to rescue us, joining BTSP to tell us that up next was Steven Gerrard's testimonial against Olympiakos. The big sport just keeps on coming.

He walked off and the cameras went with him to another room where 'you can see the countdown clock is ticking, it's less than 75 minutes to kick off.' How long will the build-up be for a real match, I know I have BT Infinity but this is ridiculous.

He was joined by Steve McManaman and David James and the latter clearly didn't get the message that this was a day to pay homage to Stevie G when asked about his early memories of the player.

"I was more worried about my career rather than some youngster from Liverpool who had an interesting walk," he said, and this augurs well for more madness as the real season gets under way.

It was also a debut for Michael Owen at Anfield, who has hung up his boots and picked up a microphone to enter the commentary box. It's early days yet, he may improve from his stints on Match of the Day, so we'll hold fire.

Talking of microphones, here's one to keep an eye on, Ray Stubbs, who survived the culling of ESPN to make it to BT Towers, is the new roving reporter and began with a green number that looked as if someone had impaled Kermit on a stick.

Moments later he was back, this time with a black microphone, at half-time it was red and by the end as he walked around the pitch with Stevie G it was black again.

I think it's to do with the BT Sports logo, but he may have a novelty chameleon balancing act, live and exclusive on BT Sport. Thank goodness they have something proper to show.

Belfast Telegraph

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