UEFA Champions League: The Media, The Rules & “The Special One”:

Over the last couple of weeks, the “Marmite Test” has been back in the news. If you don’t know what that is, it refers to the “dark brown yeast spread” on sale in most supermarkets. You can easily recognize the bottles: They are small, squat with distinctive yellow, red, green and white labels. As”Redbrick Research” has pointed out, some people find the contents delicious – but for others, it’s “disgusting”.  So you either love it or hate it.

This “Test” is also frequently applied to people in the “public eye”. According to the “You Gov” research executive, Tanya Abraham, in the London Evening Standard on 6th March, the Labour Party’s financial spokesman, Ed Balls “Is sometimes seen as a Marmite politician. While Labour supporters consider him to be an election asset, notable majorities of UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party) and Conservative voters think he’s a liability”.

Another prominent example is the Chelsea FC Manager, Jose Mourinho. Though most Chelsea fans adore him, the followers of rival teams find him extremely irritating – partly because he’s perceived as “arrogant”, but mainly because he’s been so successful. The UK’s newspapers, of course, are ecstatic that he’s back in London: His frequent controversial remarks help them fill up their sports pages. His fury was most recently directed at the referee of the 1-1 home draw with Burnley on February 22nd and Sky Sport’s coverage of the match – for which he faces possible FA (Football Association) disciplinary action.

Mourinho has criticised UEFA for (in his view) not applying the “Financial Fair Play” rules (designed to prevent clubs from spending more than they earn) equally to his nearest challenger, Manchester City. He depicted the “time-wasting” by Newcastle (who inflicted Chelsea’s first defeat of the 2014/15 season, 2-1 on 6th December) as similar to “putting a cow on the pitch”. He’s compared his own fluency in the English language with that of a previous Chelsea manager, Claudio Ranieri, who (he declared) still struggled to say “good morning” and “good afternoon” after five years in England.

However, Mourinho is also known for his amusing remarks, especially at press conferences – which, he’s admitted, he doesn’t always find easy, but doesn’t consider as pressure: “Bird Flu is pressure. So is poor people trying to feed their families”. But football (he asserts) is not – even though he finds it “hard to live without titles”.

UEFA’s technical director, Andy Roxburgh, has described Mourinho as “a very good communicator”. Despite his current problems with Sky Sports, the Chelsea Manager seems to get on well with sports journalists. This is fortunate, as UEFA regulations required both him and the Paris St Germain manager, Laurent Blanc, to hold press conferences both before and after their Champions League game this week (which ended 2-2, thus eliminating Chelsea on away goals): Pre-match on Tuesday, not later than 8pm and attended by at least one, preferably two of their players, the post-match conference no later than 20 minutes after the final whistle. Chelsea also had to provide “the necessary technical infrastructure and services, including a qualified interpreter with a strong knowledge of football”.

Another requisite was for the training sessions of the two teams to take place the day before the game at different times so the media could attend both for at least 15 minutes. Journalists were not allowed into the teams’ dressing rooms before, during or after the match – though one camera of the “host broadcaster” was permitted to go in before the match “to film the players’ shirts and equipment”.

It’s mandatory for the home club to provide “an adequate number of covered seats for the written press in a separate, secure and centrally located area with a clear and unobstructed view of the whole pitch”. It’s not obligatory for all the seats to have desks – but if they do, they must be “large enough to accommodate a laptop computer and a notepad”. The internet connections should be with “dedicated networks” and made available free of charge.

UEFA will earn an estimated 1.34bn euros from TV and sponsorship rights for the 2014/15 Champions League and Super Cup – around 75% of which will go to the participating clubs. The positioning of the cameras is thus a key issue. For a “knock-out” match such as on Wednesday at least four cameras had to be located in the main stand on a platform at least 8 metres in length and situated exactly overlooking the halfway line and the pitchside camera placed in a way that did not obscure the view of the field of play for either the fourth official or the club representatives on the substitute benches.

The “tunnel camera” could only be used while the teams were making their way from their dressing rooms for the first and second halves. A “high” camera installed in the stands enabled the penalty spot to be seen above the goal crossbar. There was also a whole range of other cameras, including reverse-angle, “beauty-shot”, “steadicams”,mini-cameras directly behind (but not touching) the nets and others facing the 6, 16 and 20 metre lines.

Two areas behind each goal –at least 10m long by 2m wide and extending from the 5m line towards the corner flag – had to be made available for the “low and ENG” cameras of the audio visual rights holders. These organizations generate a substantial proportion of Champions League revenue and thus their needs are considered paramount.

Filed under: Media, Sports | Posted on March 12th, 2015 by Colin D Gordon

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