Old ground

We’ve been here before.  A year ago, I blogged on the flaws in the BBC’s coverage of Badminton Horse Trials, one of the highlights of the equestrian calendar.  Unbelievably, the coverage in 2015 was worse than before.  Admittedly, I missed the coverage on cross country day because – guess what? – I was out with my friends’ horses, but I was kept up to date by my sister, and cross country day isn’t what I’m taking issue with.

Although the BBC didn’t take my most basic advice on board – that, if they can’t give eventing top-billing on main channels, that there should at least be consistency, and any coverage of the event should be via the Red Button channel OR BBC 2, not straddling the two – they do seem to have communicated their message better: in 2014, I was fielding many Tweets from confused fans who were watching on the wrong channel.  This year, the Twitter backlash was regarding something very different.  In 2014, cross country day was little better than decimation – only 28 horses and riders made it to the final day of competition.  A year later, there were many riders remaining, and the competition was in an exciting state – the top of the leader board was packed with big, talented names, with very few points between them, demanding stellar performances.  It would’ve been very watchable… had the cameras been rolling.

The BBC chose to show just six show jumping rounds live in 2015.  On a day when 57 combinations remained in the competition.  I’m not advocating they show all of them, that would be tedious, but those livetweeting the event vouched for the fact that the show jumping course was riding badly, meaning that the competition was hotter than hot.  Instead, the BBC showed a lot of cross country highlights: great for those who missed the cross country coverage or have never watched the sport before, again terrible for the hardcore fans.

We all know I’m a big fan, but objectively speaking, Clare Balding did again do a great job: she worked hard, running around the collecting ring and speaking to riders as soon as they came out of the show jumping ring.  This made great use of the seconds between rounds, and she gained some good insights from riders such as Mark Todd, as well as following first-timer Rose Carnegie diligently all the way through the event.  Clare further proved her credentials in the pre-recorded footage, talking viewers through different shapes and sizes of horses, and capably picking up a horse’s enormous hoof – the woman knows her way around a horse, and has a great passion for them, you can tell she loves covering equestrian events, and I hope that broadcasters continue to put someone who enjoys a sport in front of the camera, because it adds something special to the coverage.

At this point I despair, really.  Two years in a row the BBC have demonstrated that they have a great deal of talent at their fingertips – the technicality of the broadcast is great; Balding and the commentary team of Ian Stark and Mike Tucker remain on point – but it’s wasted with poor production and scheduling.  There’s precious little equestrianism – which has three Olympic sports and a huge amount of talented Brits – on free to air television annually, but at this point, I’d almost rather there were none at all.  I remain disappointed and deprived of my favourite sport.  Where do we go from here, and how do we ensure that people are able to view equestrian sport and be excited by it as I once was?


10 thoughts on “Old ground

  1. I agree with you Becky. Hours of coverage of XC on the red button was great. Good commentary from all (I see a new career for Harry Made when he wants it!)
    Why can’t they show live SJ on red button. Not necessarily all but the top 15 – 20?
    Clarence Balding is a priceless commodity for equestrian sports on TV.

    • One of the best things about Clare is how much she clearly adores Badminton. Her backstage stuff, the pre-recorded bits with the different sized horses etc was lovely! Really great for those who have no clue about the sport, but fun for those of us who do know what we’re watching.

      It’s very difficult, because I’m not advocating wall to wall equestrianism on all streams, but they did get this so wrong. I don’t think it was as bad as last year, where we all knew the result way before they showed it, because they didn’t show it live, but it’s still far from idea.

      Thanks for commenting 🙂 let’s try and get them to sit up and listen!

  2. Very disappointed with the SJ coverage, especially as we’d been up there on cross-country day but couldn’t go back on Sunday so were looking forward to watching the final day’s competition on TV. Far cry from the 80s heyday of BBC equestrian coverage……

    • It was very sad 😦 If you knew nothing about eventing, you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s just about cross country. I understand them not showing any dressage (I wouldn’t want to sit through even one day of it, never mind two, unless maybe it were freestyle), but to only show six measly show jumping rounds was ridiculous. As someone who was out and about on Saturday, the amount of cross country recap on Sunday was nice, as I’d seen no coverage until then, but it was at too high a cost to what was actually happening in the competition.

      Thanks for commenting 🙂

  3. Completely agree. I was really disappointed with the SJ coverage – I’d watched the XC on Saturday and did not expect to watch extended highlights of this on the Sunday instead of SJ. Wouldn’t have minded a quick recap but not at the expense of the SJ. Really enjoyed the XC coverage (agree with Ros, Harry was excellent!) and can’t complain about the wonderful Clare, she did a fab job with what she could on the Sunday.

    • Poor Clare had very little to work with! I’m wondering what Mike Tucker and Ian Stark did all day on Sunday: were they commentating to thin air, or were they just wandering around the shops?! I was out on Saturday, so didn’t mind the cross country coverage on Sunday one bit, but was getting angry at the lack of SJ shown. Six rounds! Ridiculous.

      Thanks for commenting 🙂

  4. Last year I signed up to FEI TV. Best thing I ever did. I tuned in and out of XC day as I pottered around the house doing stuff, and I have to confess I was glued to the SJ, even at the bottom levels. Partly wanting to see how the Irish fared and partly because, as you say, it was fascinating seeing how the course rode and knowing that it was likely to affect the top ten placings. It was nail-biting stuff practically all the way.
    The commentary was hit and miss, though. John Hall, a former Irish international show jumper, is the main commentator, but there were times on XC day when the commentary box seemed to be empty and we just had the background noise from the speakers on course. I’d prefer Claire Balding, tbh…

    • I always forget about FEI TV! I can’t afford things like that sadly, and I also don’t think the FEI should be charging for it, I think it should be a free service, and that interest would increase hugely if it were. SJ is interesting to watch! As Mark Todd said, it was a pretty testing course, and it was riding horrendously, so I bet it was very interesting! That’s intriguing that, as a paid-for service, they don’t manage to get decent commentary in for all of the live coverage. Sounds like they need more than one person, in order to cover breaks, and it’s sad that your fee isn’t going to good use in that way. There are plenty of people who would chat down a microphone for hours on end!

      We are very very lucky to have Dame Clare. She is absolutely priceless.

      Thanks for commenting 🙂

      • Sadly, I couldn’t even afford that! When I get my mythical horse, he will be barefoot to save my pennies!

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