UNFORTUNATE moments in live sports broadcasting: Part 94. Spare a thought for BBC sports reporter Carrie Davis, who inadvertently managed to create chaos while covering Rotherham’s League Two match against Wycombe on Saturday.
I’m grateful to fellow blogger Ian Baker for flagging up an early contender for November’s journalistic cock-up of the month.
Davis was reporting for the BBC’s Final Score programme on Saturday, when Ray Stubbs handed over to her at the Don Valley Stadium. This was her report. See if you can spot the problem.
“Well there are literally seconds left here, Ray. Wycombe leading by a goal to nil – and that’s the final whistle. It ends Rotherham 0 Wycombe 1. They’ve gone 14 matches unbeaten now.
“It was Simon Church’s first goal since he arrived on loan from Reading. Micky Cummins and Andrew Nicholas both went close for Rotherham; they literally threw everything they could in the last few minutes. Wycombe had everyone defending. It’s ended Rotherham 0 Wycombe 1.”
Spotted the mistake? It’s quite simple, really. The match actually ended 0-0.
Simon Church did indeed put the ball in Rotherham’s net with 25 minutes to go, but the goal was disallowed. Unfortunately, Davis didn’t realise it.
The BBC took her word over that of their vidiprinter (not unreasonably, given that she was at the game). And so although the vidiprinter rightly declared a 0-0 draw, Final Score published a table assuming a Wycombe victory, which put them top – even though they weren’t.
Stubbs found himself correctly declaring that Darlington were the leaders of League Two, over a graphic which showed something completely different.
Ah, it happens. The first live full-match radio commentary I ever did was a game between Mansfield and Macclesfield at Field Mill. I managed to go through the entire commentary crediting Macclesfield’s first goal to the wrong player, a mistake I only realised when I got home.
The sort of misfortune to befall Davis can happen to the very best, too. Clive Tyldesley tells a story that goes back to the days when he was just starting to get noticed by television companies.
Tyldesley was the sports editor at Liverpool’s Radio City when he got a call from ITV to try out as a stand-by commentator for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. ITV had been having some technical problems, which caused them to keep losing their commentaries from the grounds. They wanted back-ups in a studio back home ready to take over if anything else went wrong.
And so Tyldesley was given one of the group matches to try out on. He was doing fine, commentating off a monitor from a studio, until a few minutes before half-time, when a goal was scored.
A load of replays were thrown in by the match director, but when they had finished, the goal had been disallowed and Tyldesley didn’t realise it. And so he carried on with his commentary as if the goal had stood.
In an interview years later, Tyldesley admitted that gaffe had set his career back about four years. Still, he’s doing all right now.
Mistakes happen. As a journalist, you can’t help but smile when they happen to someone else. It’s partly a smile of relief that it didn’t happen to you, and partly a smile of realisation that it could have done.