Live from Dublin: RTÉ Sport team hosts Champions Cup final broadcast coverage

RTÉ Sport executive producer Mark McKenna and match director Sinead Murphy in NEP’s Lir host broadcast truck

In the most recent broadcast European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) rights round, RTÉ secured live broadcast rights to a select number of Heineken Champions Cup games for two seasons, including host broadcast rights for the 2023 final in Dublin.

The Irish broadcaster did not know at the time that the final would turn out to be a re-run from 2022, with Leinster Rugby taking on Stade Rochelais. “It gives us added value of course, with Leinster being in the final, one of the foremost teams in rugby going for a fifth final win in their own backyard,” RTÉ Sport executive producer Mark McKenna told SVG Europe on the morning of the final.

“But it doesn’t impact the way we approach the project. You’ve got a responsibility to make sure the event itself stands alone whoever is taking part, to give the best experience for the viewer.

“From an RTÉ and local viewership point of view it does give us added value, particularly as this is the first year we’ve had it back on free-to-air with a home final, just 60 days after Ireland won the Six Nations Grand Slam. Of course, that’s going to mean a bit more to everybody involved.

“But regarding our approach as a host broadcaster, we’re still doing the same level of preparation and hopefully bringing the same level of experience for anyone looking in. It wouldn’t matter if it were two Irish teams or two English teams in the final: those basics are still the same.

“With something like this, you wouldn’t be able to do unilateral coverage out of one truck so we’ve put in our presentation add-on to look after our programme output directed at the viewer in Ireland.”

“We’re the facilitator for all of the broadcast partners around Europe and around the world and it’s an incredible responsibility for us,” said McKenna. “The second pillar is what we do for the local viewer in Ireland, making sure our wraparound programme for them reflects their interest in the event.

“With something like this, you wouldn’t be able to do unilateral coverage out of one truck so we’ve put in our presentation add-on to look after our programme output directed at the viewer in Ireland. We believe we have a very strong talent pool with people who have played in rugby finals and won the event. You might not agree with them, but they absolutely have the right to give their view.

“And we like to let our conversations breathe, so we’re not in a rush to get to the next item. We want people to have a chance to make a point and for other people to counteract so it’s important not to crowd it out with VTs, however good we think our pre-production might be.”

For RTÉ Sport host broadcast match director Sinead Murphy, “the only thing that changes is probably the sheer volume of people on-site. When we did the semi-final here at the Aviva we only had one other broadcaster with us whereas today we have many colleagues from the UK and France.

“The crew is the one we would have on a Six Nations game or on a URC game. We have a very experienced crew who have worked on rugby all around Europe week in and week out. So the crew I have today would be my top crew, with the same people on the same cameras to try to keep continuity.

“From a world feed point of view it’s about the integrity of the broadcast, so the viewer at home doesn’t know if I’m Irish or if I’m a Leinster fan or a La Rochelle fan. The decisions that are shown on screen are reflecting the reality of what’s out on the pitch.

RTÉ Sport pitch-side presentation position ready for Champions Cup final action at the Aviva Stadium

“Previously there have been a few issues around whether a TMO or a director is from a certain country, so my priority is that the viewer at home doesn’t know where we’re from. The replays shown should be the correct replays; we’re not trying to hide anything. We’re showing what happens. We want the viewer at home to get the best possible action and see all the angles.

“You’re trying to tell a story, reflecting what’s happening on the pitch. You can’t really editorialise it to the way you might as a programme editor. You are reacting to what’s happening on the pitch and trying to show everything to the person at home.

“Sometimes that’s not possible as there are so many things happening – but that’s why you have great EVS operators. You’re really just trying to tell a story in the best possible way. All the people we have here – cameras, EVS, Niamh our vision mixer, Will on sound – are trying to tell that story and not leave anything out.

“The best compliment that could be given to us is that no one is talking about the coverage when we come off air,” said Murphy. “They’re just talking about how good the match was. We’re happy then, because we know we’ve done our job.”

In terms of the RTÉ host broadcast camera plan, the only difference for Saturday’s final was the addition of the Spidercam. “The Spidercam just gives us that shot from the sky, with that expansive stadium view as the teams run out; the POV as the kicker goes for the posts; and showing a line of play from the far side to the near side,” said Murphy.

“That overhead shot of what’s happening on the pitch is sometimes another angle for the viewer at home to see expansive rugby, rather than just the rather linear look of Camera 1 and Camera 2. It also gives the viewer a sense of how fast a phase of rugby can happen.”

“It’s a prestige camera that reflects the occasion and significance of the event,” added McKenna. “I don’t think any federation would do an event of this nature without some sort of prestige cameras, to elevate the coverage to a level that matches anything you would see from UEFA or FIFA.”

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