Super Sunday: Sky Sports’ head of football team operations Laurence Cawsey on bringing the 2023-24 Premier League season to a close

Sky Sports drew the curtains on a record-breaking Premier League season on Survival Sunday (19 May). Heading into the final weekend, a total of 16.3 million viewers had tuned in to watch the Premier League this season on the broadcaster’s platforms, up by 4% year on year from last year, which was a record year itself.

Across the Premier League, English Football League (EFL), Scottish Premier Football League (SPFL) and Women’s Super League (WSL) combined, viewership for Sky Sports is also up by 9%.

We spoke to Laurence Cawsey, Sky Sports’ head of football team operations, about how the broadcaster managed the pressure and the workload for a huge weekend of football.

How does the final day of the season differ from regular weekends covering the Premier League?

The major difference is the concurrent volume we are broadcasting. On a traditional weekend, we broadcast across a range of five timeslots (Friday nights, Saturday evenings, two slots on Sunday afternoon and Monday nights). For the final day this year, we broadcasted three live Premier League games, along with providing facilities for three other games happening which were broadcast live in other territories.

We also have Soccer Special, which keeps everyone up to date on all 10 games across the final day. Alongside the final day of the Premier League, last weekend Sky Sports had the last day of the WSL and SPFL, the EFL League 1 and 2 play-off finals – and that’s not to mention the other sports we were broadcasting like the Fury v Usyk on pay per view.

For Sky Sports, how many staff and freelancers are involved in covering the final round of fixtures? Who is involved in leading that coverage?

We had over 400 staff and freelancers working on the Premier League last Sunday alone, and that’s just considering the live broadcasts. We also have a team working across Soccer Special plus all the teams across our social and digital content channels. It’s a real team effort to make the Premier League come alive across all our channels.

Sky Sports presenter, Gary Neville

At what point does Sky decide which games it will be showing on the final day and when does prep for covering those fixtures begin?

The real preparation starts a few weeks in advance when we start to get a clearer picture of what the stories will be on the final day. Alongside the Premier League, we have initial meetings planning the trophy lifts, and the production teams will be working on content ideas well in advance. There’s a fantastic piece of work that was months in the making looking back on Jürgen Klopp’s time as Liverpool manager.

We didn’t find out where our presentation hub would be until the Tuesday before the final Sunday, at the end of the Tottenham v Manchester City match. Then we had to wait until the games on Wednesday had finished before we worked out where our other two games would be.

What are the biggest challenges in covering concurrent live matches? How is that coverage coordinated? 

Crewing and facilities, I’d say. Although, I do consider us very lucky at Sky Sports. In SPS and NEP, we have world-class facility providers, and teams of booking and crewing co-ordinators who deliver us the best crews out there.

Did you do anything differently at the weekend to last season’s final round of fixtures – anything new in terms of workflow or technology used?

The main thing is that we used one of our remote galleries at Sky to produce the Liverpool game from. This gallery is multi-purpose and is normally used for our WSL and EFL coverage, along with cricket.

What presence at the games Sky didn’t show live? And how do you integrate score/updates from those fixtures into coverage of the live fixtures that were covered?

Sky works with Premier League Productions (PLP) to provide commentary teams for all the non-live games. These are the commentators you hear if you are watching in other territories, but also the ones you hear on our digital clips and highlights shows. We also send reporters to games. Soccer Special was our main service to keep everyone up to date with all the 10 games, however, for those watching the live games they’d be kept updated with key stories throughout the division with goals update graphics.

Sky Sports viewing figures for the big weekend:

  • Manchester City v West Ham United averaged 1.27 million and peaked at 1.51 million
  • Liverpool v Wolves averaged 901,000 and peaked at 1.07 million
  • Chelsea v Bournemouth averaged 175,000 and peaked at 207,000
  • The cumulative average across the three games on the final day was 2.34 million, which is 43% higher than last season (1.64 million)

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