- Player mics will be used for the first time when Bristol host Bath this weekend
- Mail Sport reported last month about the plans to bring fans closer to the action
- An unconfirmed Bristol player will be ‘mic’d up’ during the West Country derby
English rugby’s bid to attract new audiences will see in-game player mics used in the Gallagher Premiership for the first time this weekend when Bristol host Bath at Ashton Gate.
MailSport reported in December the plans of the Premiership’s principal league broadcaster TNT Sports, with the support of the league, to bring fans closer to the action.
And we can now reveal an as yet unconfirmed Bristol player will be ‘mic’d up’ against Bath in Saturday afternoon’s West Country derby – a game which will be live on TNT and is expected to be a sell-out.
Player microphones have been used regularly in other sports such as cricket but haven’t been common in rugby, predominantly because the game’s physicality makes it impossible for those on the field to wear a device that enables them to talk to TV commentators, pundits or presenters while in action.
The technology to be brought in this weekend was first utilised in basketball’s NBA.
An unconfirmed Bristol player will be ‘mic’d up’ against Bath – a game shown on TNT Sports
Player microphones have been used in other sports but haven’t been common in rugby because of the game’s physicality
The player mic content from the Bristol player won’t be broadcast live – mainly to avoid swear words and tactical analysis being heard – but will be shown at half time and full time.
A three-person team will monitor the audio picked up with a dedicated cameraman, editor and producer all working on it. It all forms part of the English domestic game’s plan to engage its fan base and television audience in a different way and make Premiership action more appealing to those watching at home.
‘We have a genuine responsibility – because we are an entertainment business – to try and get the game as close to the supporters as possible,’ said Bristol director of rugby Pat Lam.
‘Some of the coaches I had would be rolling around in their graves about what we’re doing now but this is the world we live in. We’re all for it. One of the players will have it on.
‘I’ll try and give it to a player who can mind their language as much as they can! We’re down to about three options. The boys are all up for it.’
The Bristol player will wear a microphone and power pack inserted in the back of a vest worn underneath his playing jersey to pick up his thoughts during the game.
Such equipment does not cause the player wearing it any distraction or interfere with their performance in any way.
The move has been led by TNT Sports with the support of Premiership Rugby. World Rugby, the RFU and the RPA have also approved its use.
Ellis Jenkins (pictured tackling Racing 92’s Hassane Kolingar) was previously ‘mic’d up’ in a United Rugby Championship game when his Cardiff side played the DHL Stormers
A player will also wear a body camera and microphone in the warm-up for Gloucester’s game with Sale on Sunday which will provide TNT Sports with both pictures and sound.
It is hoped the Premiership’s player microphone content will be well received by the league’s television audience, as it was when Cardiff flanker Ellis Jenkins wore one earlier this season in a United Rugby Championship game with the DHL Stormers in the Wales capital.
Bristol captain Fitz Harding said: ‘Anything that grows the game and that can appeal to a wider audience I’m all for.
‘The more the fans can see and understand our game and what goes into it, the more interest they’ll have in it.’