Sky Sports News on football transfer deadline day: 'We break the most stories'

The first day of September marks what Sky Sports News sees as its biggest day of the year: football's transfer deadline day.

Some 200 people were behind SSN's coverage of player transfers ahead of the window closure at 6pm yesterday.

SSN, which had 25 reporters out gathering stories on the day, delivered the news across TV, its website, apps and on social media.

Yesterday, on deadline day, Press Gazette visited the Sky Sports News studios and met associate editor Steve Scott. After starting his career as a news reporter, Scott joined SSN in 2001 and was responsible for producing yesterday's transfer coverage.

The transfer window system – in which English football clubs are only able to buy or sell players between July and September, and then during January – was introduced in the 2002/03 season.

Who do you think covers the transfer window best and who breaks the most stories?

Scott: Well I’m going to say us, obviously, because I work here. I would hope that we break the most stories.

But listen, we’re always challenging our guys to be first with every story and first with every transfer. But let’s just be honest, we’re not going to be.

There are going to be times when we might be beaten. So therefore it’s how we react to it, and then it’s how we take the story on.

So you might see a story on Twitter that a journalist has broken, and it might be before us.

[But] there are 140 characters in a tweet. You tune in to Sky Sports News, we get it confirmed, we’ll take that story on and we’ll develop it. That then becomes our challenge.

So I wouldn’t like to pick out any one organisation that perhaps breaks the most stories, or breaks more stories than us. I’m going to say us. I think we’ve had… a good window, a good summer.

How do you find access to football clubs? A number of journalists and news organisations have been reported being 'banned' by clubs recently.

Scott: Listen, I think we’ve got a good relationship with clubs. Now, today, we are [filming] in a secure area of 19 out of 20 Premier League clubs… I think that speaks for itself.

Sky appears to be in a good position because a lot of money comes from its TV rights. (Sky Sports and BT Sport have paid £5.136bn for TV rights for three seasons from August 2016.)

Scott: That’s never a conversation. The conversation never goes: ‘We’ve paid £X amount for the Premier League rights so let us in.’ That is never ever a conversation we have with the club. It’s all built on relationships and speaking to them.

In June, a number of North East sports journalists complained that Sky Sports and the Mirror were given special access to new Newcastle United manager Steve McClaren while they were banned from speaking to him. Is there a special relationship between Sky Sports and Newcastle?

Scott: No. I don’t think it’s any more special than [with] other clubs.

We’ve got really good relationships with some clubs, and we’ve got good relationships with other clubs.

That could be down to the reporter in the region who might be on friendly terms with the chief exec or the chairman, but that’s contact-building. That’s what every good journalist should be doing – it’s trying to build up good contacts on their local patch.

So I don’t think the Newcastle relationship’s any more special than other clubs.

What do you think of football clubs banning newspapers? Do you think that’s a bad thing?

Scott: I’m not sure I need to get involved in why clubs are banning newspapers. I’ve got no idea why they’d ban a newspaper – I presume they’ve got a good reason for it. But that’s nothing to do with us.

Earlier this year, Sky Sports News stopped positioning reporters outside football grounds because of bad fan behaviour (example below). Do you think SSN's coverage loses out as a result of this?

Scott: No. I don’t think people tune in to watch fans in the background, I think people come to find out if Stoke have signed Xherdan Shaqiri for £12m. I think people are just tuning in to find out what’s going on… We’ve got the safety of our reporters to think about as well… we’re just interesting in breaking the news.

Is today your biggest day in terms of both importance and number of viewers? 

SSN declined to reveal viewer numbers, but Scott said: It’s our biggest day in terms of viewers. In terms of importance? Listen, I’m going to say to you every day’s important. Because if [Manchester United manager] Louis van Gaal got sacked tomorrow… that’s a huge day for us…

This is the one day I will spend the most amount of time trying to prepare for and think about. But I’m already thinking about Christmas and New Year – so I’ve started that before deadline day…

We can prepare for this one, and we know it’s coming. It’s still fun, I love being in on deadline day. But when that story comes from nowhere, there’s a certain buzz to that as well.

In recent years, BT Sport has won TV rights previously belonging to Sky, including to show Champions League matches and cricket's Ashes series. Does this put more pressure on Sky Sports?

Scott: I don’t think the pressure comes from BT. I think the pressure comes from ourselves… I want to make it better. 

Yes, we’ve had a brilliant start to the day, and the producer did really well this morning, but I’m never thinking: Well, that’s as good as we’re going to get.

So the pressure comes internally – and I don’t mean from above. The pressure just comes from me. I want to make the output better, [I’m thinking]: What can we do better?

Competition: BT Sport in action (Reuters picture)

Who do you see as your main rivals?

Scott: If you asked me that ten years ago, you might have said Five Live, you might have said newspapers. Now, there are so many different platforms. 

So, yeah you’ve still got Five Live, but you’ve got BBC Sport, you’ve got the BBC Sport website, you’ve got apps, like the Mail Online's.

So whilst newspapers'… numbers might be dwindling, they’re moving into that online app platform, so they are obviously a rival.

You’ve got BT, obviously, because BT are doing a deadline day show.

But there are so many different platforms and so many different outlets that are all fighting for video, I wouldn’t say there is one main rival. It’s all multi-platform now.

And that’s one of the things that we are working really hard on, and have worked really hard on for the last 18 months to two years…. Whereas before, years ago, we were linear, linear, linear – now, as you can see, our digital media team are sat in the heart of the newsroom because we know that’s important to us.

We want to be first with the news on every platform.

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