Since making its debut, the Chelsea Football Fancast has gained a cult following, winning a prestigious Football Blogging Award in 2012 for Best Podcast, and subsequently moving to live audio broadcast via Mixlr.
This season however, the team said goodbye to their ancestral home at the Putney Station bar and took a giant leap on to the small screen, with the show now broadcast live on Sports Tonight Live HD (Channel 227 on the Freeview platform if you’re set top box is connected to the internet) at 19.00 on Mondays, as well as continuing in its usual audio formats.
Podmeister David Chidgey (aka Stamford Chidge) kindly invited me down to the Fancast’s new HQ close to the BT Tower in Bloomsbury to sit on “The Benches” for last Monday’s show.
Outside the building, the first person I met was, in fact, the show’s main guest for the week, actor, musician and writer, Al Gregg, who was appearing to promote his debut novel, “The Wrong Outfit”. We made our way up to the balcony to find the office, and ran into another Benchee, Steve Burn (aka @Bunce1957). On entering the production office, we greeted producer/director Greg Grimes and studio manager/assistant producer Harriman who, with the show due on-air in just under an hour, were making final preparations for broadcast. Also appearing on The Benches and already in the office were Harry (beautiful British name) Baker and Andy Silverman. It was however a sad disappointment that my mate Chelsea Chadder couldn’t make the show in person to present the stats, although he would be appearing via Skype. Chidge came in to say hello, and then took Al away to do some “techy stuff”.
At 18.40, I decided it would probably be best to visit the loo, given the duration of the show and the likelihood of not being able to pop out during a break. I tried the door of the nearest ladies’ loo. Locked. I went further down the corridor and found another loo. Again, locked. I didn’t want to waste time so close to transmission by going back to the production office and asking for a key, so I did what anyone with a brain would do, and used the nearest mens’ loo instead (not for the first time, and, I hasten to add, not the same one that Buncey was currently using).
I headed back to the production office and, at 18.50, with Paul “Pablo” Jeffrey having literally dragged himself away from his sickbed suffering food poisoning, and Darren Mantle running late, presenters and guests made their way into the studio. I’d never been in a TV studio before and, much to my surprise, the background behind “The Benches” was in fact a green screen on to which the crowd graphic would be projected. I also thought that we’d be facing the presentation area where Chidge and the boys would be sitting, but it turned out that we’d be facing the gallery, with the presenters’ table to our left. Harriman had set up a TV screen in front of us, so we would in fact be watching the show, as it were, and put a microphone on the table so we could talk to Chidge. Suddenly, “The Benches” popped up on the screen in front of us. It was really weird seeing myself on a TV screen. Greg promised to bring us some water at the commercial break. Just two minutes before broadcast, Darren arrived and miked-up. Suddenly we could hear Greg counting down in the gallery, and the titles went up. We were on the air.
It’s fair to say that the Chelsea Football Fancast has taken on a different dynamic since it’s moved to TV. The first couple of shows were definitely a work in progress (during the first show Pablo managed to obscure viewers’ sight of journalist Rob Shepherd for most of the first 30 minutes), but over the last few weeks it’s become very slick and professional. During the audio days, “The Benches” were able to pop out and order drinks, visit the loo, hold whispered conversations and generally lark about. That is now out of the question. We sit there, clap at the intros, and contribute to the show as requested. And in reality, far from being glamorous, conditions in the studio are actually quite uncomfortable. I was grateful for the diva moment I had in the middle of the day, deciding that I simply couldn’t appear on TV in the shirt I had originally put on, and rushing out to buy a lighter, shorter-sleeved blouse. It was incredibly hot in the studio under the lights, and whilst there is air-conditioning, obviously it’s not possible to have this turned on during the show, and as soon as we went to a commercial break, Greg would immediately rush in and switch the air-con on for 90 seconds, providing some temporary relief at least. The promised glasses of water were also very welcome.
Having said that, the two hours flew by, highlights of the show including “Chidge’s Balanced Eleven”, Chelsea Chadder Skype-ing in with his stats, a full review of the games against Schalke and West Bromwich Albion, Buncey leading the Samuel Eto’o/Moonlight Shadow song, and, albeit briefly, Al (or Gregg, or the Reverend Gregg) talking about The Wrong Outfit.
However, if you want to see last week’s show it in its full glory, you can watch it in six easy-to-digest morsels, on YouTube. Al Gregg’s debut novel, The Wrong Outfit” is available now in e-book format through both Amazon and Apple i-Tunes, and you can find out more about it through a rather fine promotional video here. And if you fancy appearing on The Benches yourself, drop the show a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Other News
The Chelsea Supporters Trust (CST) will be holding one of their regular Special General Meetings after the Southampton game on Sunday 1st December at 6.15pm in the CIU Club, Britannia Road. Please note that this meeting will be open to members only, so if you want to attend you can either join via the website, sign up at the cfcuk stall before the game, or you can join at the door before the meeting starts.
And speaking of the Trust, preparations continue apace for the CST’s first big social event, the Christmas Party, to be held at The Black Bull, Fulham Road, on Friday 13th December. Admission is by ticket only, and costs £5 for members and £10 for non-members, although non-members’ tickets do include Trust membership. A limited number of tickets are still available, and you can find out how to get hold of one, together with all the latest party news, including a book signing by Mark Worrall, at the Chelsea Supporters Trust website.
I’ll be spending the week in the run-up to the CST SGM in what I hope will be warmer climes, but in the meantime you can as always follow me on Twitter @BlueBaby67.