BT Sport unveils Balding and Kelly as show hosts

Des Kelly says he feel like a “seven-year-old kid on Christmas morning” at becoming one of the faces of BT Sport when it launches this summer.

Des Kelly: feels like a seven-year-old on Christmas morning
Des Kelly: feels like a seven-year-old on Christmas morning

A past Columnist of the Year at the SJA’s British Sports Journalism Award has been asked to front a magazine-style football programme, called Life’s A Pitch, which will go out each night from Monday to Thursday.

BT Sport, which will show 38 live Barclays Premier League matches next season, unveiled its team on Thursday from their new headquarters – the media broadcast centre at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

SJA member Kelly, who has known of his appointment since November, admits it has been agony keeping the secret.

He said: “I can’t wait to get started. I’ve had to try and bite my lip about the whole project for more than six months but the feeling still hasn’t worn off.

“If anything, the BT Sport launch heightened that sense of anticipation. Their plans are hugely ambitious and BT have the expertise at the top and the financial resource to make it a success in the years ahead.

“Anyone that thinks BT’s prospects are in any way comparable to Setanta or even ESPN’s presence in the market in this country needs to think again.”

Kelly also presents The Press Pass on TalkSport every Sunday evening and is a weekly columnist for the Daily Mail.

While it looks like he will continue on the radio, his future with the paper is not quite so clear. “That’s something I’m talking about with Lee Clayton, the Mail‘s head of sport, and we’ll resolve it during the close season,” added Kelly.

“I’m not only presenting this show for BT Sport, I’m co-producing it and writing scripts etc, so it’s going to eat up a considerable chunk of my life. We’ll see if the different jobs fit together.

“But Lee, Les Snowdon the sports editor and the entire Mail operation won’t miss a beat whatever happens. They’re a great team and they have ambitious plans of their own.

“The first message I received when BT Sport officially announced I was joining them came from Lee Clayton, which was a classy touch. They are good friends and will remain so.

“I don’t think The Press Pass is such an issue as it’s on a Sunday night and will deal with many of the issues that will crop up in the course of the TV show during the week anyway.

“The two might work well together – and open up the audience. That’s if TalkSPORT continue to have me, of course. I enjoy doing the show, receive lots of positive feedback, and working there has taught me a great deal in a very short time. Again, it’s something to look at, but the controller Liam Fisher has been delighted with the BT Sport link.”

The Life’s a Pitch name is already in use by BT, both as a website for their football coverage and also a weekly vodcast for the internet fronted by former SJA sports writer of the year, Mike Calvin.

The new programme will expand on that, as Kelly explains. He said: “It’s a live, hour-long show on four nights a week from Monday through to Thursday that will deal with the sports news agenda of the day and tackle some of the issues dominating the airwaves and the press.

“Because we kick off at 10pm, we’ll be able to pick up all the reaction from whatever game is on that night, go live to the ground and react accordingly. We’ll have guests, experts, star names, the occasional comic on hand… we’ll preview the next day’s back pages, too.

Clare Balding: fronting weekly BT Sport show
Clare Balding: fronting weekly BT Sport show

“We’ll also pop in to newsrooms if they have a breaking story – and basically give viewers plenty to keep them entertained and informed.

“Sports journalism is the heartbeat of the show. We have some of the very best in the business in this country and I intend to call on them. But we’ll also have some good laughs along the way and create a bit of controversy too.

“I make a habit of remembering sport is supposed to be fun – and that will be reflected in the content and tone of the show. For instance, I’m currently trying to book Reginald D Hunter for the first show. See? You’re not sure if I’m serious or not now…. are you?

“And if there are any SJA members, or agents or PRs reading this and have ideas I’ll only be too delighted to hear about them – VTs, rants, issues, funnies, offbeat stuff, possible interview subjects – anything at all – fire them over. I’m easy to find at

The 2012 SJA Broadcaster of the Year, Clare Balding, will present and co-produce a weekly sports magazine chat show that will feature interviews with major sporting names and discussion of big sporting issues. The show will also shine a spotlight on women’s sport.

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