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Friday, 3 August, 2001, 10:48 GMT 11:48 UK
ITV kicks off soccer coverage
Ally McCoist, Des Lynam and Terry Venables
McCoist, Lynam and Venables will lead the coverage
ITV is to screen its main football programme on Saturday evenings, at a time usually reserved for light entertainment shows such as Blind Date.

The show, called The Premiership, will be fronted by Des Lynam, and will compete with BBC One's primetime entertainment shows at 7pm.

It takes over from the BBC's Match of the Day, after ITV won the rights to screen highlights of Premiership games from the BBC last year.

The BBC is due to reveal its own plans for Saturday evenings next week. Its high rating series Casualty returns in the autumn but usually goes out at 8pm.

U2's Beautiful Day will become the signature tune for ITV soccer
Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore hailed ITV's move as the best possible boost for the Premiership.

"People normally give their right arm to get on prime-time television. Here we are being paid to be there, which is fantastic," he said.

"We want to reach the biggest audience possible and when you look at the audience profile, it peaks at about this time and it is a different audience, it has more women and more children."

The BBC will continue to show the action from FA Cup and England international matches.

After losing the Premiership rights, BBC director general Greg Dyke said he could not justify spending such a large sum of public money to top ITV's bid.

When we show the action it will still be red hot

Controller, ITV Sport
Lynam will be joined in the studio for the new show by ex-footballer Ally McCoist and former England manager Terry Venables.

"Showing The Premiership at 7pm allows people to get together and watch it as a family, while our later programme is another opportunity to catch all the action," said Lynam.

Brian Barwick, controller of ITV sport, said: "Our main programme is in position A and no longer a late night preserve.

"When we show the action it will still be red hot, the people we talk to will be straight out of the dressing room and our analysis will be agenda-setting because it will have been compiled bang on the final whistle."

Coca Cola is to sponsor the coverage in a package worth 50m over three years - the biggest broadcast sports sponsorship deal in the UK.

A remixed version of U2's It's a Beautiful Day has been chosen as the theme tune.

As well as the 7pm show there will be a later edition with extended highlights and match commentary.

Technical advances

The first show kicks off on 18 August with Liverpool v West Ham and Middlesbrough v Arsenal as the featured games.

ITV has promised technological advances in its coverage such as player tracking to aid analysis.

On 11 August the network will launch its digital ITV Sport channel.

The Premiership show is part of a package of Premiership soccer programmes ITV has planned, after paying 183m for the rights over three years.

Presenter Gabby Yorath's Saturday afternoon show On the Ball show will be extended and she will host a new Monday night programme alongside McCoist.

The Premiership Parliament will bring managers, players and fans together in front of a live studio audience.

See also:

08 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Soccer theme is stars' goal
16 Nov 00 | Sports Personality
Des Lynam
03 Aug 99 | UK
ITV signs Des Lynam
17 Aug 00 | Match of the Day
History of Match of the Day
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