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Last Updated:  Friday, 1 March, 2002, 18:21 GMT
Pat Younge on Rugby Special
BBC TV Sport's head of programming Pat Younge
Text: 07940 924 924
Rugby Special returned to your screens on Thursday 7 March 2002 at 2320GMT on BBC Two, and we gave you the chance to quiz the BBC's head of rugby programmes, Pat Younge.

Pat Younge was the man charged with bringing in-depth rugby coverage to your television screens and the upshot is a revamped Rugby Special.

Pat answered questions on the programme's format, presenters, content and the BBC's future plans for the sport.

  • real 14k Click here to listen to Pat

    Ben, Gloucester

    Why didn't you schedule Rugby Special earlier to appeal to younger viewers, and will the amount of technical analysis mean there is less rugby to watch?

    When we decided to bring back Rugby Special we looked at the portfolio we have. I think people have forgotten that when we used to be on air we were showing rugby league on a Saturday, and we never had Sunday Grandstand either. So Rugby Special was the only place that you could get rugby union on the BBC.

    Next year we've got 25 Saturdays of live rugby. Some of those days have got two games, be it Heineken Cup, Zurich Championship, Powergen Cup, Celtic League, Six Nations (hopefully) and the Autumn internationals - including England. Given that, and that we're also showing highlights every other week on Sunday Grandstand, we felt that there isn't need for a show with piles and piles of highlights - they're the easiest and the cheapest shows to do.

    What rugby needed what its own version of Football Focus - somewhere that the issues in rugby could be discussed, and the players had the chance to give their views on the modern game. So the new Rugby Special is much more of a magazine programme, and much more aimed at rugby fans - not the floating viewer or the passing audience - and is intended to speak to rugby people in their own language.

    When you're broadcasting on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, you have to sometimes dumb down the language in order to include the passing trade - the people who don't watch much rugby. We're actually talking the language of rugby fans. This isn't ratings-driven - if we were worried about ratings we'd put on a game show - this is much more about providing rugby fans with a proper service.

    Kevin Robson, Hove

    Will Rugby Special be repeated at an earlier time - say, on a Sunday afternoon?

    There are no plans to repeat it at the moment, although it is something we're exploring with BBC2. It partly depends on the response - and I don't mean the ratings response, but the critical response in terms of the agenda we're trying to set - but we have rugby highlights every other weekend in Sunday Grandstand, so the need for further highlights isn't what we're trying to address.

    Martin Davey, Denmark

    Will Rugby Special be shown on BBC World or Prime?

    There are no plans at the moment, and that's mainly for contractual reasons. We have rights to show footage in the UK and UK territories, and a number of other companies buy the rights to show footage around the world. It may be something we look at when we're through this series, but it's really an issue of rights. So at the moment it's very much a UK operation.

    Hardley School sixth form

    We're looking forward to Rugby Special, but are disappointed that the fantastic John Inverdale is not fronting the programme. Why?

    John Inverdale is fantastic, and is our number two rugby anchor. He's often at the second game on a Six Nations weekend, and introduces our rugby highlights in Sunday Grandstand. But we wanted to do something different with this show. As I've said, this isn't just about highlights, but much more about what's going on inside the modern game.

    The best people to tell you what's going on are the people inside the game themselves. That's the players (Keith Wood) or ex-players (Jonathan Davies).

    John does have a very important role in the show, and that is a series of in-depth reports on issues surrounding the game. This will be called 'State of the Union'. In Thursday's show John is looking at the whole issue of protective padding. One of the things he's discovered is that since padding was introduced injuries have increased five-fold.

    To free John up to take this role means that we have to take him out of the studio. Some people will like that, others won't. I think that Keith and John are a really good combination, and if we get the right guests (and we've got Austin Healy this week) you'll get a good lively show.

    Steve Hans, UK

    How hopeful are you of winning back the rights to the entire Six Nations?

    We're very hopeful, and we are putting together what we believe will be a winning bid. At the moment the situation doesn't make any sense - either for Sky or us.

    For example, when Sky were trying to preview the England v Ireland game, they couldn't show highlights from the last time the teams met because that was on the BBC, they couldn't show England's previous game against Scotland because that was a BBC game and they couldn't show Ireland demolishing the Welsh for the same reason.

    So they couldn't provide information on the form of the teams going into the match and they couldn't show Ireland stopping England winning the Grand Slam last year. So it doesn't make sense for anyone. The bid will come down to two issues: money and the editorial proposition we're putting forward. We think we're in a good position on both counts, but ultimately it will be for the Six Nations committee to decide.

    Paul, UK

    As the show is called Rugby Special how much of the show will cover rugby league issues?

    Not very much, because it's a rugby union show. Rugby league has sold its soul to Sky, and it has to live with that. For rugby league fans we've got a very good online presence, we are carrying the Challenge Cup and we have highlights of the England internationals in the autumn.

    But the sport has done its deal with Mr Murdoch, and that's something rugby league fans have to deal with. If you live in the north of England there is the Super League Show, which is a regional transmission, and if you really want to see rugby league outside of the north, you should write to your local BBC and see if they'll carry it as a local transmission.

    Guy Delamere, Wales

    What plans does the BBC have to cover overseas Tests involving home countries in the future? Terrestrial TV for too long has neglected these.

    It depends who they're playing, where they're playing and how much people want for the rights. We were going to bring highlights of the British Lions tour last summer, but at the last minute Sky decided to go back on their agreement to sell them to us.

    There is stacks of rugby around, but ultimately it all comes down to what's available, at what price and on what dates. Grandstand has a schedule of major UK sporting events and we have to live within a budget.

    If they're available then we're interested - provided we can get them away. But for us, the real premium is on live sport, and that's why we've got 25 Saturdays and 10 Sundays of top quality club and international rugby.

    Dave Betis, England

    Why no mention of National League One in your plans? National clubs like Mosely are really struggling to survive, and the Beeb could do so much to help our plight.

    We will be doing an item in two week's time on the promotion and relegation issue, and clearly we'll be looking at those teams with potential of coming up to the Premiership. But at the end of the day we're a programme, not social services and we can't be all things to all people.

    That's probably been the problem with shows like this in the past. The new show is much more journalistic, it's got a new editor, Josephine McCusker, who is the first woman editor of Rugby Special and we've got a really good show.

    Jibber, UK

    Are you bringing back the old theme tune, so it can be sung once more in the new Ely?

    Alright Jibber! That's Angus Scott - an old college friend of mine. We will indeed be bringing back the old theme tune. It's been recorded and there's a new title sequence, but it's the music we all know and love, the music we all grew up with and the music we hope will excite a new generation of fans.








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