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Photo 2004 Olympics, by Alison James
Photo 2004 Olympics, by Alison James
Article first published in Radio Active January 2005
By Chrissy Brand
By Chrissy Brand
If your view on sport on the radio is that of a hoarse, partisan reporter crackling down a telephone line on your local FM station, it's time to think again. Listening to sport on mediumwave, shortwave or satellite radio, be it in English or other languages, can be a richer, more varied and overall far more exciting experience.
Although BBC and commercial radio coverage of sporting events is good, why not be adventurous and re-tune the radio to hear things from a different perspective. You might discover an exciting new sport to follow or be amazed at the delivery methods of the commentators. At the very least you will learn some sporting trivia to impress your friends with!
This article will cover different sports from many continents. Along with global favourites such as football and athletics, there will be a peek into some of the lesser-known games. Armed with a basic radio, pen and paper you will soon be able to experience the world of sport for yourself. I sat down the other weekend and in no time at all found myself hooked on the Cork City against Bohemians match on RTE 1. I then heard football reports and commentary in Dutch on Belgian station VRT1 (927 kHz) with mention of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. On longwave Europe 1 (183 kHz) and Radio Monte Carlo (216 kHz) had French football, with what I assumed was the Luxembourg league covered on RTL on 234 kHz.
Flicking over to short wave there was a choice of two top Spanish matches. RNE (Radio Nacional de Espana) carried the Deportivo de la Coruna game on 9630 kHz (also heard on 585 kHz medium wave). The Barcelona against Real Madrid match was also broadcast by RNE on 9665 kHz. So I really was spoilt for choice.
Time to kick-off in the UK with the Restricted Licence Services (RSLs). As you may know these are licences granted by Ofcom for low powered radio stations to cover a local community or religious event. Stations pay a fee and are restricted to between 1 and 24 Watts for FM and 1 Watt for AM. Frequencies allocated are usually 87.7 mHz on FM, then there are several on mw including; 1494, 1503, and 1602 kHz.
Sporting events of course lend themselves to RSLs. It’s an ideal set up; a low power radio station within a stadium, broadcasting to an audience on a common and popular topic. Horse racing festivals such as Ascot and Cheltenham or race-days at other courses like York (on 1602 kHz), are popular for RSLs. Usually you can hear the station within ten miles of the venue, so on the way to the ground you will get useful traffic and car parking information. Build-up features such as the latest betting odds, interviews with owners and riders, expert predictions and ground conditions are standard programme content. As the station is dedicated to the one event you can hear detailed coverage that other national and local stations cannot really compete with, as they have to juggle several different sports at the same time.
2004 saw many varied sporting RSLs, many of which will be on the air again in 2005, so listen out for motor racing events at Castle Donington and Silverstone (1602 kHz), Radio Wimbledon (87.7 mHz), match play golf from Virginia Water (107.3 mHz), yachting regattas at Argyll and Dartmouth, speedway from Rockingham, horse racing from Goodwood and Epsom and motor racing on Radio Oulton in Cheshire.
There are currently six sporting RSLs in operation on a regular basis. Rather than covering an annual event such as a British Grand Prix, these are mostly RSLs for individual football clubs, who are allowed to broadcast on every home match. You can certainly expect plenty of bias towards the home team. If you thought local radio was passionate, you should hear some of these guys. As you might expect, Manchester Utd are one of them, and they also have a television station, MUTV, which started in 1997. Manchester Utd radio has broadcast from all home games as an RSL station on 1458 kHz for several seasons.
However, Blackburn Rovers were the first football club to operate an RSL station, back in 1993, and Radio Rovers can still be heard in and around Ewood Park on 1404 KHz. Across the Pennines Barnsley FC have Oakwell Radio 1575, whilst Palace Radio (1278 kHz) are enjoying life in the Premiership with Crystal Palace.
Southampton football club have gone one step further and last Spring became the first football club to own a full-time FM radio station. The station broadcasts 24 hours a day on 107.8 FM , Sky digital 899 and locally on DAB.
Also currently on air are RSLs Big Blue 96.3 (London), and Ref!Link. Ref!link is a service for Rugby Union matches, enabling fans to hear what the referees is saying, and why he has taken certain decision. It has been used at Twickenham and at home game for London Irish and Leicester Tigers. It is part of a brand called Sports!Link FM, which has provided unique live commentary to spectators watching superbikes, sailing, motorsports, cricket, eventing, dressage, tennis and golf.
Sports!Link produce some nice products to hear their services on, from a disposable receiver that lasts three days to an all-season version. They also make a product aimed for motor sports and horseracing spectators which has an FM radio housed in a pair of x8 sports binoculars.
Away from RSLs, but on DAB, Freeview and shortwave, BBC World Service has some fantastic sports coverage from a truly global perspective, with for instance, all the major South American football results. Sportsworld, Sports International, Alan Green’s World Football and Sports Round up are amongst the programmes to listen out for. Check the Radio Times for details.
Before we leave Britain I have to mention the sport of ‘Rasus’, or harness racing. It looks like something from Ben Hur, and its origins are indeed 2000 years ago in Roman times. There are race-tracks around the UK, and Welsh television channel S4C has coverage. The jockeys sit back in their carriages and race the horses around at speeds of up to 30 m.p.h.
Just tuning your dial around medium and shortwave you will hear powerful signals beamed from many European countries, not necessarily aimed at the UK, but still providing a very clear signal. With just a little bit of research you can soon tune into sporting events all over Europe.
Ireland’s Radio Telefis Eireann (RTE) Radio One broadcast in English and can be heard across the UK, on 567 kHz mw and 252 kHz longwave. Two unique sports that have a large share of coverage and are a major part of Irish sporting tradition are Gaelic Football and Hurling. Gaelic football predates soccer and rugby and is a mixture of the two. It is 15 a side with a round ball which can be carried, kicked or propelled into or over the goal to score points. Hurling has some similarities to hockey and is Europe’s oldest field sport, going back 2000 years to Celtic times. ‘The Championship’ is a regular RTE programme covering all aspects of Hurling and Gaelic Football.
‘Sports Call’ is a Monday evening phone-in programme with Des Cahill. Weekends have three main sporting shows, ‘Sportsnight’ on Friday, then Saturday and Sunday Sport. There is plenty of good local sports coverage which includes horse racing and rugby union. Football is covered further with additional programmes such as a series on ‘Irelands Soccer Top 20’, which profiled Irish legends.
To try some foreign sounds, football matches on Radio Difusao do Portugal (RDP) are worth listening to for the excitable commentators, even if you don’t understand Portuguese. Try 13720 kHz from 2100 UTC. You can work out who is playing as team names are always mentioned in the commentary. Many UK newspapers publish fixture lists of major domestic league and European matches for the following week which also gives you a clue.
Radio National de Espana (RNE), like its Iberian neighbour, is passionate about football. It is very easy to hear the RNE and COPE networks booming in on medium wave in the evenings. Goals are announced on air by a jingle along with excited screams of ‘gol, gol, gol, gol GOL!!!’ from the commentator and his side-kick.
In Scandinavia, the Finnish state broadcaster often carries coverage of the many wintertime sports beloved by many Nordic inhabitants. Finnish is a strange but distinctive language to our ears, and you soon realise when you are hearing a cross country ski race on YLE radio. Listen for the background shouts from the crowd with klaxons and bells as skiers race downhill, through slaloms, into the air or through the forests. It makes for entertaining radio in any language. Coverage of ice-hockey competitions such as the International Karjala Cup will also be mentioned. Try 11755 and 9705 kHz from the Pori transmitter from 0600 to 1900 until the evenings. On mediumwave 963 kHz can be picked up as well.
There are many major professional winter sports events held throughout Scandinavia, and some for amateur enthusaists too, such as the Lahti Ski Club’s 60 km and 30 km classic races, from Lahti to Hollola and back.
Dave Russell of Radio Sweden presents ‘SportScan’ on the first Wednesday of each month, which covers all sports from a Swedish perspective. Successful Swedish lady golfers, tennis, ice hockey, skiing, table tennis and soccer are all regulars.
Even Vatican Radio’s Italian service has time for mention of sporting achievements. After all, Pope John Paul II used to be a goalkeeper. In a weekly programme hosted by Luca Collodi, Cardinals double up as football commentators. This is heard on Vatican Radio's One-0-Five Live and director Sean- Patrick Lovett states: "It' s a man of God talking sports, an earthly pastime, talking the people's language. Sports is something that the people are interested in. The church is not just about sex scandals and papal decrees."
Radio Prague has regular sports bulletins in English, so you can hear the exploits of Czech teenage tennis player Berdych, leading Czech racing driver Tomas Enge competing on the Indy Racing League, and new rally driving sensation Jan Kopecky. The annual Velka Kunraticka cross country race, recently held in Prague's Kuntraticky Forest attracts many older runners and has an over 70s category as well.
You can soon gain an interest in the international and national ice hockey too, which is a big sport in the Czech Republic. If you want to pick a team to follow, how about Pardubice, who have been winning well and have some North American NHL stars in their team (Jan Bulis and Milan Hejduk). Sport crops up in the daily 30 minute programmes, try 1800 UTC on 5030 kHz.
Deutsche Welle in Berlin brings you ‘Sports Report’ at five minutes past the hour throughout Saturday and Sundays. German athletes, footballers and skiers are all featured. And if you want to follow the German Bundesliga more closely, you can try their fantasy football-like ‘Tip for the Top’ webpage, and predict scores. Can surprise early leaders Vfl Wolfsburg continue their form throughout the season?: http://bundesligatip.dw-world.de/english.do
The American Forces Network (AFN) has been broadcasting to troops in Europe for 60 years, and it is easy enough to tune to. They use 30 radio transmitters located throughout Europe mostly carrying FM frequencies, but try evenings on 873 kHz mw from Frankfurt.
If you are a fan of any of the traditional North American sports such as baseball, basketball, ice hockey of American football you can be transported from your armchair to the live action. Listen in to matches on AFN like the Portland Pirates versus St John’s Maple or the Red Sox versus the Maples. Weekdays at 1635 UTC there is a 25 minutes sports programme called ‘Sports Byline’. Weekend mornings has ‘Sports Overnight America’, and there is often coverage of a major game from 1900 UTC at weekends as well.
Radio Canada International includes sports news in ‘Canada Today’ programme. Ice hockey is a fast and furious national obsession and the Canadians are current world champions. Tune in on short wave to get the National Hockey league latest and news of other Canadian athletes and sporting superstars. (2100 UTC on 5850 and 9770 kHz).
Also on shortwave Cuba has a regular round up of sports on the English service of Radio Havana. It isn’t that easy to hear but one frequency to listen on is 9550 kHz at 2345 UTC. Whilst we are on difficult to receive signals, you might try for some transatlantic medium wave DX. There are a number of North American east coast sports radio stations that can be heard in the U.K. If you listen between 2100 and 0630 UTC you might strike lucky. WFAN and WEPN in New York on 660 and 1050 kHz, WEEI and WWZN in Boston on 850 kHz and 1510 kHz, WJAE in Portland on 1440 kHz and CJYQ in St Johns, Newfoundland on 930 kHz.
Africa and Asia
The Voice of Nigeria broadcasts to Europe in the mornings and evenings on 15150 kHz, and include a ‘Sports Round Up’ programme. In South Africa international broadcaster Channel Africa has some sports-specific programmes, and covers results in the general news service from Johannesburg.
The Voice of America carries a programme called ‘Sonny side of sports’ with Sonny Young. The transmission signal is aimed towards Africa, but can be heard in the U.K. You get an interesting mix of phone-calls and features on sporting events across the African continent. Fridays 1800 UTC, (6035, 11975, 13710, 15240, 17895 kHz) repeated on Saturdays 0630 UTC 6080, 7295, 11835 kHz).
With China gearing up towards the 2008 Beijing Olympics, China Radio International will doubtless be covering many aspects of both sporting and behind the scenes developments. There is no specific sports programme currently in their schedule, but items on the infrastructure for the Olympics and potential starlets for the future crop up throughout their English programmes. A good time to hear them is 2000 UTC on medium wave 1386 kHz (via the Luxembourg transmitter) and on shortwave 6100, 7100, 9600 and 9855 kHz.
Other Asian short wave broadcasters that pump a good signal into the UK include NHK Radio Japan, Radio Korea International and the General Overseas Service of All India Radio (AIR). They all include sporting items in their programming. So for the latest field hockey and cricketing feats on the subcontinent tune into AIR, who beam to the UK daily from 1745 to 1945 on 7410, 9950 and 11620 kHz, continuing from 2045 to 2230 on 7410, 9445 and 9950.
Thailand radio station Radio Sports 99.0 and others can be heard via the Internet. For kickboxing, golf, scuba-dicing and more start at: http://home.wxs.nl/~hendr012/mediaeng.htm
Baseball is big in Japan, and you might even get to hear about some of the more unusual traditional sports and games that are played in parts of Asia. For instance the top-spinning phenomenon in Malaysia, where a gasing (top) weighing 5 kg and similar to a large dinner plate can spin for up to two hours. It was included as an event in the 1998 Commonwealth Games. The Voice of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpar broadcasts in English, with a Sports review on Mondays, which can include other popular local sports of horse racing, motor racing, football, badminton, table tennis, powerboat racing, cricket, squash and even kite flying: http://126.96.36.199/vom/unit_english.htm
Radio Australia’s ‘Grandstand Wrap’ and the domestic ABC programme ‘Grandstand’ cover sport across the world, and detailed reports and commentaries on Australian cricket, Aussie rules, rugby league and union and the many other sports that Australians excel at. Try from 1200 UTC on 9475, 11660, 11750, then 9500 kHz after 1900 UTC.
Radio New Zealand International has sports news following most news broadcasts, as well as live coverage of big events, such as when the All Blacks are in action and even International Netball matches. Sports Editor Dmitri Edwards presents ‘The World In Sport’ with highlights of the world's sporting week with emphasis on New Zealand and the Pacific. There are interviews, reviews and reaction, plus previews of upcoming games. (Wednesdays 1705 UTC and 2135 UTC, Thursdays 0335 UTC )
Rugby, sailing, cricket, athletics, hang gliding, mountaineering, and yes, bungie-jumping, New Zealand is a great place for sporting enthusiasts. RNZI can be heard in Europe on shortwave 15720 Khz (0400 to 0800) and 15205 (1800-2050), but if the distance is too much for the ionosphere and your trusty radio, just go to the RNZI website to listen live: www.rnzi.com
I have only covered some of the dozens of sports, and my apologies if a favourite has been left out. The best advice is to just turn that dial and discover what you can hear. If there are programmes or sporting events you hope to hear reports of or commentaries on, then just go to the Internet and hunt around (e.g. Search Radio Netherlands or Radio France International websites for competitive cycling).
With a little research and you will get even more enjoyment out of the duals interests of radio and sport. Once you combine FM, medium, long and shortwave, satellite radio (such as the World Radio Network) and the Internet a whole new ball game will soon open up for you.