Automated Ad Break Causes ITV Viewers To Miss Game-Winning Goal During FA Cup

By Kevin Hilton

SVG Europe Editor

UK broadcaster ITV continued to have a rocky FA (Football Association) Cup campaign on Feb. 4 when an automated advertisement break caused some viewers to miss the only goal in the fourth-round replay game between bitter local rivals Liverpool and Everton.

The two Merseyside clubs were playing again for a place in the fifth round of the knock-out competition, after drawing 1-1 on Jan. 25. The standard 90 minutes of play did not produce a goal, and, since there is no second replay, the game went into extra time.

Automated playout systems are not used during live, non–regular-schedule programming, but extended playing time did not seem to have been considered in this case. The ad break cut into the buildup to Dan Gosling’s winning goal for Everton, but the transmission was switched back just in time for viewers in the Borders, Tyne Tees, Yorkshire, Granada, Central North, and UTV ITV regions to see it go into the net. Others, including those in London, were not so lucky.

Studio anchor Steve Rider made a hurried apology, and an ITV statement was broadcast later in the evening, making clear that “the problem occurred at the transmission centre and was not the responsibility of the ITV Sport production team.” Today, ITV Executive Chairman Michael Grade said, “Most importantly, I’d like to apologise to all our viewers who were affected by last night’s unprecedented technical error. As a football fan myself, I was glued to the match and was as disappointed as anyone to miss the goal.

“We have years of experience in dealing with the changes in ad-break patterns when games go into extra time and, sometimes, penalties,” he continued. “Last night’s glitch was inexcusable, and we are awaiting the results of our technical inquiry so we can put in place stringent and immediate procedures to address this.”

The stray ad break is the latest in a line of broadcast incidents in this FA Cup season. During coverage of the second-round game between Histon and Leeds United, some fans got hold of a pitch-side mic and swore on-air, and a naked player was glimpsed while a post-match interview was conducted. ITV’s editorial judgement was also criticised for making Derby County’s perhaps inevitable third-round win against lowly Forest Green Rovers the headline game over Nottingham Forest’s shocking 3-0 defeat of Manchester City, the richest club in the world.

Commenting on last night’s incident, an FA spokesman said, “It is obviously very disappointing that viewers and fans did not see the only goal of last night’s FA Cup replay between Everton and Liverpool. Clearly, we are seeking a full explanation from ITV as to why this happened. It is important that lessons are learned and that this does not happen again.”