Go inside ESPN UK’s coverage of
FA Cup’s First Round match

(L-R) ESPN UK lead soccer presenter Ray Stubbs, ESPN special guest Martin Allen, team manager of English soccer team Gillingham and ESPN UK soccer analyst Craig Burley. (Tristan O’Carroll/ESPN)

CAMBRIDGE, England — This past weekend, our UK operation started its TV coverage of this season’s FA Cup — the world’s oldest and most coveted domestic soccer cup competition — with the First Round of matches.

The FA Cup is known as English soccer’s great leveller — pitting amateur sides that get to train perhaps once a week against professional teams with access to some the best support in physical and technical training.

Last Friday, ESPN commenced its coverage of this season’s FA Cup with the live broadcast of amateur side Cambridge City’s clash against professional outfit Milton Keynes Dons at Pro-Edge Stadium.

Just before going on air, FrontRow caught up with ESPN UK soccer commentator Derek Rae on the essence of this unique competition.

Above, enjoy a picture gallery of the broadcast.

What is the essence of the FA Cup?
There are very few Cup competitions like this — where everybody takes it seriously and everybody knows there’s the potential for the big teams to fall. New stars will be born, live on television and local heroes will emerge on the national stage.

How different is an ESPN broadcast at an FA Cup game compared to, say, an English Premier League match?
A difference is the commentary booth. Tonight, we have a ladder that we have to scale to reach our commentary position. In many respects, it’s a lot more in touch with the roots of the game than what we do week to week in the Premier League.

How does ESPN try and relay the flavour of the FA Cup to viewers at home?
In the FA Cup, we try to bring the viewer into the stadium a lot more. You try to give the viewer the true flavor of the first round and sometimes that’s warts and all.

What is it like personally to cover FA Cup matches involving amateur and professional sides?
I adore the early rounds of the FA Cup. When you talk in an unscripted fashion for two hours, it’s a bit like being a footballer.