The Football League prize winners tell us about reporting at Wembley

football league logoLiam Twomey and Ben Burrows were awarded prizes from The Football League on 8 February at the Student Council forum at MSN in London for their outstanding NCTJ sports journalism exam performances.

Liam Twomey completed his NCTJ training at News Associates in London before moving on to a full-time role as a senior sub-editor with Goal.com UK. In addition to his subbing responsibilities, Liam contributes regular features, news exclusives, live text commentaries, match reports and player ratings, as well as attending Premier League and England matches on behalf of the website and interviewing numerous high-profile figures in the game.

Ben Burrows studied at News Associates in Manchester, and since qualifying in the summer has been freelancing. He has covered the London 2012 Olympic Games, amongst other events, and is currently working with Ladbrokes bookmakers as part of their social media team.

Both reported on matches for The Football League as part of their prizes. Liam reported on League One, and Ben reported on League Two. We caught up with Liam and Ben and asked them to tell us about their days out in Wembley’s press box:

football league winner liamLiam: I’ve been fortunate enough to cover two matches at Wembley already this season as part of my job with Goal.com, so I wasn’t intimidated by the task of reporting on the League One play-off final.

That said, the whole experience of going to Wembley – as a fan or journalist – is always special, and from a media point of view the facilities are fantastic. The food’s pretty good too!

The match itself was an engaging one, and that always brings its own challenges. You have to make sure you get the balance right between watching the action and keeping your report up to speed.

In this, of course, my NCTJ training was crucial – from the fundamentals such as attention to detail, balancing description and context and getting names right, to the structure of the report itself.

There were no late goals in my match, which obviously always helps, but Brentford’s late pressure meant the result was never entirely certain until the final whistle.

In these situations, you’ve got to remain plugged into the action and the atmosphere without becoming distracted from your key task of making sure the report is ready on the whistle.

Thankfully my job has helped me become pretty well practised at match reports since I finished my course last July, and so I wasn’t scrambling around in the dying seconds.

After the game I attended the post-match press conferences, which are always exciting because, aside from the news lines that may emerge, it is a good place to listen to top journalists at work and learn how to phrase different questions in different situations to get the best response.

Overall, my day at Wembley was another chance to put my sports reporting skills to the test and, thanks to my NCTJ training and the experience I’ve acquired since, it was one I was able to enjoy.

football league winner benBen: It wasn’t the Champions League final that unfolded on the same hallowed turf on 19 May. It wasn’t even the Championship play-off final, the fabled £90m game. But for all those present for the League Two Play Off final at Wembley, it was just as tense, just as nerve jangling and, for the Bradford City faithful at least, just as momentous.

The Bantams, after a six year absence from League One, blew away Northampton Town in 28 frantic first-half minutes to secure promotion after a marathon season. The real story though was the incredible journey that Phil Parkinson and his men have been through in 2012 and 2013.

After a fairytale ride through the Capital One Cup that saw them see off Premier League outfits Wigan Athletic, Arsenal and Aston Villa, they fell at the final hurdle to Swansea City in the showpiece at Wembley. To return to the scene of such a low and walk out winners this time in their 64th game was a fitting finale.

I’ve been lucky enough to be a spectator at the home of English football for the likes of the rugby league Challenge Cup and the NFL International Series. But Saturday marked the first time I have had the opportunity to soak up the atmosphere from inside the ropes. The press facilities were predictably excellent and the vantage point just across the halfway line was truly the best way to take in such an occasion.

In truth the game itself was one of the easiest live events I’ve ever had to cover. The margin of victory saw me almost ready to file my on-the-whistle report just after half time. But I’m glad the hard work and effort I put in while completing my NCTJ training course paid off with this opportunity, and I hope it continues to do so in what I hope will be a long and successful career in sports journalism.

You can follow Liam Twomey on Twitter at @liam_twomey and Ben Burrows at @bensevenburrows