Gillette Soccer Saturday (TV Series 1998– )
Gillette Soccer Saturday is a weekly television programme broadcast on Sky Sports in the United Kingdom and Ireland during the football season. The programme updates viewers on the progress of association football games in the United Kingdom on Saturday afternoons. The current host is Jeff Stelling. The programme is sponsored by Gillette.
Soccer Saturday grew out of Sports Saturday, which started in August 1992 and was hosted by Paul Dempsey and Sue Barker. Sports Saturday was similar in format to the BBC's Grandstand programme featuring a variety of sports and as with Grandstand, the programme finished with news of the day's football. Current host Jeff Stelling joined the programme in 1994 and became its sole presenter a year later.
For the 1998/99 season, the programme became a football-only programme and accordingly the name of the programme changed to Soccer Saturday.
Prior to May 2010, portions of the programme were simulcast on Sky Sports 1 as well as Sky Sports News. The portions simulcast were between 12:00–12:30 pm and 3:00 pm–5:15 pm, although this differed depending on the matches being covered on Sky Sports 1. From the start of the 2010–11 season these simulcasts were dropped and for the next three seasons the programme was exclusive to Sky Sports News but this Sky Sports 1 simulcast returned for the 2013–14 season as part of Sky Sports 1's new all-day Saturday football service. For the 2014–15 season the programme moved from Sky Sports 1 to Sky Sports 5 but reverted to Sky Sports 1 for the 2016–17 season.
Soccer Saturday is broadcast from 12 noon on Sky Sports News and lasts for up to six hours. The programme begins with the host and four regular in-studio pundits previewing the weekend's matches, reviewing recent results and debating current issues in football. The show is also famous for the rapport between the pundits and the presenter. There is much banter between the pundits and Jeff Stelling, who, in a good humoured manner, often points out each other's mistakes and incorrect predictions. Stelling exuberantly celebrates goals scored by his favourite team (Hartlepool United). Viewers are kept updated on the progress of early kick-offs by reporters at the games and by graphics below and to the right of the director's cut. These graphics also includes latest team news and league standings.
From 3 pm to 5.15 pm, Soccer Saturday provides running coverage of the 3 pm league matches, no games are televised in the UK (and only one of which is televised in Ireland). The graphics display a vidiprinter and cycle through current scores in the English and Scottish leagues, with Jeff Stelling providing commentary on the events as they unfold. Significant events at the most high-profile games – almost always in the Premier League – are described by the studio panel who each watch a game on a monitor. Other games deemed important are reported on by correspondents at the grounds connected to the studio by a video link, ISDN or telephone.
After the 3 pm games finish, the classified football results are read by Alan Lambourn and this is followed by a run-through of the updated league tables. A commercial break then follows and this is when the vidiprinter is removed from the screen. For the final 45 minutes of the programme the studio pundits discuss the games they have been watching, and post-match interviews with players and managers are shown.
The regular format occasionally changes, for example during international windows when the Premier League does not play, the show is often shortened to 2:00 pm to 5:30 pm, and League 1 and 2 fixtures are then covered by the studio pundits as opposed to the usual Premier League ones. Stelling no longer presents Soccer Saturday during the international break, with duties being handed over to Julian Warren.
A programme with the same format is also broadcast when there are a number of midweek games, such as on UEFA Champions League nights, in which case it is known as Soccer Special. Since 2011, Soccer Special has been hosted by Julian Warren. Between 2008 and 2011, Ed Chamberlin presented the programme. He had previously shared presenting the programme with Ian Payne during the previous season. Soccer Special was hosted by Stelling until he began presenting Monday Night Football at the start of the 2005–06 season. The midweek Soccer Specials are often simulcast on Sky Sports 1. From the 2015–2016 season, Stelling started presenting Soccer Special again as Sky lost the rights to Champions League coverage to BT Sport.
The Soccer Special name is also used when a full afternoon programme of football is played on a day other than Saturday, which usually only occurs on Boxing Day, New Year's Day (unless that falls on either Friday or Sunday) and Easter Monday as well as the last day of the Championship and the last day of the Premier League season as both are normally played on a Sunday. On these occasions the programme is usually presented by Stelling and follows the normal Soccer Saturday format.
For a few years during the summer, the show was replaced with Sports Saturday, which is more akin to the show's original format, concentrating on sports other than football due to the absence of competitive football during the summer. This again was presented by Ed Chamberlin. The programme did not return in 2009 or 2010, but was revived in July 2011, although it was presented by regular Sky Sports News presenters.
However, in August 2010, Sky announced the launch of Sports Sunday with Jamie Such as presenter, which airs Sundays from 13:00–18:00. This programme, similar to the old Sports Saturday format, was initially presented by Ed Chamberlain but since his promotion in early 2011 to additional football presenting duties on Sky Sports, is now presented by other presenters from the Sky Sports News roster.
Presenters and reporters
- Presenter: Jeff Stelling
- Lead Studio Pundit: Paul Merson
- Additional Studio Pundits: Tony Cottee, Iain Dowie, Alan McInally, Matt Murray, Glen Johnson, Clinton Morrison, Ally McCoist, Kris Boyd and Sue Smith
- Reporters: Chris Kamara, Bianca Westwood, David Craig, Dickie Davies, Michelle Owen, Rob Palmer, Johnny Phillips, Neil Mellor, John Gwynne, Peter Smith, Peter Stevenson, Stuart Jarrold, Paul Walsh, Simon Watts, Tony Colliver, Jonathan Beales, Bob Hall, Steve Jackson, Mike Jones, Russ Taylor, Mark Benstead, Charles Paterson, Frank Gilfeather, Andy Walker, Stuart Lovell, Davie Donaldson and John Temple
Rodney Marsh was a regular pundit, known for his outspoken views, until being sacked by Sky Sports in early 2005 after a joke referencing the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. George Best was also a regular until leaving in 2004 to fight alcohol problems. In August 2020, regular studio pundits Matt Le Tissier, Phil Thompson and Charlie Nicholas were controversially sacked from the programme. Other former studio analysts include Frank McLintock, Alan Brazil, Clive Allen, and Gordon McQueen.