Chapter 54: Writing about sport

Chapter 54: Writing about sport

This is the second of two chapters on the coverage of sport. In the previous chapter, we looked at how to plan for good sports coverage in your newspaper, radio or television station and how to gather information. In this chapter we discuss how to present sports news and results and we examine the challenges of different media.


In Chapter 53 we listed the areas which need to be included in the content of sports pages. Let us now consider each one in turn, and think about how to gather and present the information in the best way for the reader or listener.


You will receive the results from the correspondents you have organised, and from your own sports reporters.

As we have already noted, for minor sporting events it may be sufficient just to publish or broadcast the result.

With a couple of paragraphs of report on top, the results of a local basketball league could look like this:

League leaders Club Sportif scored a century of points against village side Tanolu in this week's Efate Basketball League matches.

Masel Manua's personal tally was 38 points, his best ever for the club.

RESULTS: Club Sportif 104 Tanolu 38, Montmatre 73 Eton 56, Pang Pang 61 Wesley 58, Brigham Young 82 Mele 54, Ekipe 48 Onesua 46, Emua 66 Erakor 62, Epule v Matarisu result not available.

For more important sporting events, though, there must also be a report. In this case, the result should still be carried, clearly presented at the beginning of the report. On radio, this means announcing the result first, and then having a match report from a correspondent. In a newspaper, it means publishing the result at the top of the report.

Different kinds of sport need their results to be presented in different ways. There are three categories - sports for which a simple score (perhaps with scorers) is enough; sports which require details of many performances; and tournament results.

Simple scores

For many team sports it is enough just to give the basic score at the top of the report. The sports in this category would include soccer, rugby, basketball, volleyball, hockey and netball. The result might be presented like this:

Navua  1      Nadroga  2

Result like this can be added to by including scorers. This can be done if the match is considered to be slightly more important than the average:

NAITASIRI NORTH  12                   RA  6

Tries:                                             Penalties:        
Nakailagi, Vunakece,                       Nacama            
Performance details

A number of sports require detailed results, including performances by a number of individuals. This includes team sports where the team performance is the total  of the  individual performances - like cricket or baseball; team sports where the team performance is the total of a number of groups' performances, like lawn bowls; and sports where a large number of individuals compete against each other in a series of events, like athletics (track and field) and swimming. In each case, the results are too long and complex to be carried at the start of the report, and would usually be published at the end of the report or - for a very important game - in a panel beside the report. It is extremely difficult for radio to give results as detailed as these, without boring most of its listeners.

Let us take an example from each of these groups.

For a cricket match, there needs to be a complete score card, including bowling figures:

GORDON First innings

L.Leke c Tomausi b Ching 
Y.Rafa lbw b McIvor
J.Neumann c Oala b Ching
A.Matane b Nula 
R.Kennedy st Tomausi b Oala
P.Samari lbw b Oala
T.Temo lbw b McIvor 
A.Leke b Ching
B.Sibona c Tomausi b Ching
T.Leke not out 
S.Manau b Ching 
Extras (2nb,2w,4b,7lb)



Fall of wickets: 1-36, 2-49, 3-68, 4-122, 5-134, 6-154, 7-172, 8-229, 9-229
Bowling: McIvor 14-2-35-2; Ching 17.2-4-47-5; Nula 15-2-44-1; Oala 21-8-39-2; Suk 8-0-53-0.

TOKARARA First innings

W.Helalo not out
S.Pugh b T.Leke
L.Bill c Sibona b T.Leke 
A.Maki c Neumann b Manau 
J.Suk not out
Extras (lb1)
TOTAL (for 3 wkts) 

Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-3, 3-14.



In bowls, a match may consist of several games between groups of people, each called a rink. The score of all the rinks is added together to give the final result. So, you will want to give the team result first, followed by the score of each rink:

Triples: Lae beat Popondetta 136-114.
(Lae scores first) Rink 1 21-15, Rink 2 18-17, Rink 3 19-23, Rink 4 38-18, Rink 5 16-20, Rink 6 24-21).

For an athletics meeting, readers will want a full list of the results of all events, plus the times or distances of each successful athlete.

You will need to decide whether to give just the winner of each event, or the first three, or the first six, or whatever. The first three is a normal number, following the tradition in the Olympic Games, in which the first three each receive a medal:

100m: 1 E.Arakua 11.4sec; 2 J.Keae 11.5; 3 W.Vui 11.7.
200m: 1 P.Maraleu 22.5; 2 R.Lemeki 22.8; 3 D.Marru 23.2.
: 1 I.Popek 50.4; 2 M.Namun 53.7; 3 J.Rombok 53.8.
800m: 1 R.Eava 1m55.7; 2 K.Ng 1m56.1; 3 I.Popek 1m56.2.
: 1 R.Eava 3m56.4; 2 S.Lessi 3m59.9; 3 H.Manalo 4m00.4.
5000m: 1 R.Dalaweta 14m46.2; 2 J.Umpa 14m54.8; 3 J.Kelau 14m58.1
110m hurdles
: 1 B.Pagal 14.7; 2 W.Takira 14.9; 3 P.Miria 15.5.
High jump
: 1 K.Natera 2.03 metres; 2 R.Rarua 1.99; 3 J.Araua 1.87.
Long jump
: 1 W.Vui 7.34; 2 D.Gukain 7.09; 3 B.Buka 6.98.
Triple jump
: 1 B.Buka 14.97; 2 K.Ogil 14.12; 3 B.Manga 13.94
: 1 R.Banz 19.11; 2 T.Murphy 18.93; 3 S.Gahuko 18.79.
: 1 R. Banz 59.26; 2 S. Gahuko 57.87; 3 D.Lavi 57.40.
: 1 S.Begri 71.66; 2 T.Spia 71.38; 3 B.Tromwe 70.55.

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Some sports are typically played in a tournament. This can mean a succession of individual matches, after which the loser is eliminated and the winner moves on to the next round to meet another winner; tennis, table tennis, badminton, squash, boxing and fencing are often organised in this kind of tournament. The other kind of tournament is where scores are accumulated over several rounds of competition, like golf.

In either case, the tournament may last for several days. In a weekly newspaper, you may be able to carry the results of the whole tournament in one issue; in a daily newspaper, you will need to carry the latest results each day. Let us look at an example of each kind of tournament, starting with tennis, in which there may be matches of different rounds taking place at the same time:

Men's singles, Round 2: E.Mwesigye bt R.Galama 6-4, 4-6, 6-3; P.Gunning bt J.Ngatia 6-0, 6-1; M.Puyokam bt F.Lee 7-5, 3-6, 8-6; B.Jokio bt F.Fox 6-4, 6-4; E.Thirlwall bt P.Kula 6-1, 6-2.
Round 3: V.Hula bt R.Lobo 2-6, 6-3, 7-5; P.Gunning bt V.K.Singh 7-5, 6-4; E.Thirlwall bt E.Mwesigye 5-7, 7-5, 8-6.
Ladies' singles, Round 1: A.Ho bt V.S.Krishna 4-6, 6-3, 6-3; S.Nausi bt E.Poma 6-2, 6-4; A.Rombuk bt H.Tenanil 6-0, 6-0; N.Srivastava bt V.Ching 6-4, 4-6, 6-4; W.McGrath bt A.Malkoa 6-2, 6-3.

In the results of a golf tournament, it is usual to give the total score first, followed by the score for each round. After three days of a 72-hole tournament, in which 18 holes are played each day, you may publish the scores as follows (note that this is not yet a "result", since the tournament is not yet over: it is called the leader board):

Mazda Classic. Leader board (after 54 holes):
217 M.Somare (72-74-71); 218 K.Mara (73-73-72); 220 K.Chong (71-71-78), R.Diaz (75-74-71), H.Smith (74-73-73); 221 J.P.Dorman (77-72-72), J.Pidik (76-72-73).

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League tables

Arrange for your correspondent to send you a copy of the up-to-date league table with the results. If you have room, you may publish this every week; if not, try to publish it every two or three weeks.

A league table needs to be carefully set out, in columns. It can be in small type, since it does not have to attract the casual reader. A soccer league table might look like this, showing the number of games played (P), games won (W), games drawn (D), goals for (F), goals against (A) and points (Pts):

Suva League: Division One


Walu Bay













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Whichever sports event you report, you will need to follow the same guidelines.

  • Check the rules and scoring system. The organising body of the sport will probably have a booklet giving the rules; if not, try the public library. Get hold of the rules; read them.

  • Check the significance of the event. A cup final or a title fight is much more important than a contest in which nothing is at stake. The more significant an event, the longer the report should be.

  • If you have to phone copy and don’t have a two-way radio or mobile phone, find a telephone.

  • Find a comfortable place with a good view from which to watch.

  • If you do not know the names of the players, find a printed program (and check for any changes from the printed program) or get someone who does know the names to sit beside you.

  • Watch everything that happens, carefully and dispassionately - you will be too busy to cheer or get excited. Ignore any friends or relatives who try to talk to you during the game. Make notes.

  • Afterwards, get comment from players, coaches or managers - winners and losers.

  • Be sure to mention how the victory was won, important moments, outstanding individual performances, injuries, the size of the crowd and even the weather if it affected the result.

You can now write the report, describing what happened, giving relevant details, and analysing why it happened as it did.

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Analysis and previews

There are two main areas to consider in match previews.

Significance: is a championship at stake? What effect will the result have on the team's or a player's record? Are the contestants old rivals? Is the event specially significant for any participant?

Probable result: what is the relative strength and experience of the teams? How have they performed against the same opposition? Has either improved during the season? Are there new players or have they adopted new tactics? Have they competed against each other before?

Beware! If you predict the result, you will upset the supporters of the team you say will lose. Also, if you are wrong, you look stupid. Do not be eager to predict results. It is better to say that the endless appeal of competitive sport is the uncertainty of the result.

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Sports news

The bigger and more popular a sport or club, the more significance attaches to news stories about it. A club squash player who injures his knee is not news. How the international rugby hooker is responding to treatment for a shoulder injury, five days before a match against Australia, is news.

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Horse racing

A good racing service provides three things - full race cards before meetings; selections of likely winners; and full results.

Race cards

These need to be clearly displayed to provide the following information: time of race; name of race; distance; special category of runners, if any; number of each horse; previous form of each horse; name of each horse; its draw; its jockey; its owner and trainer; the weight it carries; the betting forecast.


In countries where it is allowed, gambling is an integral part of horse racing, so most people follow the sport in order to bet, and hoping to win. Many newspapers, radio and television stations employ tipsters to forecast winners.

A tipster who can pick winners will attract readers and listeners, especially if he can pick winners at long odds. The racing correspondent needs to study the form of each horse to decide the likely winner - and he will be better placed if he has inside information from owners, trainers and jockeys, too.


These need less space than the race cards, but they also need to be clearly displayed to provide the following information: name of race; distance; winning horse (name and jockey) and its starting price; second horse (name and jockey) and its starting price; third horse (name and jockey) and its starting price; the order in which the rest of the field finished; which horses did not start and which started but did not finish; the distances by which the winner beat the second, and the second beat the third.

Here is an example of horse racing results:


1. Athol Mulley 2yo F Hcp 1000m: 1 Swift Minnie (S.Sharman) 6-1, 2 Cameola (W.Moore) 9-2, 3 Prospect for Love (M.Maloney) 7-4fav, 4 Tensity Lad, 5 Lovero, 6 Le Sador, 7 Kaleidoscope. Did not run: Black Chariot. Dist: 1l, short head.

2. George Moore 2yo F Hcp 1000m: 1 Volatile Lass (W.Goodwin) 7-1, 2 Celebes Sea (W.Moore) 5-1, 3 Aureal Lass (N.Smith) 5-2fav, 4 Star Lero, 5 Vice View, 6 Red Marne, 7 Fearless Courage, 8 Demcab, 9 Missouri Burning. Pulled up: Quality Beau. Dist: 3l, 2l.

3. Roy Higgins Mdn Hcp 1350m: 1 Laird of Luss (W.Goodwin) 25-1, 2 Logic Link (R.Setches) 8-11fav, 3 Tambo Lady (C.Barham) 9-2, 4 Willacross, 5 Topak, 6 Jask, 7 Famocham, 8 Sweet Arthur, 9 Mighty Mustafa, 10 Godsarc, 11 Tin Chips, 12 Renewed Ambition. All ran. Dist: neck, 2l.

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Sport in different media

All the media can cover sport, but they need to do so in different ways. Radio and television have the advantage of speed - they can tell you about the event while it is happening - while newspapers and magazines have the advantage of being able to present lots of tabulated information - results, league tables and so on for people to read at leisure.

Each of the media needs to concentrate on its advantages in planning its sports service. Let us consider each in turn.

Newspapers and magazines

Newspapers and magazines cannot hope to be the first medium to give the result of a big match. Anybody who is really interested will probably get the result from radio or television before a newspaper or magazine can be printed.

What the print media lack in speed, though, they make up for in other ways. The advantages of newspapers and magazines include the following:

Detailed information

Newspapers and magazines can publish the full results of a wide variety of sports, league tables, fixtures (details of matches to be played in the future), race cards, statistics and a lot of other detailed information.

This can be printed in small type, because it is not designed to be read continuously. Readers will search for the information they want, and read those few words. Using small type allows you to fit much more information on the page.

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Minority sports

Newspapers can devote some space to sports even if they have only a few followers. It will not annoy other readers, who can ignore that small report and read something else instead.

This is a big advantage over radio and television, where everybody has to watch or listen to the same thing at the same time.


Radio is fast, but it cannot carry pictures. Newspapers and magazines can give good sports coverage by using plenty of sports photographs. Television, of course, does give pictures; but even when people have seen the moving image on television, they like to see again the crucial moment of the game captured in a still image in the newspaper.

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Radio and television

Many of the things we have already said about reporting sport apply equally to radio and television as they do to newspapers. You need to understand your audience, and which sports you need to cover. You must provide previews, match reports and results, which we will talk about in more detail shortly. You can report sport both as news and as features or documentaries. You need the same reporting skills of speed, accuracy and attention to detail. The people who listen to sports programs will be just as critical as the readers of sports pages. They are usually the same people.

Like newspapers, most big radio and television stations have their own sports staff, reporting for the news or for sports programs. The subject is too large and complicated to discuss in detail here, but the following is some general advice.

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One of the main advantages radio and television have over the print media is their ability to bring reports quickly. Radio in particular can bring instant reports of sporting events. With satellite technology, television stations can now get live reports instantly without having to lay special cables to the sports grounds. Do not waste that advantage. People want to know results as soon as possible.

For major sporting events, especially those which might interest general listeners and viewers, not just the sports fans, you should treat results as news. Give them as soon as possible. Do not save them for your once-a-week sports programme. You can always provide a longer report for your sports programme, together with some background detail and analysis of the event.

For minor sporting events, especially those which only interest the participants, the results can be saved for a regular slot in your sports programs. For example, the results of the regular tennis competition can be given at the same time each week.

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Live commentary

Nowhere is the speed of broadcasting more obvious than in live reports of sporting events, for example football matches or racing. People at home or listening to a radio in their car can get a second-by-second report. A good live commentary can make the listener or viewer feel that they are at the event itself. Do not waste the advantage.

Your commentary must be clear and informed. You must know the rules of the sport and be able to identify instantly all the people taking part. You must speak confidently enough to report the fast action at the goal line as well as to fill in the empty minutes while a coach tends an injured player in the centre of the field. On television, you do not need to describe what the viewers can see themselves, but you need to tell them who the players on the screen are and describe any action which the viewers might have missed.

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Sports specials

Sports programs are the equivalent of the newspapers sports pages. Such programs are broadcast regularly, perhaps on Saturday or Sunday afternoons while sport is taking place, or on Friday evenings to preview the weekend's sport or Monday evenings to look back on it.

You usually need to cover all the sports being played at the time, but focus on a few of the most important events, perhaps with live commentary from a match or race meeting. As with newspapers, you need reporters or stringers at all the events, to send reports and results as they happen. Reporters need to know beforehand how long their report should be, and not exceed that time limit.

Sports program presenters need to be articulate, able to speak clearly, brightly and continuously without a script. It often helps if they have at least one guest in the studio, someone who can answer questions or speak knowledgeably on a topic while the presenter takes a breath.

The program producer must be able to work quickly and logically under stress. They must be able to find instant solutions to unexpected problems, such as a sudden gap in the program because a report has not arrived. It is useful if they have competent assistants to whom they can assign some of the tasks, such as making phone calls or recording reports. It helps if everyone involved in the program is a sports enthusiast, able to understand the needs of the listeners or viewers.

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Fixtures, previews and results

Radio is not a good medium in which to give long lists, of coming fixtures or results. Although television can cope better with them by putting information on the screen, this alone will not help people who are too busy to concentrate or who cannot read; so special care must be taken in reading out tables.

Do not read out long league tables or lists of fixtures. It is better to get someone into the studio to discuss them in a knowledgeable way with the presenter, highlighting the most important or significant matches, performances or changes in the league. You should avoid lists where possible, but if you do present them, do it in a regular, consistent order, usually in order of importance.

You must read at a steady pace, with pauses between matches, games or events. You should establish a rhythm of delivering your words to reflect what you are saying. For example, raise the pitch of your voice slightly when reading the winners, lower it slightly for the losers or contestants down the place order. (Pitch is the high or low tone of your voice. It is not the volume or loudness of it.)

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Recording events

Your listeners or viewers want to hear or see the highlights of events - the goals, the final seconds of a race or the knockout punch. These can be recorded and replayed, perhaps several times if they are especially important or interesting.

Television camera crews should be reminded of this whenever they film a match or race. It is best to have several cameras at the event, to capture the best moments from different angles. If this is not possible, one camera crew at least must attend the match for long enough to record the highlights. It is no good sending a camera crew to a football match unless they film the goals. It is no good sending them to a marathon unless they film the finish (and preferably the start as well).


Give the results clearly

Show how the latest results affect the competition, e.g. with league tables

Report on matches and tournaments as you would news events, with preparation, attention to detail and objectivity

Provide match analysis and previews, but beware of predicting outcomes!

Find out which sports are popular in your country, and try to cover those

Arrange for expert correspondents

Get the right balance of results, reports, previews, sports news and sports features for your media

Concentrate on the advantages of your media:

  • For print, the ability to give details, cover minority sports and use pictures

  • For radio, the speed at which you can bring live commentary and results

  • For television, the speed of live coverage and the ability to show the moving highlights

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Index to Chapter 54
  1. Results
  2. Tournaments
  3. League tables
  4. Reports
  5. Analysis and previews
  6. Sports news
  7. Horse racing
  8. Sport in newspapers and magazines
  9. Sport on radio and TV
  10. To summarise
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