BRITISH SIGN LANGUAGE SPORTS COVERAGE TAKEN TO NEW HEIGHTS WITH BT SPORT AND EE’S NEW SIGNING
BT Sport and EE are teaming up to deliver a TV landmark; creating some of the most accessible programming yet seen of the Premier League and UEFA Champions League, with cutting-edge broadcasts presented in British Sign Language on BT Sport over the next month.
‘New Signing’ was launched by BT Sport and EE last October to provide an opportunity for British Sign Language (BSL) presenters to be involved in a range of BT Sport programming. Damaris Cooke and Rolf Choutan joined New Signing last December, after being chosen from ten high-calibre finalists selected from a vast pool of submissions.
Since then, the aspiring presenters have taken part in a training programme including working with football presenter Matt Smith, interviewing England Lionesses Manager Sarina Wiegman, going behind the scenes of live BT Sport programming including its coverage of Fulham v Chelsea in the Premier League, and receiving expert training from Red Bee Media, the global media services provider.
All of these experiences have been captured in a six-part documentary series charting their journey, the fourth episode of which can be viewed on BT Sport 1 on Sunday May 28 during the half-time show in BT Sport Score.
On Sunday 21 May at 11am on BT Sport 2, Damaris and Rolf will host the UK’s first feature-length dedicated show covering a single Premier League match in BSL, with a discussion and highlights programme around the Premier League fixture between Tottenham Hotspur and Brentford (a match which is played on Saturday 20 May). The duo will bring viewers all the goals and analysis, and marks the first time that TV coverage of a major UK sporting event has provided this level of accessibility for deaf audiences.
On Friday 9 June, Damaris and Rolf will be back on screen ahead of the UEFA Champions League Final, fronting a preview show in BSL – a first for the competition, looking ahead to the Istanbul showpiece. On Sunday 11 June, will bring viewers a post-match show featuring all the goals, talking points and special guests from the finale of the world’s greatest club football competition. On-air details for both shows to follow soon.
Finally, later in June, Damaris and Rolf will make their live TV debut, presenting coverage of selected matches from the FA Disability Cup from St George’s Park. This tournament is the largest competition of its kind in this country, giving players within impairment-specific football a national competition of their own.
Damaris, aged 39 who lives in Walthamstow and was born in Barkingside, has captained both GB Women’s Football and England Women’s Football teams. She is a Business Development Manager and when not playing football has a passion for travel. Crystal Palace season ticket holder Rolf, aged 29 who was born in Carshalton and now lives in Crystal Palace, has previously played deaf football and currently plays for a Deaf Futsal team. He works in finance and his interests include sport, motorbikes and reading.
Damaris said: “I have been absolutely blown away by all the experiences so far - the training sessions, going behind the scenes and the live show observations have really helped us gain a proper insight into the preparations before, during and after football games and the team effort required from everybody involved. I still pinch myself every day that I've been able to experience so much already and I am truly honoured to have been selected for this role. It really is the first of its kind and I'm especially proud to provide BSL access for the Spurs game and the Champions League final, this is the first time ever to have this kind of coverage and access for these games.”
Rolf said: “The experience so far has been nothing short of incredible and that's before we've even started filming for real. That's testament to the quality of training and experiences that BT Sport and EE have provided us, the highlight of which undoubtedly was the dress rehearsal at my home ground of Selhurst park. I'm fortunate to be sharing this journey with my co-presenter Damaris and cannot wait to film coverage of the first match knowing how much it will mean to the deaf community to be able to access football analysis and punditry in BSL.”
Jamie Hindhaugh, Head of BT Sport, said: “Everyone at BT Sport is incredibly proud of Damaris and Rolf, and the teams who have supported their journey. These landmark broadcasts will complement our ‘Sign Up’ initiative that aims to make our coverage more accessible. For example, we have worked with Premier League players and managers to guide our viewers through the letters of the British Sign Language (BSL) alphabet, while our Deaf Away Days series has provided a window into the experience at sporting events for fans who are deaf. Anyone interested in finding out more should visit btsport.com/signup.”
Pete Jeavons, Marketing Communications Director, BT & EE said: “Our partnership with the Home Nations Football Associations is centred around breaking down barriers in the sport; New Signing is a powerful initiative not only giving a platform for these talented aspiring BSL presenters, but also making football more inclusive for deaf fans enjoying the game at home. We are immensely proud to play a role in Rolf and Damaris’ journey as they make TV history this year.”
New Signing is the latest EE initiative, as part of its long-term partnerships with each of the four Home Nations Football Associations, to support the growth of disability football on and off the pitch, ensuring the game is as inclusive as possible for fans and spectators with disabilities. This includes Para Football Adventures - a documentary series fronted by Alex Brooker and Chelcee Grimes shining a floodlight on para and disability football and meeting some of the inspirational people that make up the game. Meanwhile EE and The FA recently opened two multi-purpose sensory rooms at Wembley Stadium to better accommodate neuro-divergent guests and their families.
For BT Sport, New Signing continues its work to make its broadcasts as accessible as possible for all of its viewers. Over the past two years, BT Sport has broadcast The FA Disability Cup exclusively live with enhanced Audio Description, BSL, and subtitles. This season, BT Sport has increased the amount of subtitled sports content that it provides viewers by more than 100 hours per month, and launched Deaf Away Days, a series focusing on the deaf fan experience at sports events.
BT Sport and EE New Signing Episodes are available to view at btsport.com/newsigning.
About BT Sport
Launched in 2013, BT Sport broadcasts in the UK and Republic of Ireland. BT Sport offers five linear TV channels BT Sport 1, BT Sport 2, BT Sport 3, BT Sport 4, BT Sport 4K UHD, six interactive BT Sport Extra channels and is available on BT TV, Sky, Virgin and Talk Talk. BT Sport is also available online and via the App on mobile and large screen devices and operates pay per view channel, BT Sport Box Office. As well as the sole UK rights holder for the UEFA Champions League andUEFA Europa League, BT Sport offers live sport programming including the English Premier League, boxing, UFC, WWE, Gallagher Premiership Rugby, Heineken Champions Cup and MotoGP. BT Sport is part of Warner Bros. Discovery Sports following the creation of the BT and Warner Bros. Discovery sports joint venture in the UK & Ireland.
EE runs the UK's biggest and fastest mobile network, offering superfast connections in more places than any other operator. EE brought the first 4G network to the UK in October 2012, and launched the UK’s first 5G network in May 2019. EE has received extensive independent recognition, including being named the UK’s no.1 5G network by RootMetrics® in 2020 and 2021, and the UK's best network every year since 2014 for the following awards: The Mobile Choice Awards, The Mobile Industry Awards and by RootMetrics®. As well as delivering mobile services to consumers, small and medium businesses, corporate customers and Government programmes, EE also provides home and business broadband using both 4G and fixed line connections. EE is committed to being number one for service in the industry, and has nearly 600 shops across the UK. EE remains the only mobile provider to answer 100% of customer calls in the UK and Ireland and was recognised as the UK’s Best Large Contact Centre by the UK Customer Experience Awards 2018 and Welsh Contact Centre Awards 2019. EE was awarded The Sunday Times’ Best 100 Companies to Work for in 2018 and 2019, as well as being named Best Employer 2018 by the European Contact Centre & Customer Service awards.