Premier Sports has announced three of Ulster’s most respected rugby names will join its broadcast team in Northern Ireland for an exciting new season of Guinness PRO14 rugby union.
Popular former Irish international and Ulster’s most capped provincial player Andrew Trimble will be joined by commentator Mark Robson (pictured) and presenter Graham Little as part of Premier Sports’ on-air team, with more high profile names to be announced for TV teams in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales over the next fortnight.
The news follows the awarding of Premier Sports’ multi-million pound production contract for its live coverage of the competition to experienced independent TV sports producer Sunset+Vine, as well as confirmation of its coverage plans for the opening weekend of the 2018/19 season.
Retiring from the game in May 2018 after a distinguished rugby career, Northern Ireland’s most capped provincial player, Andrew Trimble has been at the heart of Ulster Rugby since he first appeared on the scene aged just 19.
With an impressive 229 provincial appearances and 70 international caps for Ireland, his rugby career has spanned 13 years and been dedicated to his roots in Ulster.
New to the broadcast stage and bringing a cutting-edge inside view of how players and management work and react, former international Trimble said:
“feel privileged to have had such amazing opportunities and experiences as a rugby player. Now moving onto the next stage of my career, it’s great that I can stay closely connected with rugby in Ulster and the Guinness PRO14 although from a different stage and perspective off the pitch.”
“Premier Sports has some really exciting ideas and I’m look forward to getting involved and working alongside an impressive team of presenters and commentators that are being brought together in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and who are really passionate about the game. I’m excited to be involved and to dip my toe into the water in the world of broadcast – a slightly different challenge, but it’s still the game I love.”
Graham Little has been a television reporter and presenter for 16 years, first at UTV and then as a freelance in a range of roles on BBC, RTE, ITV, Channel 4, Setanta Sports and Sky Sports, working in both arts, features and adventure travel including features presenter for The One Show.
He is best known as a sports presenter and has hosted rugby, football, cycling and motorcycle racing programmes as well as presenting Sky Sports News. Graham is a published travel and adventure author, lives in Northern Ireland and will continue his work on Northern Ireland football internationals for Sky. Little said:
“I’m delighted to be involved in rugby again, it’s been one of my favourite sports since I was in primary school and I’ve missed presenting and reporting on the game.
“It’s a very exciting time for Irish rugby in general and I know from being close to a number of people at Ulster that there is a huge determination to build on the challenges of last season. Evening matches at the Kingspan are a special part of the Northern Ireland sporting experience and it’ll be great to present this to the Premier Sports audience around the UK.”
Mark Robson has been a lead rugby commentator with Sky Sports and Eurosport for the past 15 years and over the past four seasons has worked on Guinness PRO14, European Champions Cup, Ireland’s November internationals and summer tours as well as working on French Top 14.
Recent highlights included Ireland’s famous series win against the Wallabies in Australia while his CV also includes four Rugby World Cups and five European Cup Finals. Robson added:
“I’m extremely excited to be at the sharp end of a new beginning for the Guinness PRO14 with Premier Sports and the chance to be able to focus on my home province made the opportunity irresistible.
“My Dad first took me to watch Ulster when I was about ten. In those days Ulster played roughly five games a season and the crowd was in hundreds not thousands – they’ve been my team ever since. The fact that Premier are showing EVERY game live is an incredible development for the PRO14 and puts the league very firmly on the front foot. I just can’t wait to get started!”
The trio will be working with Sunset+Vine, one of rugby’s most experienced and creative independent production companies with a track record that includes seven years of Aviva Premiership coverage with both ESPN and for the past four years with BT Sport.
Richard Sweeney, Chief Executive of Premier Sports said:
“We are broadcasting a Championship full of world-class players, so we need a presenting team that reflects the ambition and class of the Guinness PRO14, people at the top of their game talking up one of the most exciting club rugby competitions in the world.
“Premier Sports will be broadcasting every game live which will mean more people have access to the whole picture of rugby across the Guinness PRO14 Championship – that’s more than ever before all under one roof with a mix of match action and news across Premier Sports 1& 2 and FreeSports.”
Sunset+Vine’s three-year deal will see them produce more than 200 hours of live rugby coverage for Premier Sports each season including the annual showpiece final at Celtic Park in May 2019.
Cerith Williams, Executive Producer Wales, for Sunset+Vine said:
“It’s going to be a thrilling new season of rugby as the Guinness PRO14 goes from strength-to-strength and our rugby coverage will reflect that ambition. We want to provide a modern, sophisticated take on rugby with programmes that contain high quality match coverage, insightful, original and eloquent analysis and sound editorial judgement.
“It’s vital that we engage with the many thousands of loyal and knowledgeable rugby supporters who support the Guinness PRO14 with a talent team that will bring our shows to life.
“Our goal is to provide programmes that are informed, intelligent, honest, humorous and visually stylish. As well as the highest technical standards, viewers expect good editorial judgement in a fast-paced environment.2
Martin Anayi, CEO of PRO14 Rugby, added:
“These are exciting times for the Guinness PRO14 and this is just the first talent announcement by Premier Sports who have been targeting headline talent from the very beginning. To know that Andrew Trimble, a decorated international and highly revered figure in Ulster, will be a part of the coverage is a terrific coup as he goes straight from the pitch to the analyst’s position.
“Having the rhythm of Mark Robson’s commentary on Premier’s coverage is terrific news, he always has an original way of capturing a moment which in the broadcast business is no easy task. To also have a familiar face like Graham Little involved with his background on Sky Sports News and in the Northern Irish market will give Premier’s broadcasts real authenticity.
“With star names on the books, the upcoming announcements in Wales and Scotland will underline Premier Sports commitment to raising the standard of Guinness PRO14 broadcasts to levels never seen before. Powered by Sunset+Vine’s award-winning production, the Championship is about to take the next great leap in its evolution. As the Guinness PRO14 continues to strengthen, we can better resource our clubs to produce, attract and retain the very best talent.”
Premier Sports has signed a landmark three-year deal with PRO14 Rugby to show all 152 games live each season across the UK including Northern Ireland. The season kicks off on 31 August with all seven games live on Premier Sports and Free Sports on the opening weekend.
Premier Sports is available on Sky and Virgin platforms and online via the Premier Player, while Free Sports will be available across seven different platforms.