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Inspired Series – Interview with Charles Runcie, Head of BBC Sport – English Regions

Charles Runcie is responsible for the overall direction, organisation and budget planning of the BBC’s regional sports coverage on 38 local radio stations and 12 regional TV areas across England. He manages local contracts, major event strategy, and close liaison with BBC Sport on many projects and output, industry training, external liaison with sports bodies and many other duties. Charles has commissioned TV sports series such as the Super League Show on rugby league, Late Kick Off on football plus many one-off documentaries, from the Bradford fire to the 2012 Olympic Stadium. Therefore, we wanted to catch up with him on the latest news and trends in the world of sport. 

Could you start by telling us a bit about yourself

Although I was born in Edinburgh I’ve lived for nearly 20 years in leafy South West London.  I try not to let sport rule my life, being chair of governors at a local primary school, which keeps my feet on the ground.  I’m also involved in our local residents association, and a couple of young people’s charities  I enjoy a fair amount of travel, too, with trips to the US Midwest, Guernsey, Mull, Northern Ireland and Turkey already lined up this year.

You are currently Head of Sport for BBC English Regions – what does a typical day look like for you? 

That depends on where I am, as I try work each week in London, our regional HQ Birmingham and BBC Sport HQ at Salford.  I’ll spend a lot of time on queries – sorting contracts, gaining permission to use rights, liaising with our network of 38 local radio stations and 15 regional TV newsrooms.

I try to find time where possible to meet people too, rather than use email or phone, whether it’s from other areas of the BBC, external partners or sports bodies, and importantly lots of people trying to make their way in the business.  Occasionally I visit a BBC region to meet people personally, or solve a problem, and even more occasionally get invited to a sports event.  Two planned for April are the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at Wembley and the British Gymnastics Championships in Liverpool – note the contrast! 

How did your career start? 

I always wanted to get into radio since a young ago.  My Dad was a big radio fan, and I can still remember Listen with Mother (“Are you sitting comfortably?  Then I’ll begin”) and the pirate ships like Radio Scotland 242 in the mid-60’s.  Listening to Radio Luxembourg 208 under the bedclothes at night as a teenager, crackly signal facing in and out, I thought there was a magic in communicating this way and wanted to be part of it.  After my education, I joined a hospital radio station, then in 1980 got my first job at Radio Orwell.  It was one of the original commercial radio stations in the UK, and I was DJ, technical operator and general slave.  Hard work and no social life for 2 years paid off when I joined BBC Radio Scotland on St Andrews Day 1982, and at 24 was their youngest producer.

What has been your career high and low? 

Highs – working at some of the most prestigious sports events in the world, from Olympics to Cup Finals, takes some beating.  A personal memory was seeing Scotland win two rugby union “Grand Slams” in 1984 and 1990.  More recently, coaching a lot of young talented people from our sports trainee scheme Kick Off graduate to full time roles in the BBC.  Lows – genuinely can’t think of many, to be honest.

Who has been the most inspirational person you have ever met?

Apart from the obvious famous people working in sport and broadcasting, no-one immediately springs to mind.  I admire many people in life for their work and beliefs, who help to make the world a better place. 

What are the major trends and headlines in the sporting world at the moment?  

How long have you got?  I’d say two important issues currently facing the world of sport are firstly trust in governing bodies to regulate themselves.   Who rules the rulers?  Bodies like FIFA and the IAAF have proved themselves incapable of running their sports legally and wisely, and there’s all that self-denial even when bang to rights.  “Who, us?”  How come it took the intervention of the FBI to force change in world football, and how many more smoking guns are hidden in other governing bodies? 
Secondly the cost of sport, to both play and to watch, seems to be accelerating out of control.  Take a sport like cricket.  It’s becoming a rich person’s game to play, when only public schools mostly play it, support live at a Test match, or even just watch on subscription TV. 
 

What have been the biggest surprises over the transfer period? 

AFC Wimbledon failing to land Lionel Messi – again.

Obviously we are a property company, so could you describe your perfect house/ home

One with plenty of character and a bit of history , a lot of its own grounds with gardening, a big hall and public rooms to entertain in, and en suite bedrooms to make guests feel at home.
*views are from Charles, not the BBC*

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