ITV team set for live return
Ed Chamberlin and Oli Bell are raring to go as ITV prepares to broadcast live horse racing for the first time in more than 30 years.
Oli Bell and Ed Chamberlin: Part of ITV's on-air team
Spending New Year's Day away from his family has become almost second nature to presenter Ed Chamberlin.
Having signed a deal to join ITV from Sky Sports earlier this year, Chamberlin will continue that trend by swapping the more familiar surroundings of Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge with a visit to Cheltenham, as horse racing returns to the station for the first time in more than 30 years.
Some may have questioned the popular presenter's decision to step away from fronting Premier League football in favour of taking on his new role, but it is a move Chamberlin had no hesitation about undertaking.
He said: "It's incredibly exciting. I absolutely loved my time at Sky. I spent 16 years there and six of them were presenting Super Sunday and Monday Night Football. I didn't need to leave, as I loved my time there.
"When Niall Sloane (ITV director of sport) got in touch back in January it was just something that I wanted to do. It was the dream job. People have said I am taking a big risk, but it was the easiest decision I've ever made.
"I am thrilled and lucky to be part of it."
Although having an interest from a young age – appropriately watching the sport with his grandfather on ITV's then-flagship show World of Sport – Chamberlin, unlike a number of his co-presenters, does not have his roots intrinsically tied to racing.
With that in mind – and being the consummate professional that football fans across the country have grown to know he is – he has made every effort to embrace all facets of racing since his departure from the satellite broadcaster.
He said: "My last game for Sky was the bomb scare at Old Trafford for Manchester United versus Bournemouth in May. It has been a long wait and I could have done other things.
"I have immersed myself in racing and have spent the last few weeks and months looking at the different aspects of racing from spending time with the BHA to going to see Aidan O'Brien.
"I have gone out there to shake as many hands as I can, as in my mind I had a situation that I didn't want to be standing in the winner's enclosure on say 2000 Guineas day and not knowing who the winning trainer was.
"Clare Balding is an absolute hero of mine and she has been so kind in helping me. All the different groups in racing have been great and I can't thank people enough."
He went on: "I'm never going to be a racing aficionado and they want me in a role as a conductor. My hero was Des Lynam. The way he conducted Grand National day was a presenter at his best.
"My job on Sky was to get the best out of Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville, and that will be the same with the experts I work with on ITV.
"The first thing is we have to be different and fresh. The plan is to try and keep the racing audience while broadening it out.
"The first promo went out between England v Scotland and another between the I'm A Celebrity final. Hopefully racing will be promoted between other high-profile shows.
"I think ITV has an unbelievable platform to promote racing and it will be interesting to see how we are getting on in six months' time.
"With the nature of ITV on a Saturday, people will give it a chance and that is where we have to hook them in and keep them watching."
Although Chamberlin is seen as the star signing for ITV, he is equally impressed by those that have been selected to work alongside him.
He said: "I'm absolutely thrilled with the team ITV have put together, both those presenting and those behind the scenes.
"Matt Chapman in the betting ring will be a big hit, while Oli Bell is a great mate of mine and is a proper team player. Richard Hoiles is a great commentator and we are spoilt in this country for seriously good commentators.
"I have been nervous for weeks and months, but that is natural. I've been blown away by ITV in many ways. They sold me this concept and it's now going to come to fruition on January 1. I can't wait to get going."
Equally as eager to get the show on the road is Oli Bell, who will present ITV's weekly answer to Channel 4's long-running Morning Line programme.
He hopes to transfer the enthusiastic approach viewers on Racing UK have become used to into his big break on mainstream television.
He said: "It's incredibly flattering to be asked to broadcast the racing. I'm very grateful they have taken a chance on me and I'm really looking forward to it.
"I know from the conversations I've had with the on-air team and the team behind the scenes that everyone is keen to do as good a job as they can to showcase this sport to as many people as possible.
"Having worked in racing on air for around 10 years already people are aware that I really love this sport.
"My job is to convey my excitement and enthusiasm to as many people as possible and ITV gives us the platform to do that. It is on our shoulders to do a good job. I'm nervous, excited and keen to do well.
"Everything that I've seen and every conversation I've had has been really positive and I can't wait to crack on."
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