Sport

How to become a… stadium announcer

My first experience of being an announcer of any kind was actually not in a stadium, but for the Great South Run in 2006.

At the time, I was working as a radio and TV sports broadcaster for BBC Radio Solent. When the Bournemouth announcer for the event dropped out, my friend Geoff Wightman, one of the top sports announcers in the world, recommended me to fill in.

After that, I did more events, while still working for the BBC. I didn’t become a full time announcer until about 10 months ago, when I decided to quit my job after 16 years and go freelance – the biggest decision I’ve ever made, professionally.

When did you first realise you wanted to be a stadium announcer?

My first stadium gig was doing Hampshire’s T20 cricket matches at the Ageas Bowl in 2007, a role I still perform today.

The excitement of those first few matches fuelled the fire of wanting to do more. The buzz comes from watching the crowd react to everything you’re saying, the fact that you’re a key cog in the overall production and that you’re trusted to be a big part of huge global events.

What qualifications do you need and how long does it take to get them?

There are no formal qualifications required, but there is a set of skills that will help make you more successful.

Clarity in communication is obviously very important, as is a knowledge of the sport and event, but almost equally so is the ability to remain calm under pressure. At the big events, you’re operating as part of a large-scale production – often in conjunction with live global TV coverage – which means you have a producer in your ear and are working to very specific timings that are likely to change on short notice.

At a grassroots level, having confidence in your delivery is key and being versatile is also a huge bonus. I’m an announcer at T20 Finals Day, and also at Lord’s – same sport, completely different demands.

Have you ever messed up an announcement?

Thankfully nothing notable, although there are always situations that can catch you out.

For instance, at the Rio Olympics in 2016, I was the announcer for the Rugby Sevens.

It was my job to read the names out one by one as Princess Anne awarded the gold medals to Fiji’s men’s team, their first-ever Olympic gold. One of the star players – Savenaca Rawaca – had gotten injured, and missed the final, but his name was still on the ceremony list.

Just as I was about to read his name out to get his medal, the camera panned along to the next person, and I was 100% sure it wasn’t him. So I had to take an instinctive decision to skip his name.

I was right (he wasn’t on the podium) and although my heart was thumping, it saved an embarrassing mistake all around!

What’s the most special moment of your career so far?

The most special would have to be one of the most recent – announcing my first FA Cup final at Wembley between Man City and Watford this year.

When I was a kid, I absolutely loved the FA Cup final. My late dad used to buy me the match programme and I would watch it all day. It was also a very emotional occasion, as Abide With Me was played at my dad’s funeral 25 years ago, and I’d not heard it again in the flesh until at this event.

Another moment that has really stuck with me is the London 2012 Paralympics 100m athletics final, won by Jonnie Peacock.

The stadium was full, with about 75,000 people listening. It was my first event in a stadium of that size, and hearing the roar when I announced his name on the start line gave me goosebumps.

The start list in my hand was shaking as we waited for the gun to go, and then there were two false starts!

Peacock eventually won and the place was bouncing.

What’s the biggest misconception about being a stadium announcer?

That you just sit there and read a team sheet and press play on the music.

I rehearse scripts, procedures, pronunciations and anything else that I might need to deliver on match day.

Any announcer worth their salt has prepared in advance, so that when the mic goes live he or she has done what they can to ensure their performance is as good as it can be.

And I don’t think I’ve ever been in the charge of the music!

Is it well paid?

There’s not really enough stadium announcement work for it to be a full-time wage as such. I do a lot of other things too, including broadcasting, event hosting and voice-overs.

When you get a big tournament or championships spread out over a couple of weeks, it can work out well.

Every event budget is different, so announcers can earn anything from £50 a day up to around £400 on average, but some roles pay more. Bigger events factor in your preparation time as part of your fee, as well as the long event hours.

Do you have any advice for people aspiring to work as stadium announcers?

Offer yourself to your local club or local sporting event.

It’s about getting used to delivering information to people and to hearing the sound of your voice coming back at you through the speakers.

Don’t fall into the trap of trying to be the ‘shouty’ announcer and get someone to take videos and recordings of you in the arena or stadium, so you can build up a portfolio and work out where you need to improve.

What’s the best part of your job?

It gives you an immediacy that can’t be beaten. The best part of my job is that you’re a huge part of people’s experiences and the feeling you get from that instant feedback from the crowd.

Every announcer has their own style, but I love the challenge of creating an atmosphere, an excitement, and a sense of occasion through subtle uses of my voice.

And, of course, a huge bonus is getting to be a part of some of the biggest occasions in the world of sport!

How to become a….

In Metro.co.uk’s new series, we’ll be hearing from people who have the most coveted sports jobs about how they got there, their advice for others and what happens at the centre of the world’s biggest sporting moments.

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