Football commentary is one of the only jobs in sports which is, arguably, irreplaceable. We spoke with BBC Radio 5 Live commentator Connor McNamara about his tips to those trying to break into the sports media industry. With limited commentary opportunities, advice from someone who is high in the industry and working for one of the most listened to sports channels will be insightful and useful.
By Charlie Parker-Turner (@CParkerTurner)
1. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
Just like anything, practice makes perfect. Obviously, sport is unpredictable but if you have commentated on matches where similar situations have occurred then you have the experience to deal with the situation. No one wants to be sat in the car listening to their favourite team play and have no idea what has happened because you’re stumped on what to say!
Conor says: “Go to events with big atmospheres and try and commentate on rubbish games… mix it up and practise recording your voice. Artists have a portfolio of work, and so should you. If you record yourself 100 times, I guarantee the 100th will be better than your tenth.”
Many football clubs would love to have someone volunteer to commentate on their matches on do a post-match feature, so offer to your local football clubs – it might not be the most appealing, but it gains you contacts and gives you experience. For other job opportunities then check out our jobs section here.
2. PREPARTION IS EVERYTHING
If you tune in to any radio or TV channel now that is reporting live sport, the commentators have something to say. If you want to reach that level, you must be prepared. Facts and statistics are great fillers and often stick with the listener and make the commentary more interesting, make sure you have as many to hand as possible in case you’re left watching a boring 0-0!
Conor says: “If someone is talking on the radio and their intonation is high-pitched, or they seem to be unsure what they’re saying, they won’t convince anyone. Look at Jeremy Paxman, Jeremy Clarkson or Mark Kermode; they’re passionate and they know their stuff. Nobody knows everything to begin with, but you can do a lot to learn all the permutations of your subject matter. The work you put in will benefit you in the end.
“With news, you never really know what’s going to happen. In contrast, in sport, you know the time, the place, the personnel… you might not be able to write a script beforehand, but you can give yourself reference points. When incidents occur, you need to be aware of the consequences and have a universal 360-degree view. This will dictate how you react at the time.”
3. DON’T RUSH INTO SAYING THINGS
Ever since VAR has been introduced, uncertainty with decisions has been at it’s peak. Therefore, it is even more important than ever to never say things definitely unless it is concrete knowledge, if you make a swift “Aguero has gone down but it looked soft, no chance is VAR overruling that.” And then two minutes later the penalty is given, fans up and down the country will be angry and you’ll be left apologising and retracting your statement. The intensity of a football match and knowing your football commentary will be heard all around the country can lead to you wanting to commentate everything, always be patient.
Conor says: “I read something recently that said football commentating is a hard job. It is! You have no script and you have to make decisions as quickly as the referee, and then offer your opinion. A good example is when a goal goes in and you’re not sure who scored. It might have come from a cross, with four or five players jumping for the ball. On occasions like that, I’m not watching the ball; I’m watching for boot colours, and other distinctive features. But if there’s any doubt, simply describe it and the celebrations that follow, and give yourself time to analyse what happened.”
Football commentary is an amazing job, what’s better than being paid to talk about football you are witnessing first-hand?! Make sure to check out our other articles with advice about getting into the sports media industry here and for more career profiles from trained professionals in sports media check out our other interviews here.