Welcome to Industry Insider by Behind Sport. Sky Sports Football Commentator Gary Taphouse is the latest to share his story with us!
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
I’m Gary Taphouse, a football commentator. I’ve worked for Sky Sports since 2005 and have commentated on more than 500 games for them – that’s Premier League for Match Choice, Championship games, internationals and Champions League games when they had the rights. I also work for IMG, Premier League Productions, Gravity Media, Pitch International and others, and I’ve commentated on two World Cups and Euro 2016 for talkSPORT. I’m also an associate lecturer at UCFB in Wembley, lecturing on match commentary to first year students.
What do you do in your current role?
I’m either commentating on a game for preparing for the next one. I work with some brilliant co-comms and producers, as well as a superb team of stats guys. Being at matches commentating is the best bit of course but sadly you can’t do that unless you’ve put in the hours of work beforehand.
What does a normal week look like for you?
It all depends how many matches I’m commentating on that week, but I usually allow a full day’s prep per commentary, maybe a bit more if I’m covering unfamiliar teams. During the first half of the season it can be incredibly busy. For example, I’m just looking at my diary for a week in October last year and I had two Championship games, two Premier League games, one Europa League tie, a UEFA Youth League tie, an MLS game and a UCFB lecture! So whenever I wasn’t commentating I would have been busy prepping or travelling. Every commentator has their own way of preparing for a match, we tend to be creatures of habit. I do all mine on a laptop and print it out, but plenty of others prefer to hand write their own notes, while some just put it all on a tablet and are completely paper-free.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
It only really dawned on me that being a commentator was an actual “job” during Italia 90. That was the first World Cup where I watched pretty much every game and the voices of the commentators became really familiar. I’m talking about John Motson, Barry Davies, Brian Moore… I just thought: “wow, you can actually talk about football and travel around the world going to matches for a living”. Later I became absolutely addicted to listening to match commentaries on the radio. This was the era of Capital Gold, when Jonathan Pearce was blazing a trail, doing things his own way with his team of brilliant commentators and reporters winning awards left right and centre. I used to listen all the time and record commentaries on cassette to listen back to. Just listening to commentators is a great way to learn the art of commentary.
I ended up studying Journalism at Bournemouth University and while I was there an opportunity came up to commentate on AFC Bournemouth’s home games – they were third tier at the time and a local production company used to film the matches which were then sold in the club shop on VHS. It was literally one cameraman and me with a microphone plugged into the camera, but for me it was like a dream come true, I ended up doing a whole season, then writing and presenting the end of season video. It meant I had valuable experience under my belt and tangible proof of the fact I was able to commentate. Then when I got a job reporting on a newspaper in South London, I was sent to cover the launch of Crystal Palace FC’s matchday radio station and I managed to persuade the people there to give me a go at radio commentary. That was amazing experience and I did several seasons. From there, the chance came to do some reporting on Capital Gold which was the stuff of dreams – now instead of listening to Jonathan Pearce commentating, he was actually cueing to me on air!
During the week I was writing for Opta, the football statisticians, then at weekends I’d be off reporting for Capital. Then in 2001 the chance came up to move full time into radio, commentating on every Chelsea FC game for their new 24-hour digital radio station. Finally, I was earning a full-time wage from commentating. It was a great job, travelling across Europe with the team, commentating on every competition with a proper club legend in Kerry Dixon. I was working there when Ken Bates sold to Roman Abramovich, when there was this sudden influx of new players arriving, Jose Mourinho turning up to win the league. It meant I was spending time with lots of other broadcasters, including Sky’s commentators like Martin Tyler and Rob Hawthorne. In 2004, Sky started sending commentators to all the 3pm Premier League games for Football First (later Match Choice) and I heard on the grapevine that they were a bit short of commentators and were looking for one or two new ones. The guys I was used to seeing gave me the relevant contact details and even put in a good word for me, so that finally in April 2005, I was given the chance to commentate on my first TV game: Fulham v Man City with Nigel Spackman. Luckily, I’m still doing that to this day and it’s the best job in the world!
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
You never stop learning in this job and obviously we’ve had new innovations which directly affect us like goal-line technology and VAR. Football behind closed doors has also presented us with new challenges. I guess the thing I’m most excited about is getting fans back in the grounds and getting back to something approaching normal.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
Be patient! It’s notoriously over-crowded and competitive. I had to commentate for free at weekends, supplemented by my full-time job in the week to get my foot in the door. But if you genuinely believe you have the talent and determination to do it then get yourself out there, volunteer to help out at radio stations, work with non-league clubs to get footage on YouTube, beg to shadow people in local radio or at clubs. Try and get that experience that you desperately need to progress.
How to follow Gary Taphouse on social media…
You can follow me on Twitter @garytaphouse – I post sport media jobs and internships on a daily basis. I’m also on Instagram @garytaphouse if you want to see photos of my dog on the beach at Bournemouth – I loved the uni so much, I persuaded my family to move back here 20 years later!
Thanks for reading our Industry Insider feature with Sky Sports Football Commentator, Gary Taphouse!