Although Barry Davies is best known for his football commentary, he has also turned his hand to commentating on other sports, including ice-skating, hockey, athletics and gymnastics. His career has been based mainly within the BBC, with whom he has remained a loyal employee for many years, although he has dabbled with other media and methods of coverage. Most famously he was the voice of the boat race between 1993 and 2004, but when the BBC lost coverage of the event to ITV, Davies did not move with them. For many, his voice is synonymous with English football, but his retirement from the game in 2004 means this is now a thing of the past.
Davies entered the broadcasting world by presenting for the British Forces Broadcasting whilst he was based with the army in West Germany. In 1963 he moved to BBC radio, although he was also working as a sports journalist for The Times. ITV gave him his first opportunity to work in TV, when he presented coverage for the World Cup in 1966. Davies worked for ITV for another three years, producing programmes for ABC and Granada Television, until 1969 when LWT was formed. John Bromley, the Deputy Head of Sport, chose Davies to be the commentator and presenter of the new show “The Big Match”, but he lost out on this argument and the position went to Brian Moore.
Soon after, Davies made his move to the BBC and has remained with the corporation virtually ever since. After his debut show in 1969, Davies’ name became synonymous with Match of The Day. His first programme did not go as planned, as Davies was only meant to be covering games in the North of England. However, on the day before the show, his co-presenter and main commentator, David Coleman, lost his voice and the job of commentating on the main match went to Davies. From then on he was awarded a co-presenting position, until his final show in 2004.
During his time with the BBC, Davies has commentated on nine World Cups, although he did move over to ITV for the 1966 World Cup and seven European Championships. Davies did not commentate on many of the key finals of football, with the exception of the 1995 and 1996 FA Cup Finals. The European Cup Final was seen as “his game”: in his time for the BBC he commentated on twelve. More often Davies was given the job of covering the draws for major competitions, including the World Cup, and the Football League Cup Finals on the few times it was aired on the BBC. If Scotland was ever involved in a World Cup, Davies would often be called upon to commentate on these matches, for example in the 1998 World Cup when the opening game was Scotland V Brazil.
The major highlights of his commentating career were the quarter finals for the 1986 World Cup, when England was playing against Argentina, the 1990 World Cup against Cameroon, and the infamous Euro 96 semi-final against Germany.
In 2004 Davies made his final appearance commentating for football at the BBC. The reason for his departure was the fact that he felt that he was being downgraded by not being given enough big matches to report on. John Motson was regularly given the major matches to commentate on instead of Davies, which he described in his memoirs as often being a big disappointment to him, although he maintains that there is no animosity between them.
Now that he has moved away from football, Davies currently works on a freelance basis for the BBC, covering competitions such as the Winter Olympics and the Commonwealth Games. More recently he has also been involved with Wimbledon and the French Open. Throughout his career Davies has never revealed which football team he supported, or even where he was born, so that he could not be accused of bias. However, on 28th August 2007 he disclosed his support for Tottenham Hotspur, making him one of the last commentators to give away such information, but did not confirm whether he had supported them throughout his career.
In 2005 Davies was awarded an MBE for services to Sports Broadcasting in an investiture at Buckingham Palace. In 2007 he published his memoirs, which were named “Interesting. Very interesting”, based on a comment he made during a match in the 1970s between Derby and Manchester City.
Davies’ fame has also led him to do numerous jobs outside the sporting world. These have included appearing on Call My Bluff, and commentating on a fictional World Stare-Out Championships on the sketch show Big Train.
- Greeting a final whistle – A peep, peep, peep, another peep, and that’s it
- If it had gone in, it would have been a goal
- After Great Britain’s third goal in the 1988 Olympic Hockey Final against Germany – Where were the Germans (pause) and quite frankly who cares?
- 1990 FA Cup semi-final – What an unbelievable day this is. This is the stuff of schoolboy comics
- Commenting on the fact the Dutch wear orange team shirts – The Dutch fans look like a huge jar of marmalade
- When Gareth Southgate missed the penalty at the Euro 96 semi-finals – Ooooh no! You have nothing but sympathy for the man who doesn’t score!
- When Italy lost during the 2002 World Cup to the South Koreans – Italy lost because they just WILL NOT LEARN!
- When it was announced that the 2012 Olympics would be held in London – The games are coming to London….absolutely brilliant!
- Poland nil, England nil, though England are now looking the better value for their nil
- The crowd think that Todd handled the ball…they must have seen something that nobody else did
- In the 1971 game that cost Leeds United the League Championship – And Leeds will go mad. And they have every right to go mad
- During the opening match of the 1998 World Cup – It’s Brazil 2, Scotland 1, so Scotland are back to where they were at the start of the match