Since its launch on 22nd August 1964, Match of the Day has been at the forefront of British television.
It is the longest-running football show in the world, now into its 56th year on the air. Much has changed since 1964: the show now broadcasts in colour, includes slow motion replays and sends a commentator to every weekend match, employing some of the best in the business.
Among them is Mark Scott, who made history when he became Match of the Day’s first commentator from an ethnic minority background. It all started on Boxing Day 2015, when Scott was sent to watch Bournemouth against Crystal Palace.
“It was a 0-0 draw that was last on, so!” Scott tells me. “You dream about when you do your first game, you hope that it’s going to be a 5-4 thriller and the first game on, and then you’re [left] with a 0-0.”
Scott was disappointed, not least about missing out on the introduction from established host Gary Lineker. “I was a bit gutted, and I didn’t know if I was going to get another opportunity,” he says. “So when I did get another match later on in the season, I was delighted that it had a goal in it and I got to see Gary introduce me.”
It was a huge moment for the show to finally have Scott, a commentator born to a Trinidadian mother and an English father. The dream has always been to be a commentator, eventually making it onto, “the most famous football show in the world.”
So, how does it feel to be Match of the Day’s first BAME commentator?
“It’s something to be proud of, but it’s not something that I’ve ever really wanted to shout about,” Scott explains. “You should be there just on merit, like when we had Jacqui Oatley as the first female commentator. It’s weird to think about, because it’s nothing that I ever set out to achieve or anything like that.”
Scott’s love for commentary goes back to his teenage years in south London, when he would listen to Capital Gold and commentate on his friends playing football in the playground. He would try to emulate the great Jonathan Pearce, the radio station’s leading sports presenter at the time.
“His commentaries were iconic; he had a very unique style, one that I was a massive fan of,” Scott exclaims. “I used to tape his commentary on cassettes as a teenager, and I would then try to do my own versions. Once I started doing that, I realised that being a commentator is what I wanted to do.”
As fate would have it, he would go on to work alongside Pearce at Match of the Day years later, a surreal moment for Scott. “When I mention to him that he was my inspiration for getting into commentary as a kid, he shrugs it off,” he reveals. “It’s weird how things turn out to be on the same programme as him.”
Scott had the big break he needed at Capital Gold, when he was offered the chance to report on Brentford’s 2-1 win over Walsall in October 2000, going on to be the senior sports reporter for the radio network.
“Like I’d say to anyone in the industry, you need a bit of luck,” Scott affirms. “You need something to go your way. You need to have a bit of talent, but more importantly at the early stages, you need a slice of luck and an opportunity to show what you can do.”
He goes on to explain, “To be a good commentator, you need to have a good journalistic mind as well. You need to know what the story is about the game, and for the post-match interviews, knowing what the things are to try and get the managers to talk about.”
In an industry where 94% of journalists are white – compared to 91% in the UK workforce – the need for diversity and BAME journalists has never been greater. An NCTJ study found that white journalism graduates are more likely to be working within six months, as well as those who are privately educated and without a disability.
“You need a slice of luck and an opportunity to show what you can do.”
Scott is conscious of the lack of diversity, and reflects on the sorry truth. “If you look across sport commentary as a whole, there’s not that many BAME commentators [in the UK],” he admits. “When I do look around on the gantry, you do sometimes think, ‘Why is that?’ When you look at the landscape as a whole, there’s a small percentage.”
Nonetheless, he acknowledges the improvements that have been made within the industry. “I think it’s got a lot better,” Scott notes. “We’re seeing a lot more diversity in terms of presenters, pundits and reporters, and with commentary we’ve seen better diversity with more female commentators being present on a lot of high-profile outlets.”
The journey so far has been remarkable, ultimately leading up to Scott making it onto Match of the Day. He has paved the way for future BAME journalists across the industry, as he continues to inspire a generation while living a dream of his own.
“Match of the Day was always the dream; when I look at the other commentators that are also on the show, you feel really privileged to be on there,” he tells me. “It’s still a huge thrill to be part of it, because that was always the aim as a kid. Every game that I do feels like a bit of an honour, and every time I hear the theme tune, it still makes me smile.”
The cliché of ‘it’s an honour’ is overused, but Scott uses it with such humility and genuineness.
It is hard to describe the feeling of being on Match of the Day, even when you’re living a childhood dream. But Scott sums it up perfectly. “Another commentator said to me, ‘Being on Match of the Day is a bit like playing for England as a commentator,’” he says.
“That is the thing that resonated the most with me. Being part of Match of the Day is brilliant, so fingers crossed, [I continue] just keeping part of that team, that squad, and try to get as many caps as possible.”
I would like to say a huge thank you to Mark for giving up the time to speak to me, as well as greatly assisting me throughout the interview process. I am very grateful for the opportunity.