From across the pond

Jeremy (Jem) Nicholas is a British media personality with many hats. He is a stadium announcer for the West Ham football club, the author of Mr. Moon Has Left the Stadium, a professional speaker, journalist, BBC broadcaster and radio host. Phew. I hope I got them all. He is really a tour de force when it comes to dipping his toe into everything journalism has to offer.


The Manitoban: 

What decisions did you make early on in life that put you on the broadcasting path?


Jeremy Nicholas: 

I used to commentate on table football and cricket matches with my friends. I’d record them onto a tape recorder and listen back to them. I did a really dull engineering degree at university and sought a creative outlet in the student radio station, where I presented a regular weekly show. I then did a post-grad diploma in broadcasting and moved into radio as a news reporter, then sports reporter before moving into presentation.

The biggest decision was giving up a safe career path like engineering for a haphazard one in broadcasting, where contracts are short and you can be out of work with a poor set of listening figures.


M: How did you become involved with the West Ham Soccer club as the stadium announcer?


JN: I’ve worked as the stadium announcer at West Ham United Football Club since 1998. (In England only rugby fans would call football soccer!)

I used to talk about West Ham all the time on the radio, so they asked me to take over on the microphone at games. Initially I said “no,” as I thought it would spoil my match day experience, but in the end I agreed.

M: During your stay at West Ham, what has your most memorable experiences been?


JN: Winning promotion back to the Premier League was the best. A feat we hope to repeat this year. The two relegations were also memorable but not as much fun. I enjoyed announcing the substitution of the white ball in favour of the yellow ball during a snowy 4-0 win over Manchester United. You’re not really meant to announce ball substitutions, but it was a strange night. After all we beat Man U!

M: How do you get honest answers from an athlete during an interview, instead of the canned PR responses every journalist in the room receives?


JN: I interrupt them, throw them off guard, and sometimes make them laugh. That way you get natural answers.

M: The Montreal Impact will play their first Major League Soccer (MLS) game on Saturday, March 10th against the Vancouver Whitecaps at B.C. Place. What impact do you think the addition of the new team (19 clubs in total) would have to the league?


JN: I think the more teams the merrier. It’s good to have clubs from different cities to spread the sport. One day football will be the major sport in the States, I’m convinced of it. It’s the global game and it needs a lot less kit than other sports, so it has mass appeal in parks.


M: What steps should be taken by the MLS to increase its broadcast ratings and spectator numbers?


JN: I think it’s all about educating the public about the tactics of the game. Many adults won’t have played football at school, so they need to be told not only what’s happening, but also why it’s happening. It’s something that drives me mad about rugby coverage over here. It’s assumed by the broadcasters that everyone understands the rules and the tactics, and they don’t. I love watching rugby, but I can’t claim to fully understand it.


M: David Beckham joined the MLS in 2007. What lasting impact did Beckham’s decision have on the popularity of soccer in North America?


JN: “Becks” is great for the MLS because he’s an iconic figure. Fans need heroes to latch on to, whether it’s Michael Jordan in basketball or Wayne Gretzky in ice hockey or Dan Marino in Gridiron. While home-grown heroes are going to best in the long run, it’s good to have some imports like Becks too.

If you are interested in learning more about Jem, pick up a copy of his book, Mr. Moon Has Left the Stadium, which is a humorous account of his experiences as a West Ham football club stadium announcer.