Peter Brackley: Sports commentator with several voices
Sports Commentator & Broadcaster
Peter began his radio and TV career as a very young sports editor on BBC Radio Brighton in the seventies, before following fellow Brighton fan Des Lynam to BBC National Radio, where he became a presenter and football commentator on Radio 2’s legendary ‘Sport on 2’, where he first met a young Garry Richardson.
In 1982 he moved into television taking over from Hugh Johns at Central TV, going on to work for many years as a commentator at ITV covering four World Cups, two European Championships and around twenty FA cup finals interviewing many of sport’s leading personalities. Brackley jumped into the studio commentary seat, during the live broadcast of the 1986 European Cup Final (Barcelona v Steaua Bucharest) when communication with the commentary team in Seville, Brian Moore and Kevin Keegan, was lost.
He joined the Sky TV revolution in 1988 covering games through their sister company Eurosport, leading their commentary team at the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy, with Ian Darke among his colleagues who said of Peter ‘A witty brilliant commentator … We had a thousand laughs together…..a great bloke to work with’. When Sky and BSB merged in 1991, Brackley took up regular FA Cup matches and weekly coverage of live Italian football. This work deepened in 1992 when, in the wake of Paul Gascoigne’s transfer from Tottenham to Serie A side Lazio, terrestrial broadcaster Channel 4 moved in to buy up the rights to cover the leagues matches.
For the next decade regular live action on Sunday afternoons was broadcast, with Brackley commentating from a studio in England, alongside the likes of James Richardson, Ray Wilkins, Don Howe and Luther Blissett. It’s arguable that Brackley did much to popularise the Italian game in the UK. Gabby Logan said ‘When I started at ITV Sport in 1998 (woman in a mans world and all that) Peter was hugely welcoming and supportive’.
After dinner speaking & Performance work
Peter was more than just a talented commentator & broadcaster he was an excellent after dinner speaker appearing at hundreds of events performing twice at the PFA annual awards night, the Football of the Year dinner, and at several other major functions.
At many such events he worked alongside sports broadcaster Garry Richardson, the two forming a hilarious double act. An emotional Richardson paid tribute to Peter on Radio 5 live having known him as a close friend and colleague for over 40 years. He spoke of their work together stating ‘he was a brilliant impressionist and funny man .. as well as presenting some world beating sports-programmes’. Garry recalled a dinner with him and the guy introducing the evening said: ‘Also in the audience tonight we have what we believe to be Britain’s first blind football manager’. Quick as a flash, Peter shouted out ‘What about Arsene Wenger?’. It brought the house down.’
Peter’s Voice Impressions
Peter was great at voices, taking off many of his fellow commentators and footballers. His skills in this department were used to great effect on the high profile ‘Saint and Greavsie’ football show. In Christmas 1990 Jimmy Greaves went down with flu. The production team decided to get in Jimmy’s ‘Spitting Image’ puppet, to replace him, with Peter providing the voice. What followed was classic TV.
In 1993, Peter joined football legends George Best and Rodney Marsh, along with mimic Mike Osman, for a theatre tour around Britain, which included the London Palladium. Best described it as his ‘most successful tour of the lot’ and was disappointed when Peter ‘developed stage fright’ and later pulled out. Brackley also undertook more voice-over work building up a cult following on the Pro Evolution Football computer game, also commentary for Brighton & Hove Albion FC (the club he supported), along with writing a weekly column in the city’s Argus newspaper.
After semi retiring from both TV & Speaking work, Peter returned to the after dinner circuit but with new ideas for football stage shows which he worked on alongside his friends Garry Richardson and Ian Darke. Brackley a massive Brighton fan wrote the show The Goldstone Days’ – 20 years on’ a celebration marking the 20th anniversary since the Seagulls left the Goldstone Ground.
The caretaker character
Peter’s now famous caretaker character made his debut, coming out with amusing comments and one liners throughout the night. The football club could not have been more impressed, inviting him to the Directors box and becoming good friends with Chairman Tony Bloom. The Seagulls’ chief executive Paul Barber who said: “So many of us here at the club knew Peter well. He was a hugely talented, knowledgeable, funny and, above all else, a good man’.
Peter’s caretaker character made his final appearance at the Kings Theatre Portsmouth in ‘Life & Chimes: The Pompey Story’ highlighting the club’s history through Brackley’s inevitable humour supported by Ian Darke on the night, who said ‘he loved that evening, he was very proud of it and the fact so many players came and joined the fun, getting into the spirit of it’.
It was only through ill health that Peter couldn’t perform more or report on games. He once told me he came into the ITV Sports office, having been out all night at a speaking function. The Editor turned to him and said ‘What’s it going to be Peter. Wembley or the London Palladium?’ A dilemma Brackley never fully resolved in his own mind as he was excellent at both.
Matthew Willetts MA is the Director of Comicus who has over 35 years experience in television, film, theatre, and comedy club/cabaret entertainment, working as a performer, screenwriter, producer and agent. He lectured at Southampton Solent University in Comedy, Screenwriting, Television, Theatre & Radio. Matthew can sometimes be seen and heard on TV & Radio and often quoted in the national press and media publications. As well as speaking regularly at festivals and industry conferences, he has been a judge at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Montreux Television Festival.