Barry Hearn: My Life In Media

'Steve Davis potted the last ball, and the next thing you know I'm on the stage hitting him with a rugby tackle that would have taken most people out'
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The Independent Online

Barry Hearn, 58, is the chairman of sports promotion company Matchroom Sport and the owner of Leyton Orient Football Club. He started off with a passion for snooker and a friendship with Steve Davis, and has gone on to make champions out of Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn. This year, Matchroom will transmit about 40,000 hours of sports programming via broadcasters around the globe. Hearn is married to Susan and has two children. He lives in Essex and plays poker every day.

So what inspired you to embark on a career in the media?

When they're youngsters, most men want to be scoring the winning goal in the cup final. I was no exception, but the next best thing I could to was get involved with the sports industry. And we organisers last a lot longer than the stars.

When you were 15 years old, which newspaper did your family get, and did you read it?

The morning newspaper was an important part of the day and working-class families read the Mirror or the Daily Express. We got the Daily Mirror.

And what were your favourite TV and radio programmes?

My father worked on a factory line making television sets. He used to steal valves and he built his own set. We had the only television in our street. In 1953 the whole of our street sat watching the coronation in black and white on our TV. Then there was Popeye, all sorts of cartoons and a lot of radio. During Sunday lunches we would always have Round the Horne and The Goons on.

Describe your job

I'm chairman of the biggest television syndicated sports company in the world in various niche sports. We do snooker, pool, fishing, tenpin bowling, darts, golf, poker and boxing.

What's the first media you turn to in the mornings?

Sky Sports News. I concentrate on what I enjoy.

Do you consult any media sources during the working day?

I read the tabloids. We have Sky Sports on in the office all the way through the day.

What is the best thing about your job?

It's fun. I get paid to do something I would want to do anyway, and I only do sports I like.

And the worst?

I've been doing it for 31 years and I hope I can do it for another 31. The idea of retirement is repulsive.

How do you feel you influence the media?

Without anybody creating stories to report on the media would be a pretty dull place. Our job is to innovate and to excite people about sporting events that are worthy of being covered. Sport done properly on television becomes almost a soap opera and the character who plays the sport is almost as important as the event itself.

What's the proudest achievement in your working life?

Leyton Orient getting promoted to the League One last year by scoring the winning goal 20 seconds from the end of the season. Steve Davis winning his first title in 1981. Chris Eubank beating Nigel Benn in 1990 in what is still the best fight I've ever seen.

And what's your most embarrassing moment?

Most of the time I open my mouth I get myself in trouble. Watching Steve Davis in 1981 just about to win the World Championship, I was saying to myself: "Don't do anything silly." The next thing you know he's potted the last ball and I'm on the stage hitting him with a rugby tackle that would have taken most people out. Of course, the BBC play this horrible clip of me going demented year after year as proof that snooker can be exciting.

At home, what do you tune in to?

I'm a huge fan of Sky television. I don't think people really take on board how much Sky has changed the face of televised sport. For years we put up with the BBC telling us that they were the best thing since sliced bread. Sky has come along, obviously with piles of money and acres of airtime, and most importantly a desire to do sport proud.

What is your Sunday paper?

The Mail on Sunday.

Name the one career ambition you want to realise before you retire.

Not to retire.

If you didn't work in the media what would you do?

I started off as a chartered accountant so I suppose I could go back to that life.

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

I like Kelvin MacKenzie because he makes me laugh and I think he's a highly intelligent person. I like Greg Dyke enormously because I think he's one of the most innovative and creative television planners I know. Vic Wakeling, the managing director of Sky Sports, is quite unique.

The CV

1970 Qualifies as a chartered accountant

1974 Becomes chairman of Luciana Snooker clubs

1982 Luciana is sold; Hearn concentrates on developing snooker around the world

1987 Stages the Joe Bugner vs Frank Bruno heavyweight boxing showdown at White Hart Lane

1995 Gets a controlling interest in Leyton Orient FC

1998 Establishes the World Tenpin Masters event

1999 Promotes the World Pool Championship for the first time

2000 Sets up live poker tournament, Poker Million

2005 Leyton Orient is promoted to Division One