Garry Richardson: 'There's a way of asking a question a third time'

John Humphrys isn't alone on 'Today' in giving interviewees a grilling. There's sports presenter Garry Richardson, about to celebrate 25 years on the programme. Matthew Beard met him

If the studio of the Today programme were a school staffroom then John Humphrys and Co would be a clique of serious-minded faculty heads with Garry Richardson as the track-suited PE teacher. Day after day he turns up an hour later than his cerebral colleagues and is frequently ribbed about his wardrobe, betting tips and extra-curricular activities.

This Thursday it will be 25 years since he was introduced as a cub reporter by former anchor Brian Redhead for his maiden sports report, an otherwise unremarkable summary of the previous night's league cup game between Manchester United and Nottingham Forest. Aged 49, he is the longest-serving presenter on the Today team.

He has developed a tendency to put interviewees on the spot - a healthy counterweight to some of the former sportsmen and women-turned broadcasters - and accepts his role as the provider of levity to BBC radio's flagship news programme.

"There's a lot of banter. They always tease me about the racing selections. It is the light relief on the programme when the high percentage of the rest is serious news and current affairs. It doesn't bother me, though. I wore a bright yellow jumper to work one day and Brian Redhead introduced the sports slot saying I looked like a 14-stone budgie." (There seems to be an enduring avian theme to his wardrobe as the turquoise sweater he wears under a sports jacket at our interview has a distinct touch of Alan Partridge.)

Richardson began his career with Radio Oxford, a natural for the sports department once he realised that his stints with the youth teams at Reading and Southampton football clubs (he is a fan of Oxford United) would not lead to a career in the game.

He moved to Broadcasting House in the early 1980s and got a reputation as a newshound when on several occasions he phoned the desk after finding himself near the scene of IRA bombings. Such was his youthful enthusiasm that editors suggested he might be in cahoots with the culprits.

By the end of the decade he had become one of Today's regular sports reporters, flourishing under his mentor Tony Adamson, the golf and tennis correspondent, and his boyhood idols, the late football correspondent Bryon Butler and commentator Peter Jones. He readily defers to the journalism of John Humphrys, James Naughtie and Ed Stourton and credits John Timpson and Redhead with improving him as a journalist. "Brian taught me never to waste a question," he says in a Berkshire accent much broader than his broadcast voice.

Colleagues note the contrasting career paths of Richardson and Des Lynam, who started at the same time, "Dishy Des" taking the more glamorous television route. Having established himself with the BBC, Richardson went freelance. He is comfortably earning six figures from a combination of Today, after-dinner speaking and his Sunday morning Sportsweek on Five Live, which is now produced by his own company, Frontpage Media. "He has the most envied contacts book in BBC sport and likes to control all stages of the process," says a senior radio colleague.

Sport on the Today programme is like travel news on Radio Five. It's not the main reason for tuning in, but you appreciate the service. This can have its frustrations for Richardson and Steve May, who alternates as sports reporter.

"The hard thing doing sport on Today is that unlike politicians who know the value of coming on, if you were to ask a sportsperson to come on at 7.25 they would say, 'Yes, that's just before Coronation Street.' When you say it is in the morning you get a nervous laugh. Having said that, we do get a few chief executives who know the value of it. I'm not saying footballers should necessarily know what Today is. You want to try to set the agenda but equally it's important to reflect the previous night's action."

Richardson comes on air for two minutes at 6.25 and his next two slots can be extended on negotiation to four minutes. But he insists he has not been tempted into a daily role on Radio Five, the self-proclaimed home of live sport, partly because of what he considers an over-reliance on the soundbite. "I think it is a waste of time. You'll hear a 14-second soundbite and it's a manager saying, 'We know when we play Man United today it's going to be a tough game and people have got to be on top of their game.' I think you want to try to get people to say things. If I have a four-minute slot on Today it's likely to include a three-minute interview."

As such a critic of wasting airtime, surely Richardson agrees with the reported views of BBC head of sport Roger Mosey that there are too many "celebrity" reporters, a view that is thought to have seen former Olympic hurdler Sally Gunnell lose her role as trackside reporter.

"The majority are very, very good," he says, singling out Match of the Day frontman Gary Lineker. "He could do things I could never do in broadcasting and has the credibility of someone who has scored nearly 50 goals for England. There have been one or two that haven't worked out and perhaps they are no longer working here."

Richardson is no poodle, having caused Anna Kournikova to threaten to walk out of an interview when he suggested she was out of her depth at Wimbledon two years ago. But he denies being that other breed of interrogator, the Humphrys-style Rottweiler. "I don't do [confrontation] that often, but people recognise it because it is a sports reporter. They expect John Humphrys or Jim Naughtie or Jeremy Paxman to ask those sort of questions. Sometimes a chairman or chief executive will give you answers that are not right and I know fans will be sitting at home saying, 'Hang on a minute.' There's a way of asking a question again and a third time."

His proudest moments were int erviews with Nelson Mandela, disgraced former South African cricket captain Hansie Cronje and an impromptu interview with then US president Bill Clinton during a rain interruption at Wimbledon. He persuaded tournament officials to pass a letter to Mr Clinton and 15 minutes later was interviewing him in the royal box in front of 18,000 on the centre court and live TV radio audiences. He hopes that if Chelsea win the Premiership this year Jose Mourinho will finally agree to an interview, but believes that football's top-flight neglect the media when they become publicity-shy after a defeat.

"It's a shame when people don't speak to the media now. Some of the football authorities should instigate the law where they have to do press conferences. With tennis players in Wimbledon, you know they are obliged to do one media interview. It should be the same in football given the money the BBC, ITV and Sky put into sport."

Whether or not his Today colleagues plan any pranks to mark his broadcasting anniversary, they will be aware that he can give as good as he gets. In an exchange with Humphrys recently, he raised the matter of the Welshman's six-figure salary and quipped: "At least Dick Turpin had the decency to wear a mask."

Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Al Pacino in ‘The Humbling’, as an ageing actor
filmHam among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
Sport
Mario Balotelli in action during his Liverpool debut
football ...but he can't get on the scoresheet in impressive debut
Environment
Pigeons have been found with traces of cocaine and painkillers in their system
environmentCan species be 'de-extincted'?
Arts and Entertainment
booksExclusive extract from Howard Jacobson’s acclaimed new novel
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
A Pilgrim’s Progress is described by its publisher as “the one-and-only definitive record” of David Hockney's life and works
people
Sport
Loic Remy signs for Chelsea
footballBlues wrap up deal on the eve of the transfer window
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel you sales role is li...

Head of Marketing (Online & Offline, Media, Digital, Strategy)

£85000 - £100000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing - Slough, Berkshi...

Administration Assistant / Office Assistant

£18 - 20k + Bonus: Guru Careers: An Administration Assistant / Office Assistan...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor