Cheat sheets I: The Art of Commentary with BBC's Nick Barnes

Barnes’ “football bible” has evolved over his 11 years as Sunderland’s match commentator

Behind every great football match is a great commentator, and in front of every commentator is a set of notes. BBC Radio Newcastle’s Nick Barnes and NBC Sports’ Arlo White have some of the best—and most unique—in the business.

In the extended issue 05 feature, we present a side of the commentary booth rarely seen.

All photographs by Henrik Knudsen for Eight by Eight.

Despite the hours that Barnes pours into each page, he uses his notes only sparingly during actual gameplay. “They are there purely as a crutch and a point of reference if need be,” he said. “If I was a newspaper reporter, I could keep my match reports, but radio is transient, so my notebook is my personal record of the matches I cover.”

Barnes creates a detailed two-page spread for each match he commentates for BBC Radio Newcastle. The notes are divided into two color-coded segments: The left-hand page contains background information on Sunderland’s opposition—the club’s starting XI from its last fixture, previous results, and stadium details—while the right-hand side is updated in real time as the action happens.

Sometimes the action gets ahead of Barnes’s pen and paper. “There have been a couple of occasions when I’ve been writing something down during the match and there has been a goal or an incident,” he said.  “Then I have to thank  for being beside me or the monitor which will hopefully replay it.”

Article by Copa Collective member Eight by Eight