Dave Roberts (sports broadcaster)

Dave Roberts (sports broadcaster)
Dave Roberts
Personal information
Full name David Robert Roberts
Date of birth 31 July 1964 (1964-07-31) (age 47)
Place of birth Middlesbrough, England
Height 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)

Dave Roberts is a TV Presenter and commentator specialising in football (soccer). He previously worked for ESPN in the USA, ESPN Star Sports in Singapore, Sky Sports in the UK as well as a host of radio stations. As well as his broadcast work he is a fully qualified National/International football referee. He owns and operates his own UK based broadcast production company X-Cel Broadcast Limited.[1] and through this he developed and launched 'Laws for Media' a training course for sports journalists and commentators on the laws of football and how referees are trained. Roberts was also the BBC commentator on West Indian cricketer Brian Lara's world record breaking innings of 501 not out. As well as this he also works closely in professional player management with Pele's USA agency Global Sport Group LLC.


The early days

Born in July 1964 in England's north east town of Middlesbrough, Dave attended Northlands Primary School before moving onto Langbaurgh Comprehensive School. Upon leaving school in 1980 he began a 4 year electrical apprenticeship with ICI plc at its Wilton Works on Teesside. It was at this time that his broadcasting career was born.

In 1981 he began working as a volunteer Programme Assistant at BBC Radio Cleveland, now BBC Tees in Middlesbrough. A friend there introduced Roberts to management at South Cleveland Hospital Radio where he quickly secured his own programme and went on to manage the operation. He also had presenter stints at Radio North Tees (North Tees Hospital, Stockton-on-Tees) and Radio Friarage (Northallerton General Hospital, North Yorkshire). Within a year Dave had also begun to work at the commercial station for Teesside, Radio Tees, now 96.6TFM. There he was a programme assistant for DJ Graham Robb on the late night phone-in show. The radio work progressed with on-air responsibilities on Radio Tees' Saturday sports programme, and at BBC Radio Cleveland, where a mid morning programme he presented about living with HIV & AIDS was submitted for UK national broadcasting awards. He began freelancing for Capital Gold Radio in London providing reports and commentaries on football games as well as ITV Sport.

Back at ICI, in 1984 Dave qualified as an electrician and studied Electrical Engineering at Teesside University. In 1988 he moved into research within ICI's Research and Technology division as an Experimental Physicist where he managed the Wilton laboratory specialising in electrical properties of plastics and polymers. In 1989 the draw from broadcasting proved too much and after 9 years with ICI he resigned.

Radio career

Local radio

Upon leaving engineering he attended Darlington College of Technology to study a 1 year diploma course in Broadcast Journalism, leaving early to take up a journalist position with Radio Tees (renamed TFM). The journalist role was instantly paired with his football commentary role covering Middlesbrough FC. This further expanded to presenting the Late Night Phone-In from 10pm until 2am. Roberts then left the newsroom to take on a role as Sponsorship & Promotions Manager for TFM's owners, Metro Radio Group, also retaining his late night presenters role.

In 1993 he rejoined the BBC to cover Durham County Cricket Club for both radio and TV. At the same time he presented both the Late Night Phone-In and the 'Late Night Love Affair for Hallam FM in Sheffield. It was during his BBC cricket reporting that he grabbed his personal place in sport's broadcasting history, commenating live on West Indian cricketer Brian Lara's world record innings of 501 not out. Due to an England v New Zealand test match taking place in Nottingham, Dave was the only TV or radio broadcaster at Edgbaston in Birmingham as the Warwickshire batsman took Durham apart. Networks such as BBC Radios 1, 2, 4 and World Service quickly included the commentary as the runs mounted.

In 1994 Dave turned down several requests to join the new regional station for the north east Century Radio. He left the UK to join Malta based music station Radio Calypso as Programme Director. While there he also played semi-professional football as a midfielder for Munxxar Falcons and Victoria Wanderers.

Century Radio

That spell lasted just 5 months when he returned home to present the Big Mal Football Phone-In on Century with legendary coach and womaniser Malcolm Allison. He also took on the role of Sports Editor once the station bought exclusive rights for Middlesbrough FC (Boro) commentaries. His first job was to bring Boro daft commentator Alistair Brownlee to Century from BBC Radio Cleveland. 'Roberts & Brownlee' became the staple diet for all Middlesbrough fans on a Saturday afternoon along with 'Big Mal'. Dave later presented Supermac at 6 a phone-in show with England and Newcastle United legend Malcolm Macdonald, as well as his regular commentaries and overseeing role for sport.

In 1997 Roberts shocked Boro fans by resigning on air after a postponed game at Stockport. It was later revealed in regional newspaper the Sunday Sun that he had been asked by senior management at the station to curb the on-air use of his insider knowledge of Boro.

Talk Radio

Six months later Dave was reunited with his former Century Radio boss, John Simons, who had moved onto UK national radio station TalkRadio, now talkSPORT. His tasks there were to report and commentate on England games in the build up to the France World Cup. Roberts became part of the TalkRadio World Cup team, working alongside his Sky Sports colleagues Alan Parry and Andy Gray. Gray mentions in his autobiography 'Gray Matters' how Roberts was charged with the task of overcoming strict accreditation criteria in France to enable the TalkRadio team to carry out their commentaries. Immediately after the France World Cup, and after 3 years freelancing for Sky Sports, Roberts joined Sky full-time as North East Bureau Chief and Reporter.

Despite his now full-time TV career, Roberts continued his association with TalkRadio for another 18 months - presenting regular programmes Weekend Sports Breakfast and Friday Football First as well as his reporting and commentaries. He was also pitchside reporter at Wembley and Hampden Park for both legs of the England v Scotland Euro 2000 clashes.

Radio management

Off-air, Roberts twice managed unsuccessful bids to secure regional licences for North East England. In 1993 he was Managing Director for Kix FM, which was beaten by Century Radio. In 2006 he was again Managing Director for a locally funded application 'Yes FM', which merged with that of former BBC Radio 1 editor Paul Robinson to form Three River radio, the licence ultimately won by Saga Radio.

TV career

Early TV career

Roberts began 'freelancing' for several TV companies in the early 1990s as a sport reporter. He regularly appeared on ITV Sport providing live reports at football matches throughout England. Following the birth of the Premier League, he also conducted after-match interviews for BBC Match of the Day. But Roberts' TV career began in earnest when he joined BBC North to cover Durham County Cricket Club. He later joined GSKYB's channel UK Talk to present the daily sports show Sportstalk and Channel 5's Live and Dangerous.

Sky Sports

As well as this, Dave had begun freelancing frequently with Sky Sports as a reporter, so it was no surprise that in August 1998, when Sky launched their 24/7 Sky Sports News channel, Roberts joined full-time. He became North East Bureau Chief and reporter and was seen on a daily basis reporting from training grounds, press conferences and live at matches of English Premier League clubs.

ESPN Star Sports

In 2003, after 5 years full-time with Sky, Roberts left the UK to take up a Presenter/Commentator role with Singapore based ESPN Star Sports. Here he anchored ESPN Star Sports UEFA Champions League output as well as English Premier League, Spain's La Liga programming, as well as the daily sports news show SportsCenter. In 2005 he took on the managerial role of Senior Producer of the sports news output. Whilst with ESPN Star, Roberts covered Euro 2004 from Portugal, 2005 UEFA Champions League Final and World Cup Germany 2006 - anchoring and reporting ESS' output from site. He also travelled to Damascus, Syria to cover AFC Cup Finals.


In 2006, Dave moved to ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut, USA - as a Presenter/Commentator for ESPN International. He immediately began presenting ESPN Soccernet Press Pass and providing live commentary on La Liga, Italy Serie A, English FA Cup and international matches. Upon the 2007 launch of 2 new international SportsCenter programmes (Australia/Africa) Roberts became a regular face of the daily sports news shows, usually sitting alongside Georgie Bingham. It was not unusual to see Bingham in fits of tears at the end of the show after Roberts signed off with a witty one-liner. The same year Dave was seen in the West Indies reporting from the Cricket World Cup.

In 2008 he was in Ghana to cover the Africa Cup of Nations. In May that year he was at pitchside for ESPN USA in Moscow at the final of the Champions League between Manchester United and Chelsea. Something he repeated a year later in Rome in the Barcelona v Manchester United final, where after 6 minutes he reported that new technology on the final ball was resulting in goalkeepers having problems when it was in flight. Roberts was again reunited in the studio [2] with his former Sky Sports colleague Andy Gray during ESPN USA's coverage of Euro 2008.

Roberts is still with ESPN commentating on a myriad of games in the world's senior competitions, he is also still anchoring Press Pass which has now moved to a daily edition show and carried across half of the world on ESPN International's networks, including the newly launched ESPN channel in the United Kingdom.

It has been reported that after over 4 years in the USA Roberts will leave ESPN after the 2010 World Cup and return home to the UK. It is unclear what position he will take up after his return though he is thought to be keen to return to full-time national radio.


Roberts was a 'Level 3' referee when he left the UK for Asia. He regularly officiated in English competitions as - The FA Cup, Football Conference, FA Premier Reserve League, UniBond Northern Premier League, etc. upon arriving is Singapore he spent half a year refereeing in the 'Prime League' for FAS, before moving up to the professional 'S-League'.Roberts performed very well and became popular with team, players and coaches with his approachable and open style of officiating. He was often seen sharing a joke with players during matches.

At the start of 2004 he was named, along with Singapore's FIFA referees, in the inaugural list of 'Elite Referees'. He regularly received FIFA training and coaching and began refereeing international teams and competitions up to Under 23 level. In 2005 he accepted an invitation to take charge of the Calcutta derby game between bitter rivals East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. Due to constant criticism of local referees in previous encounters the IFA had decided to search for a 'foreign' referee to officiate what is considered the largest derby game in world club football. The appointment made big headlines in the country [3][4] as Roberts became the first foreign referee to officiate an all Indian domestic match. He was presented to the India media at a news conference the day before the game where he sent a message to the rival teams claiming "I guess the decibel level will be four times more than the matches I have deputed to date but I know I will have things under my control".[5] The normal fiery affair passed with little incident with only 3 yellow cards shown and plaudits coming to Roberts from unexpected sources - "I am not supposed to comment but he was good",[6] and, "He was always on the ball and is very fit. His communication with the players too is something we should learn. He was always in control and relaxed. Our referees should learn from the way he officiated the match.".[7]

Dave was again invited back to India to referee the semi-finals and final of the IFA Shield competition featuring Bayern Munich II. The competition was screened live on ESPN Star Sports and Roberts agreed to wear a microphone that the TV broadcaster could tune into to hear what was being said on the field.[8] The facility was not used due after the experiment failed to receive the go-ahead by football authorities.

Roberts' last game in Asia was the Malaysia FA Cup quarter final clash between Singapore Young Lions and Malaysia team Sarawak. The Young Lions won the match 7-2 in what seemed a relatively easy game to officiate. It was later alleged in the book The Fix by investigative reporter Declan Hill that the result of the game had been subject to irregular betting patterns.[9]

Roberts moved to the USA in 2006, due to residency restrictions by United States Soccer Federation, Roberts' refereeing is now restricted to state leagues in Connecticut. It is a requirement with US Soccer that any official must hold citizenship or Permanent Residency to hold National Referee status and operate regularly in the country's professional competitions.[10] Dave also referees in the NCAA College system where he has become a regular Division 1 (highest category of game) official.

He is regularly seen on ESPN analysing and commenting on major refereeing incidents, and his written articles of the same on ESPN's soccer website ESPN Soccernet are keenly read by the world's refereeing fraternity.[11][12][13]

Player management

Also working at ESPN with Roberts is former New York Cosmos and USA national goalkeeper Shep Messing. Messing is the Managing Director of Pele's player representation agency Global Sport Group LLC. Based in Connecticut, USA - the agency has a long history of player management/representation and Roberts holds the position, Managing Director, Asia.[14] Players that have been publicly linked to Roberts include, Australia international goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, Turkey international striker Semih Senturk, Singapore captain Indra Sahdan Daud, Guinea striker Keita Mandjou, Thailand international midfielder Sutee Suksomkit and former Barcelona striker Santi Ezquerro.


  1. ^ About Us X-Cel Broadcast
  2. ^ Roberts ESPN studio report on Euro 2008
  3. ^ Dave Roberts does fine job in the derby clash The Hindu, India
  4. ^ Dave Roberts becomes first foreign referee for Calcutta derby The Telegraph, India
  5. ^ "IFA bosses blow whistle on Desi refs", Times News, India, 17 August 2005
  6. ^ "Match Commissioner Sumanta Ghosh", Hindustan Times, India, 18 August 2005
  7. ^ "Mohun Bagan coach Amal Dutta", Hindustan Times, India, 18 August 2005
  8. ^ Ref to be wired for sound, Indian Express newspaper article
  9. ^ The Fix, Declan Hill (Page 76 to 78)
  10. ^ "Referee Administrative Handbook, pages 24 & 25", US Soccer, May 2008
  11. ^ Balloon or Baffoon, Dave Roberts Refereeing article on ESPNSoccernet.com
  12. ^ Getting it wrong and losing it, Dave Roberts Refereeing article on ESPNSoccernet.com
  13. ^ Caught on the Blind Side, Dave Roberts Refereeing article on ESPNSoccernet.com
  14. ^ Global Sport Group[dead link]

External links

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