Phil Bonney is a British-born, English-language TV announcer of Bundesliga and other German matches. He is well-known and admired within these circles. I had the honor of interviewing him earlier this week.
Denis Knezovic: How does an English Southampton fan become a Bundesliga announcer in Germany?
Phil Bonney: A classic case of being in the right place at the right time, with (hopefully) the right skill set!
Denis Knezovic: What is the story behind that?
Phil Bonney: I trained as an actor in the UK, but when an opportunity came up to move to Germany, I took it. My wife and I moved here in 1994, and I worked in theaters and as a voice-over artist on adverts, commercials, image films and documentaries etc. One day someone I knew from this work asked me if I was interested in commentating as the Bundesliga were looking for people, he knew I was a football nut…
D.K.: You’ve been doing it ever since?
Phil Bonney: Actually, I keep up my “day-jobs” as well. I record quite a bit for television (also for the Bundesliga), but I still do quite a bit of voice over work too. I also teach stage combat at a local drama school once a week, just to keep my hand in.
D.K.: All of that must keep you quite busy given that you do BL, DFB Cup and the German national team…
Phil Bonney: Yes, and there is lots of sitting at the computer, doing research.
D.K.: Was there a special moment in your time as announcer, that stands above all others?
Phil Bonney: I have to say it was the five-goal Lewandowski moment. Simply unforgettable. [5 goals in 9 minutes by Robert Lewandowski vs. Wolfsburg, 2015/16 season.]
D.K.: Do you work for a particular station, or for some kind of organization?
Phil Bonney: I am a freelance commentator, but I work almost exclusively for the DFL and DFB. They then market the broadcast world-wide, which means sometimes you get the so-called “world feed” and my voice with a co-commentator, and sometimes you will get a local commentary team.
D.K.: Where do you see the Bundesliga in comparison to other top leagues on the continent? Particularly in light of last night’s Dortmund disaster? [BVB’s 3-0 Champions League loss to Tottenham]
Phil Bonney Disasters come and go. Look at Brazil in the WC 2014.In terms of money and attention I see the BL in third behind The Premier League and Spain, but as far as excitement, crowd sizes, goals per game and unpredictability it’s definitely my number 1!!
D.K.: I agree, but some would ask how can you say unpredictability, when there has been the same champion six times in a row?
Phil Bonney.: Yes, Bayern are frighteningly consistent, and I fear they may make it 7, but they can often slip up against sides like Augsburg or Mainz. That’s what I meant by unpredictable. The team at the top can stumble when playing the team at the bottom…I have Nürnberg v BVB on Monday…you never know…that’s what I mean with unpredictability…sure, over the long term we are not going to see a Leicester-style title win.
D.K.: What keeps the BL below the EPL and La Liga in terms of results? Is it just the 50+1 rule against private ownership, or is there more?
Phil Bonney: Money. Money and more money…
D.K.: What is your opinion on 50+1?
P.B.: I think that the biggest trick performed each year is convincing the clubs with little or no finances that they stand a chance. They are always just fighting for survival to have the honor of getting thrashed by the big boys. A club like Bayern with all its resources is never going to be challenged by a side like Düsseldorf. So, unless people want Bayern to win the Meisterschale 10 times in a row finances have to be looked at. I used to have long discussions with my dad about this. The money doesn’t know if it is money that has built up over time due to careful management, or if it is suddenly there courtesy of a billionaire. What is obvious is, that you need money to compete at the highest level. You can’t own a Ferrari, and say to people on a bicycle, that if they work hard they can go as fast as you.
D.K.: Well said, it’s just that 50+1 protects the fan culture and the atmosphere, though low ticket prices…
P.B.: And there is the problem. I don’t want to have to take out a mortgage on my house to get the funds to go and see a football match with two kids and a wife. Who does? The EPL is ridiculous. It is a double-edged sword. You can’t have both.
D.K.: Yes, exactly. VAR is another controversial topic in Germany. Do you like VAR?
P.B.: I like it when it gets it 100% right, but don’t like the way it is perceived to have taken some of the responsibility away from the ref. I hate it when every decision/action is contested by the players who make the TV sign. This I’m sure has an effect on the man in black, consciously or subconsciously.
I love goal line technology. That works 100% and is the best thing that has happened recently. I think VAR as it is, is getting better, especially in Germany. It needs using for the right reasons and not as a default setting. When goals are disallowed due to a half push two minutes back I think it crosses the boundary of acceptance.
D.K: Thanks for the interview and best of luck!