WE all know the current King of snooker MCing (Master of Ceremonies) is Rob Walker but creeping up behind him is Phil Seymour, who covered a couple of sessions at the Betfred World Championships this year for the second year running while Walker was covering the London Marathon.
Seymour, 43, from York, is one of the main MC’s for the ITV4 events and is gradually making a name for himself in the snooker.
SnookerZone caught up with Seymour for a short Q&A to find out more about him and how he came to land on planet snooker as an MC.
Here’s what he had to say to SnookerZone…
How did you get into snooker or what first attracted you to the game?
I’ve been a snooker fan since I was little, my Dad always played and I grew up watching Davis, Higgins, White, Hendry etc. I used to play with my Dad a bit, and we always watched the big tournaments together, many late nights watching the Crucible coverage….a great excuse to stay up past my bedtime when I was little! The sport was a major household feature back then as there were only 3 or 4 tv channels and pretty much the whole country used to tune in to watch the World Championships, the players being household names thanks to the likes of Big Break and Pot Black etc.
More importantly, what made you get involved in MCing and snooker MCing? And why?
I fell into it really. I started off coaching rugby league to juniors at my local pro club and then one day volunteered to stand in for the stadium announcer at a first-team game when he was off sick. It turned out I was pretty good at it and ended up doing that for a couple of years before Super League’s Wakefield Trinity asked me to go and announce at their games, and I jumped at the chance. I still announce there now, into my eleventh season at the club.
After a couple of years, there a producer for Sky Sports suggested that with my voice I should look at ring announcing for boxing. I’d always loved watching boxing and he planted a seed in my head. On my 35th birthday, slightly worse for wear, I declared to the pub that by the time I was 40 I would ring announce a boxing world title fight! A few people said I was daft, but I got licensed with the boxing board of control, worked my way all over the country on different sized shows and aged 37 and a half I got to MC my first world title fight! Other sports then followed, darts, pool, fishing, all on TV, and then I was asked to fill in for John McDonald a couple of times on the snooker. I must have done a decent job as they asked me back! I loved it, the atmosphere was really special and the crowd were so friendly. Last year I was asked if I’d do some full tournaments and I felt incredibly honoured and proud to be asked as I see it as a real privilege.
As an MC on the main tour. How does it feel to be introducing some of the world’s best sports people? You recently MC’d at the Crucible – how was that feeling?
I see it as a real honour to get to introduce the best players in the world, but you have to remember, they’re just people the same as you and I. As well as the players, the whole crew behind the scenes on the tour, from the cameramen, to the World Snooker team, the journalists, TV crew etc are an absolute joy to work with, because we spend so much time together it’s quite a family atmosphere and we have a lot of laughs while working. It’s the snooker fans though who really make it special. I spend quite a lot of time chatting to people in the arena, in the cue zone etc and everyone seems so welcoming and friendly, as well as being massively passionate about the sport, which is always fantastic to see.MCing at the Crucible is always special. I’ve been lucky enough to fill in for Rob Walker for a day the last two years there and the roar in the theatre when welcoming the players out is incredible, it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up!
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What or who influences you when you’re doing your role as an MC?
From an MC perspective, John McDonald has long been someone I look up to, he works across a variety of sports and is the consummate professional. Obviously, Rob Walker is probably best known in snooker, but being a BBC man he gets a bit more rein than the rest of us do. Most TV companies want quite short, punchy introductions, so I’m led by what they ask me to do if I’m honest. Where I get a bit more license is when I’m off-camera, warning the crowd up and generally having a laugh. There are certain things I have to say, like asking people to turn their phones off, and then I tend to go off on a tangent at times, but I’m generally trying to make people smile and get them clapping!
How much time do you spend planning for your moment when you introduce the players and how much time do you liaise with a player for their walk on?
I plan each introduction meticulously, making careful notes of previous titles etc. I check all of my introductions with the media team from World Snooker, to make sure they’re accurate, but we tend not to bother the players as they’re preparing for a match at that point and won’t want disturbing. I’ve made a couple of mistakes, which are very quickly pointed out on social media, but I seem to have done ok! After the final at the Welsh Open I interviewed Neil Robertson for World Snooker (this is a part of my job that people in the arena don’t see, and because I’m off camera during the interviews people might not realise it’s me!) and after the interview Neil was kind enough to say “by the way, I love how you introduce us, it gives me a real buzz waiting to come out and hear you really bigging us up, thanks for that”. That meant the world to me.
Who has been your best walk-on intro you’ve introduced so far since working on tour?
MCing at the Crucible is always special. I’ve been lucky enough to fill in for Rob Walker for a day the last two years there and the roar in the theatre when welcoming the players out is incredible, it makes the hairs on the back of… Click To Tweet
I don’t really have a favourite, but the introductions in the finals are always special for me, the atmosphere cranks up another level and everyone is a little bit nervier. The semi-final between Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Selby at the Northern Ireland Open was funny this season. It was a huge match, which didn’t fail to deliver, as it turned out to be one of the matches of the season. The night before I’d been chatting to Ronnie about Parkrun, the free 5km run that happens in parks all over Europe and he was thinking about coming along with me and a friend. He didn’t end up coming, but I welcomed him to the arena for his match live on TV and then as he was walking into the cheers of the crowd, I was going through Mark’s introduction in my head to make sure I got it right. Just before he reached his seat and I got the cue to introduce Mark, Ronnie looked over at me and said “how did your run this morning go, mate?”, it completely threw me from my train of thought, but thankfully I managed to remember Mark’s introduction and it all went ok!
Planning my diary from June through to the end of the year, taking bookings now for MC/hosting/presenting work. Get in touch to discuss your requirement 👍🏻 #boxing #wrestling #snooker #darts #pool #rugbyleague #fishing #events #radio #tv https://t.co/1L9R5gRFRq pic.twitter.com/b1MNyZlTyB
— Phil Seymour 🎙 (@announcerphil) 7 May 2019
Have you ever met with Rob Walker to share tips or any advice as two people involved in the same game?
No, we’ve chatted via social media, but never actually met. It’s the same with many other MCs as we all tend to be working in different cities at the same time. Rob is a great guy though, so friendly and really helpful. He’s given me a few tips and is always there if I do need him for anything.
What are your hopes for the future?
I’d love to keep working on the snooker, and I really hope to do some tournaments overseas at some point, just to experience what it’s like.
Snooker is growing in popularity on tv – how do you see it going in say five to ten years time in terms of MCing etc?
I can see there being even more tournaments, which is great for the sport as a whole. The new Tour Championship went down really well this year, and I’m sure there is room in the calendar for some more. From an MC perspective, I’d like to think the old adage “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” applies, as I love what I do, and I don’t think the atmosphere in the arena would be the same without an MC to do the warm-up, introductions etc.
Who’s your fav player – excluding Ronnie O?
I honestly don’t have a favourite player. Most of them are really nice behind the scenes, which is great. Players I enjoy watching most include Ronnie, Judd Trump, Neil Robertson and Thepchaiaya Un-Nooh because I find their style of play to be exciting, but sometimes it’s the games you don’t expect that turn out to be the best of all. Thepchaiaya’s performance in the shoot-out was special this year, and he is such a lovely, humble guy, you couldn’t help but be really pleased for him.
Do you play snooker yourself?
I am horrifically colourblind, so despite playing a bit when I was young, I never really spent much time on it because I can’t tell the reds from the green and brown! Seriously. I do play a little bit, but it’s difficult. It’s easier to watch the professionals because more often than not the balls stay on their spots so I can work out which is which. This doesn’t stop me participating in plenty of challenges in cue zones, where I love to have a laugh with the WPBSA coaches and many snooker fans have enjoyed watching me fail to pot balls all season!
Finally , can you tell us something about you people don’t know or maybe you’ve got a funny story that’s happened in your career etc?
Some people know this already, but hopefully, some won’t. I became a Dad for the third time earlier this year, my partner giving birth to a beautiful baby girl who we named Charlotte or Lottie for short. The funny thing about it was the timing of the birth. She was due the Tuesday two days after the final of the shoot-out, just a few days before the Players Championship started in Preston. It was really nervy for me because I was worried that I’d have to rush off from a tournament etc. She travelled with me to Cheltenham for the World Grand Prix, Cardiff for the Welsh Open and Watford for the shoot-out, just in case the baby arrived early, but nothing happened! Thankfully, Lottie arrived just one day late, on the Wednesday, I then MCd the boxing on Sky Sports on the Saturday and headed to Preston on the Monday for the snooker! It was a crazy few weeks, but all ended well! Lottie then came along to Llandudno for the Tour Championship, and met the likes of Ronnie, Stephen Hendry and a few snooker fans too!
SnookerZone would like to thank Phil for taking the time to talk to SnookerZone and we wish him well in the great job he’s doing as an MC in snooker. Catch Phil on his twitter @announcerphil
Also, catch Phil on his website www.philseymour.co.uk now!