Q&A with Andrew Cotter: from commentating dogs’ breakfasts to falling ill on live TV

One of Ayrshire's finest discusses World Cups, Olympic Games, The Boat Race, The Masters, Wimbledon and everything in between

Andrew Cotter during the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship at the Abu Dhabi Golf Cub
Andrew Cotter during the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship at the Abu Dhabi Golf Cub

Q: I imagine you are struggling to find much to commentate on at the moment?

Certainly am – Wales v Scotland was called off as I was heading down to Cardiff and on the same day we lost the London Marathon and the Masters. Recently I would have been on the Thames for the Boat Race, the Olympics has been delayed by a year. Wimbledon and the Open as well. The list of the lost goes on …

Q: Do you routinely pick some mundanity in life to comment on to hone your skills?

No, usually (when life was normal) as soon as the microphone goes down, I switch off. Commentating on things everyday would just be a bit much. As well as a bit weird. But now life itself is so weird that we don’t know what normal is. Which is demonstrated perfectly by one of the biggest audiences I will experience this year saw me commentating on my dogs eating breakfast. 

Q: You grew up in Ayrshire and played golf at a decent level but not quite good enough to turn pro?

Not nearly good enough. I always wanted to when I was younger but the lowest handicap I got to was one. I’m also glad I wasn’t good enough because the life of a professional golfer is actually far more tedious and taxing than it appears when you’re young.

Q: And the garish threads!

I admit that golf has a poor reputation when it comes to clothing. And probably deservedly so. In the 1980s it was about knitwear. A lot of knitwear….

Q; Which do you prefer to commentate on: golf, rugby, athletics……the Boat Race?

Rugby and athletics are fantastic because they have such pace and atmosphere about them. Commentary is at its most enjoyable when there is a great crowd noise to ride on.

Q; Who is the most famous sports person you have interviewed?

Probably Tiger Woods, perhaps Roger Federer. One much easier than the other. I’ll let you guess which!

Q: And the most famous sportsperson in your phone contacts?

Ummmm … Not many. Does Gary Lineker count? Brian O’Driscoll? Monty?

Q: Most embarrassing time live on air?

No contest. Italy v Wales 2013 in Rome. Norovirus.

Q: Ahhh Norovirus….happy days. Can you paint us a picture?

It would be quite a grotesque picture, so no. Suffice to say that my memories of The Stadio Olimpico are not good.

Q: Who do you most enjoy working with?

They’re all great in rugby. And I think some of the newer ones coming in like Paul O’Connell have been fantastic additions. Jiffy (Jonathan Davies) is always superb for energy and his reading of the game is second to none. In tennis, John McEnroe is the best co-commentator, but also probably the most intimidating …

Q: Whereas Brian “the pitbull” Moore…a big softie really?

Soft? No. But a very nice guy.

Q: How are you staying busy?

A few weeks ago I started a golf podcast with Tour player Eddie Pepperell. It was to replace The BBC one which sadly ended. Apart from that, enduring lockdown like everybody else. Running through local fields with my dogs and watching repeats of ‘Hart to Hart’ on TV.

Q: You understand how much that ages you right?

I didn’t say I remembered the original run of Hart to Hart.

Although I do.

Q: What is the most lucrative gig in your calendar?

Well, Wimbledon and The Olympics probably. But now …

Q; What is the most enjoyable?

I do love the trip to Augusta for The Masters and The Six Nations is very hard to beat, but travelling to all sorts of different places for big events isn’t too bad. I loved the World Cup in Japan and was looking forward to getting back out there for The Olympics. But Tokyo will still be there next year. I think.

Q: You might just have the best job in the world. Tell us the downside to cheer us up!

There is far, far more work involved than you might think before you even get near the actual commentating. And airports. I hate airports. But yes, in general I’m very lucky.

Unless sport is cancelled for some enormous reason. In which case I have no employment.

Q: Do you do any after dinner speaking?

I do but not too much because it’s quite a bit of pressure, although I do a lot of hosting and MC-ing. Much more enjoyable.

Q: Who is best to work for BBC/Sky/BT Sport/Others?

They all have their strengths and I think they’re all wonderful and benevolent employers. But on a serious note, the BBC has been very good to me over the years and given me almost all of my big opportunities.

Q: Best move you ever made?

Moving down to London in 2000 – I hated leaving Scotland but to move forward as a sports broadcaster it had to be done.

Q: Any advice for young aspiring commentators?

Watch and listen to sport and try a bit of it yourself. But in this day and age probably just start your own YouTube Channel and make some interesting content.

Without infringing copyright of course …

The TOL’s guide to essential YouTube viewing during lockdown

About David Barnes 3911 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.