Premier League Darts: We spoke to Russ Bray, the man behind that growl at the oche
More of a rom-com than Guy Ritchie man...
Last Updated: 29/04/15 8:38pm
Every great darts night features Russ Bray growling "180!" as one of your favourite players hits a maximum - and he speaks that way on the phone, too.
We asked arrows fans to tweet us with questions for the most recognisable referee in the sport and tried to think of other jobs that might suit Bray's unique tone. At our second attempt of ringing him (he's got the best answerphone message ever, you can imagine) here's what we asked...
Russ, we know you can referee darts but can you actually play?
Russ said: I’m not very good anymore! I used to play for Hertfordshire for many years, which is a good standard. If I stood at the board for an hour I’d hit a 180 but I wouldn’t win a match – most of the darts fans out there could beat me these days.
If someone else can imitate your voice, how do they become darts' top referee?
Russ said: I started off calling for my county in front of lots of people and got myself noticed. Most of the top pros played county darts. If you’re good enough, and noticeable enough, there might be a slot within the PDC for you.
But it was that Cockney twang that got you noticed, right?
Russ said: I got noticed initially because of the voice! I was a reserve referee in Hertfordshire back in 1996 and eventually refereed with Freddie Williams.
I never meant to get into this job! I was at a county match and the caller didn’t turn up, so I said ‘I know my numbers’ and I put my hand up. I called a couple of games before I played and I became the county caller. After a year or so, the PDC realised I had a very different voice to everyone else.
People always ask me to narrate a Guy Ritchie gangster film! But I think it would funny to do a really soppy rom-com with my voice!
You're very good at adding up at the oche - you must have passed your maths exams with flying colours...
Russ said: I was always good at maths tests at school! As a referee you look at the darts board differently to a player. They think differently. A referee has to add every score up, whereas a player will hit double 18 and know he needs 32. A player subtracts numbers but we have to add it up and take it away, which is the subtle difference.
You must get ill with all that shouting?
Russ said: No, I’ve never had a sore throat – it just sounds like I have. I’m too excited.
Has a bad darts player ever hit you with an arrer?
Russ said: A dart has bounced off the board and come straight at me but it’s never done damage. It just hits me in the body and falls down. That’s the first thing they teach you – don’t stand in the way of the darts!
A referee has to add every score up, whereas a player will hit double 18 and know he needs 32. A player subtracts numbers but we have to add it up and take it away, which is the subtle difference.
OK, let's ask a serious question. Have you ever considered a career doing Hollywood movies?
Russ said: People always ask me to narrate a Guy Ritchie gangster film! But I think it would funny to do a really soppy rom-com with my voice!
I’m doing a children’s programme called The Land of Sometime which is an animated show where I’ll be singing. That’s a far cry with the horror films you might associate my voice with! I do voiceovers but films is something I’ll go for in the future. I’ve got a good CV! I’d love to narrate a film.
If you did announcements at a London tube station, which station would suit your voice?
Russ said: I’d have to do Mile End or Bethnal Green in the East End because I’m an Essex lad and that’s how my voice sounds. But I could speak in another accent and welcome all the tourists to Covent Garden. I can do a Prince Charles voice and they could let me do the announcements at Kensington.
Do you use your powers for no-good?
Russ said: I don’t usually play tricks with people on the phone. If someone rings me up about my PPI I might start having some fun with them using my voice. People usually come up to me on the golf course and say ‘are you the geezer who does the darts?’ I say ‘no that bloke is rubbish’ and carry on playing.
Back to the darts! What's the difference between now and when you started refereeing?
Russ said: The standard and depth of talent. When I started there was Phil Taylor, whose always been head and shoulders better, then there was four of five other good players. Now, anyone can go and win the Premier League. In bigger tournaments, any one of 32 players can win. Taylor and Michael van Gerwen set the benchmark but the top 32 players can hit over 100 averages, which wasn’t always the case. There’s more characters these days, and some wonderful players.
Where's the best place darts has taken you?
Russ said: We had a fantastic time in Johannesburg and Cape Town in South Africa. It was summer time, the sun was out and we were in holiday mode.
Finally, any message for Premier League Darts fans?
Russ said: Just enjoy it because this is the best Premier League we’ve ever had. Crunch time is still to come and it’s massively exciting. Watch this space – the best is yet to come.
Check out Premier League Darts on Thursday at 7pm on Sky Sports 1 HD.