Video: Welwyn Garden City man is 'The Voice' of darts
PUBLISHED: 11:53 07 January 2009 | UPDATED: 22:06 26 October 2009
ON Sunday, darts legend Phil 'The Power' Taylor won his 14th world title with a 7-1 defeat of Dutchman Raymond van Barneveld. The first five sets of the match were refereed by former WGC man Russ Bray, who has become famous for announcing the scores in h
ON Sunday, darts legend Phil 'The Power' Taylor won his 14th world title with a 7-1 defeat of Dutchman Raymond van Barneveld.
The first five sets of the match were refereed by former WGC man Russ Bray, who has become famous for announcing the scores in his deep, gravelly tones.
Here reporter Chris Richards meets the man behind 'The Voice'.
RUSS Bray is an eminently likeable man. A firm handshake and a warm smile greeted me when I arrived at his home in Shenley, where he has lived with wife Sue for the last four years.
Over a cup of tea, it quickly became apparent that Russ's life revolves around darts.
It all started back in 1975, when Russ, a former Metropolitan police officer and scaffolder, first started playing the game.
He reached a good standard, playing super league darts for WGC Trades & Labour Club, representing Hertfordshire at county level and even entering tournaments on the professional circuit in the early 90s.
He enjoyed some success, including reaching the semi-finals of the Norway open pairs with the inimitable Eric Bristow.
As for his refereeing, Russ, who lived in the Panshanger, Mill Green and Corals Mead areas for some 13 years, admits he fell into it by chance, following an unforeseen absence at a county darts match.
"The caller never turned up, so I called a couple of games to help out," Russ, 51, explained.
"I eventually became the county caller."
And Russ enjoyed refereeing so much that in 1996, he "chanced his arm" and contacted the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC).
"The PDC only had two referees, so I rang them up and said 'do you want a reserve referee?'.
"They gave me a trial and the rest is history."
Russ made his debut at the World Matchplay in Blackpool in 1996, in a match involving the great John Lowe, and to this day, the tournament remains his favourite in the darts calendar.
"I like the whole set up at Blackpool," he says.
"The venue [the Winter Gardens] is beautiful and the atmosphere is electric."
Over the past 12 years, Russ, who is originally from South Ockendon, in Essex, has collected many memories - but one in particular stands out.
A first in 2002
"I was the first referee to call a live nine-dart finish on British TV," he beams, referring to Phil Taylor's feat at the 2002 World Matchplay event.
As well as calling tournaments all over the world, including in the US, Holland and Australia, the father-of-four is also very much in demand for darts exhibitions, and currently works closely with world number 17 Kevin Painter.
Renowned for his guttural tones, Russ has attracted the moniker 'The Voice' and, over the last decade, has found himself very much in demand for voiceover work.
Currently the voice of Nuts TV, McCoys crisps and PartyPoker, Russ has also done some acting, appearing in 2002 darts flick Heartlands and more recently, playing a gypsy in the late Heath Ledger's final film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.
Bizarrely, Russ also holds a Guinness World Record, for hitting the bullseye on a standard dartboard from 10ft - into a 27mph head wind!
"We got asked to do a publicity thing down on the front at Blackpool," he says.
"My fifth dart hit the bullseye."
"None of the other players could hit it so I got the record."
When he is not refereeing or playing darts, Russ enjoys golf and, with a handicap of 10, is a more than useful player.
Before I left, I asked Russ if darts should be included in the Olympics. His answer is emphatic: "Definitely - it's a sport.
"What better time to have it in the Olympics than London 2012."
I for one couldn't agree more - London 2012, game on!