David Garrido is a relatively recent addition to the roster of Green-Sports advocates.
He also may be one of the most important.
As a presenter (sportscaster in US-speak) on Sky Sports News, the only 24-hour channel devoted to sports news in the UK, Garrido reaches a massive audience. And with Sky Sports blessing — the network became a signatory to the UNFCC’s Sports For Climate Action framework last year — he is bringing engaging, relatable green content, including climate-themed segments, to football fans.
GreenSportsBlog spoke with Garrido recently about his journey to Green-Sports, the challenges he has faced, and what he’s hoping to accomplish by speaking beyond the converted.
GreenSportsBlog: David, I always wanted to be a sportscaster and in fact I did announce football and basketball on WRSU-FM, the student station at Rutgers University back a million years ago. I ended up going in a different direction. Did you always want to be on the air? And how did you get your start?
David Garrido: Well, Lew, it was never my dream to be a sports presenter. However, there’s is a video lying around somewhere of me pretending to be an announcer so there’s that.
It happened by accident when I attended Oxford in the late 90s. I went there to study languages, French and German to be exact. The student radio station, Oxygen FM, was going commercial at the time as an experiment. I decided to give it a go and ended up hosting “Touchline”, a Saturday afternoon show that was mostly sports — we played music too. It ran from 2 to 6 PM. Covering the day’s Premier League games, rugby, cricket, Formula 1 and more was just fantastic. I got bitten by the bug!
GSB: Oh, I soooo get that! Since college sports isn’t nearly as big a “thing” in the UK as it is here in the USA, I’m guessing you didn’t have a chance to do play-by-play while on the Oxford station…
David: You’re right, Lew — no play-by-play. But we were able to cover the F-1 races at Silverstone, which is located on the border of Oxfordshire, working in the media center, interviewing the legends. It was incredible!
It was around then that I met Jenson Button, at the time an F-3 driver when I was starting out at Oxygen FM, who then became a leading F-1 driver and now is leading a team in Extreme E, the new off-road EV racing circuit that is launching this year…
GSB: …We wrote about Button in January; it’s great to see him becoming an “early adapter” on off-road EV racing. Back to your story. So, what happened after Oxford?
David: A big turning point for me came in 2000. My mum saw a leaflet for tryouts for BBC Talent, a competition to win a contract as a presenter for BBC-TV and said I should apply. I did and went to Birmingham for the audition that spring.
And then I forgot about it.
Then, in September, I got a phone call saying I made it to the second round in London. I had to conduct on-air interviews and read the teleprompter — TV was really alien to me, I hadn’t done much of it before, I felt I wasn’t TV ready. Still at Oxford at that point, I took my junior year abroad in Bonn and was able to work with Deutsche Welle, the German equivalent of the BBC World Service.
Anyway, I was at the office, logged on to my computer and an email from my dad told me I had made it to the finals — it was down to three of us from 1,500 original contestants. It was mind boggling to me!
GSB: That is crazy!
David: I know! So, I went to London and I don’t really know how or why, but I won! And in the end, because I was still at university, I was able to convert the six month contract into a full year. Talk about crazy — I was presenting sports on national TV at 20 years-old and I also worked on BBC Radio 1, which had 13 million weekly listeners…
GSB: That’s about 20 percent of the British population…Crazy indeed!
David: And sports was a relatively small part of BBC Radio 1’s remit and I had a fairly wide berth to chart my own path.
It was great — I got to read bulletins and interview athletes. And I’ve been blessed to cover epic events in the UK and beyond. That included the Premier League from legendary venues like Old Trafford, Highbury, and White Hart Lane¹. I covered the 2008 Champions League Final in Moscow, the famous Chelsea-Manchester United game when Chelsea’s John Terry slipped during penalty kicks and missed, allowing ManU to win it. World Cups in Germany in 2006 and South Africa in 2010. Five Wimbledons. Major cricket Test matches. The 2007 Rugby World Cup final in France. NFL and NBA games in London.
GSB: What a great job you had at BBC Radio 1! Why and when did you leave? And was Sky your next job?
David: Well, Lew, I left the station shortly after the 2010 World Cup Final, in which Spain won their first championship, 1-0 over the Netherlands. I felt like I needed to find my next role and BBC was not adding head count.
At around that time, I received an email with a Sky address and thought ‘this is interesting’. Turns out they were asking if I would do a screen test for Sky Sports News, which would be TV, a big change for me.
GSB: How did that feel?
David: It felt very strange, tell you the truth, I was totally disorientated. But I had so much to potentially gain. And, while I didn’t think the screen test went very well, they seemed to like it. I signed the contract just before Christmas 2010, starting in February 2011, so I’ve been there for ten years.
GSB: Happy anniversary! Talk about Sky Sports News and what you do there…
David: Sky Sports News is the only 24 hour sports news channel in Great Britain. It’s become must-watch for sports fans, a mix of breaking news and highlights. Our biggest show during the Premier League season is “Soccer Saturday,” hosted by Jeff Stelling, who is an institution. It mixes look-ins to live games, score updates and conversation.
I often host “Soccer Saturday Pre-Match,” from 10 AM to noon, which helps fans build up to the day’s action. We focus on the biggest games of the day, break the news of the starting line-ups when we have them, but we also have plenty of other live sports to update on, such as cricket, rugby, Formula 1, etc. It’s a lively shift and you have to be on your toes the whole time.
GSB: That is a powerful platform, one you’ve begun to use, with Sky’s blessing, to communicate the need for climate action and other environmental issues. When did your passion for the environment begin?
David: My parents were always ‘early adopters’ and that included the environment and healthy lifestyles. We had very little red meat, were avid recyclers. And that has stayed with me throughout my life.
It may sound cliché but the idea of being good environmental stewards really crystallized for me with the birth of my son Leo 16 months ago. His arrival was key to making my life more purpose-driven — I’ve become fitter, taking up triathlon. The environment and climate is very important to many in the triathlon community — after all, they’re swimming in open water.
I also saw the documentary film, “The Game Changers,” about the athletic performance, health and climate benefits of a plant-based diet, and “A Life On Our Planet,” Sir David Attenborough’s most recent and incredibly powerful film about how humans are causing climate change and a 6th Extinction…and how it is on us to fix things.
All of this showed me we have to take environmental and climate action and sport has an important role to play. So, it was the last year and a half since Leo’s birth that I’ve begun to see the light on the need for climate action now.
GSB: And it seems has though Sky Sports, exemplified by its signing of the UNFCCC’s Sports for Climate Action framework, has seen the light as well.
David: Absolutely. Looking beyond sports, Sky has had an environmental focus for years, partnering with organizations like WWF for Sky Rainforest Rescue where we helped save one billion trees, and more recently Ocean Rescue, to make people aware of plastic pollution. Sky is also a principal and media partner for the COP26 global climate conference this November in Glasgow, Scotland.
On the sports side, in addition to Sports For Climate Action, Sky has rights to broadcast Extreme E races in the UK.
GSB: How does it make you feel to be a part of an organization that is ramping up its environmental and climate commitments?
David: It feels right.
What Sky is doing is significant and matches what I want to do — which is to use my platform to have a positive influence on climate. It’s very fulfilling when a company’s priorities reflect your own, and that in itself is a huge incentive to keep pushing for the goals we want to achieve.
GSB: How do your colleagues at Sky Sports News feel about your interest in the environment and climate, and for putting Green-Sports-themed stories on the air?
David: Of course, there are different levels of interest in climate – some people are on board already, others are only just starting their journey, but I’m confident that will grow and grow over time. For now, I love to tell ‘sports and sustainability’ stories and pitch them when I feel they will appeal to our audience.
GSB: What kind of Green-Sports stories do you think will appeal to your audience? What types of stories do you feel you need avoid, if any?
David: Certainly, stories where big-name athletes like Arsenal defender Héctor Bellerín are concerned, that will always help draw an audience in, especially in the early stages. I think sports like Extreme E capture the imagination, and otherwise, it’s those creative initiatives or campaigns which involve adventure or endeavor. But it’s up to people like me to find innovative treatments and ways of telling these stories to really hook people in.
And on a serious note, when fans of a certain sport or a certain team realize that their sport or team is being impacted negatively by climate change, those are the cautionary notes we should sensitively reflect as well. Overall, though, the tone should be encouraging and not preachy, and showcase to our audience great examples of climate action to help them feel inspired to change their own mindsets and behaviors.
GSB: What are some of the Green-Sports stories you’ve told on Sky Sports News?
David: Our transfer “Deadline Day” shows — one in January, the other in August — are two of our biggest ratings winners of the year…
GSB: …For American audiences, these are the two trade deadline days of the Premier League season…
David: That’s right. And during all the excitement, I recorded a piece in which I took the viewers through our studios to show them the ways we go about saving or reducing energy usage. For me at least, it was a really important part of our whole operation, and something we’re looking to replicate and scale even further. I had some very positive feedback both on-air and on social networks, especially in the community who were encouraging about what we did on the day.
And this is just the beginning. I want Sky to be the platform for sports sustainability stories. And the opportunity is huge, with more and more teams and athletes doing good things.
Of course, there is Forest Green Rovers, the Greenest Club in Football. Recently we covered the launch of their prototype kit made from coffee grounds and recycled plastic bottles. There have been great green strides from Liverpool and Arsenal…And of course the Premier League sustainability table, won by Spurs this year…
GSB: Who says Spurs never win a trophy??
David: Haha, well, they’re also in the League Cup Final² and still have the Europa League Championship³ to fight for, so there may be more reasons to celebrate. In terms of sustainability, Southampton also deserves mention here. They have their ‘Home Grown’ initiative, which I love: Every time the club promotes a player from its academy to the first team, rather than buying a player from outside the organization, Southampton plants 250 trees in the player’s name in the local area.
And even though it’s early days for me, I see how immense the climate problems are for Britain, including for sports and how important it is to bring these stories to fans.
The Worcestershire cricket ground floods all the time. Montrose Golf Links, the fifth oldest course in Scotland, actually had to move the tees because of coastal erosion. Imagine if a mega event like a Wimbledon final or the F.A. Cup final at Wembley Stadium was impacted.
GSB: And mega events are now taking climate impacts into account when planning for potential disruptions. What kind of criticism if any have you gotten for your environmentally-themed stories?
David: Well, there is always resistance to something new, especially from people who don’t want to engage on climate change…
GSB: The ‘shut up and dribble’ crowd…
David: That’s right. Now, I haven’t gotten any nasty tweets just yet, but I don’t doubt that I might. Sadly, there’s always a small, if vocal, minority whenever anyone takes a stand on any significant talking point – be it climate change, racial injustice, homophobia, anything like that.
No matter what, we need to be patient, determined and consistent. Use our creativity as storytellers. Appeal to the values we share with viewers like have a healthy environment for their favorite teams in which to play…and a healthy environment for fans, too — once fans can come back to the grounds, of course.
This kind of thing can get contagious.
When I was at the BBC and was on “Match Of The Day”, we profiled good work being done in the communities of the Premier League clubs — this was not to do with the environment, but it showed there was an appetite on the part of fans to see how clubs were doing good things. Many reporters didn’t really like doing those kind of features; I loved them.
In fact, I remember doing a feature called ‘Tottenham’s Got Talent’, about the club’s work with their supporters with disabilities. It was just fantastic — and well-received by fans.
Now at Sky, we’re doing features on climate within our live output! It’s early days for me but I’m so excited about the possibilities to do my part to drive real change. I can’t wait to do more!
¹ Old Trafford is the home of Manchester United, Highbury was the North London home of Arsenal (now they play at The Emirates Stadium), and White Hart Lane was the old home of my beloved Tottenham Hotspur (they moved into their new stadium in 2019)
² The League Cup, also known as the Carabao Cup, is a single elimination tournament among clubs in the top 4 rungs of the English Football League system – from 1 to 4, it’s the Premier League, Championship, League 1 and League 2. Spurs will play Premier League leaders Manchester City in the Final at Wembley Stadium on April 25. The League Cup is seen as a “poor cousin” to the FA Cup, which involves teams from the Premiere League all the way down to “pub teams” at the 20th level.
³ The Europa League is a 2nd tier competition among European clubs, behind the top tier Champions League. Spurs are into the round of 16, where they will face Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia). If they win the Europa League that qualifies them for the 2021-22 Champions League.
Photo at top: David Garrido is taking an active role in promoting the ‘Sky Zero’ campaign, Sky’s pledge to go net zero carbon by 2030 (Photo credit: David Garrido)