How the extra-curricular helped sports presenter Mark Chapman go the extra mile
In his first night living in The Lawns Mark Chapman met a kindred spirit. They got to talking about the media and both revealed their ambitions. Mark’s new friend wanted to become the next Phillip Schofield and Mark wanted to be the next Simon Mayo. More than two decades later and Mark, known to 5 Live listeners as Chappers, has become a household name after working on Radio 1, switching to Radio 5 Live and latterly landing a coveted position hosting Match of the Day 2.
That first week at university was formative in all sorts of ways. He met a friend who would go on to be the best man at his wedding and the pair played football together throughout university. Then, on his first Friday evening in Hull he celebrated his 18th birthday watching The Mock Turtles play Freshers’ Week. In one week he’d become an adult, met his best man and plotted his path to stardom – a great advert for taking all the opportunities university life will throw your way.
Taking sporting chances
Mark recently published his second book, The Love of the Game: Parenthood, Sport and Me, which documents the role sport has played in his life and the increasing role it plays in his relationship with his children. Speaking to Venn en route to Salford Quays to present an evening of Champions League football, he recalls what a massive role sport also played in his university life and friendships.
He says: “The book turned out to be about how important sport is to my family and how much we love it and how it defines our relationship. One of the things I tell my children at the moment is that the people they are playing with now are the people they will remember and hopefully still be friends with when they are my age.
“All my best friends from university – all the ones I am still in touch with and the people I would turn to in any kind of crisis – they all came through playing football together at Hull. It most definitely runs through the majority of my friendships.”
Moving from intramural football in first year to the University team Mark often squeezed five football sessions a week around his degree studies in French and Business. “We trained on a Monday, played on a Wednesday, trained on a Thursday, played fives on a Friday, played another game on Saturday and some people continued to play intramurals on Sundays.
“My tutors might tell you I didn’t have much time for studying given the work I handed in … but I think I did probably manage to find enough time for study. Just work hard, play hard I suppose. It certainly felt like a really nice balance.”
Mark says the highlights were often the away games with coach journeys all over the North and the Midlands.
“It was about the trip there and the drink afterwards and the meal with the opposition. There are so many different facets to sport, not just the 80 or 90 minutes but all the other stuff – the friendship and camaraderie and the opportunity to visit new places,” he says.
In The Love of the Game Mark pays special tribute to the unsung heroes that keep grassroots sport going in the UK and the indelible marks some of these people can leave on their young charges. In his case it was his coach at his local club, Brooklands Youth FC, Dick Crotty, who drilled into him that wearing an additional layer under your football shirt to keep warm was a cardinal sin – a rule that he still abides by to this day and is enforcing with his own children. During his time at Hull the University’s links with local sports teams were blossoming (see page 22 for more on this) and he recalls Hull City centre half Gary Hobson being brought in to coach the University team.
Acknowledging the huge part that sport plays in the identity of the city, Mark says he and his friends did their best to take in as much local sport as they could by attending Hull FC games at The Boulevard, watching Hull City (including their 7–1 demolition of Crewe in 1994) and even taking in the greyhound racing at Craven Park.
“There is no doubt that sport plays an incredibly important part in the city, but particularly rugby league. I can’t tell you how much I love the city. When I go back to cover the rugby league now, which is at least once a season, rather than rushing straight home I just have a little drive around and remember some of the places. A couple of years ago I drove into The Lawns, which is where I lived in first year. I had a wander down and had a look into the common room at Grant. It gives me a warm feeling to drive around and remember some of the old haunts.”
Uni gig honed the radio star
Off the football field the other opportunity Hull offered Mark was a chance to pursue his childhood dream of being on Radio 1. As a teenager he did stints on hospital radio and took work experience placements on radio stations where he was told to study what he enjoyed and was good at, rather than worrying about a future career. “French I just adored at school,” he says. “And it was en vogue to pair Business Studies with lots of things, including a modern language. I went to look at three or four unis and as soon as I saw Hull I knew that was where I wanted to go. It was as easy as that. It’s hard to put into words but it just felt right. Whatever we were shown felt right and it was the right size of city to take my first steps into adulthood.”
Mark threw himself into University Radio Hull, taking on one or two shows a week, often with the help of ‘the next Phillip Schofield’ that he met in week one.
“It was a huge experience. I have no idea whether anyone listened to it, to be honest. It was maybe played out in the union canteen, but aside from that I doubt many tuned in. But, from a career point of view, people listening to it was kind of irrelevant – it was all about getting the experience and doing as much as possible to hone what I was doing.”
Leaving Hull for London with the experience to help kickstart a successful broadcasting career and a group of lifelong friends was the result of grabbing the opportunities university life presented, and Mark would urge any student to do the same.
“When you go to the Freshers’ Fair and are literally bombarded with every kind of society you could dream of, it is kind of magical and overwhelming at the same time. But you have to throw yourself into it and that is one of the beauties of university.”
10 of the best
Where did you spend most of your time at university?
I would say on the football pitch, apart from the odd red card …
What was the strangest position your found yourself in during your time at Radio 1?
Locked in the toilets while I was supposed to be on air.
What was the greatest sporting moment you witnessed live?
I was in the Olympic Stadium for Super Saturday. For sheer, pure joy that would be hard to beat.
It felt like a very special time for the country – as well as Rutherford, Farah and Ennis (pictured below) – and you left the stadium absolutely bouncing.
Who inspires you as a broadcaster?
Simon Mayo inspires me and always has. Eddie Mair I think is a wonderful broadcaster who manages to do serious and sarcastic and witty all in the space of a news show, which is a special talent to have.
Do you ever get star struck?
Not really. All the big names in my time at Radio 1
were lovely to deal with, from Beyoncé to Noel and Liam Gallagher to Mariah Carey, who was a dream to deal with – no diva behaviour.
Who would be a dream interview?
Definitely Eric Cantona. And another one would be Bill Belichick. Perhaps the greatest NFL coach of all time and he’s just won another Super Bowl with the Patriots. He is absolutely notorious for his monosyllabic answers and being grumpy with the media though. To get to the inner workings of him would be a challenge.
What’s the best thing about being a journalist?
The opportunities it presents.
What’s your best quality as a journalist?
What’s your own finest sporting moment?
My one and only goal for school from 40 yards that I maintain I definitely meant. I was mobbed and my dad, who hardly missed anything sporty
that I did, was virtually up in a tree he jumped so high.
Describe your university experience in three words.
Fun, fun and cold. Coming out of that cinema on St Andrews Quay on a Sunday night, my God, there aren’t many colder places on Earth!