John Dykes is a TV presenter and commentator with Disney-owned Fox Sports Asia, based in Singapore. He writes and hosts the three-times weekly ‘The John Dykes Show’, and presents and commentates on a wide range of football from the Bundesliga to the AFC Champions League.
‘Dykesy’ was educated in England and Hong Kong, and enjoyed his first taste of sport as a reporter with the South China Morning Post. His television career includes work with the Hong Kong-based TVB and World Sport Group, before moving to Singapore with ESPN STAR Sports. Prior to his current position he worked as the in-house presenter and commentator for Premier League Productions based in London.
What was the first Live Event Hospitality programme that you attended, and what particular impressions did it make on you?
The Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, 1983 at the old National Stadium. My father was a banker with Citibank and they had a corporate box. I normally spent my time with the other students in the North Stand, where the Sevens represented a rite of passage involving first beers and the suchlike, so the hospitality suite represented a level of sophistication I was unused to. And the rugby was brilliant!
And what is your favourite Live Event that you would encourage everyone to book when it goes on sale, and what makes it so special?
Any event that gives you a chance to get close to the stars of the game. In 2017, I attended the UEFA Champions League Final in Cardiff, mingling with star players and coaches in the hospitality area, then drove straight to Birmingham after the game and watched an ICC Champions Trophy cricket match between India and Pakistan the following day - an added bonus being that my hospitality package included a pre-game chat with former stars of both teams at the India team hotel.
Who do you consider to be your business mentor or mentors, and what particular examples did they imprint on your business values?
As a journalist, I learned about accuracy and accountability from countless editors and reporters. In terms of sports broadcasting, I am indebted to former ESPN Star Sports MD Rik Dovey, who amongst other nuggets that informed my presenting style, once growled, ‘good show mate, but I don’t pay you to have an opinion.’
During my time anchoring the Premier League’s world feed, I worked with one of England’s best football studio directors Richard ‘Dickie’ Day, who was uncompromising in his belief that rehearsal had to be long, serious and as ‘real life’ as possible. He was right.
What was the most significant ‘Sliding Doors’ moment in your career, and how did this impact you?
In 1996, I was working as part of the production team at the World Sport Group when I fielded a call from the no-nonsense head of production at STAR Sports (then based in HK), who were about to move to Singapore and were looking for an anchor. ‘I know you can produce and present, but what are you? they asked. I stammered something about being able to do both. My then boss, Ben Nicholas, rushed into the room, put his hand over the receiver and muttered, ‘Mate, what are you doing? Tell them you’re a presenter!’ I did and within two years I was living in Singapore, hosting UEFA Champions League football, tennis Grand Slams, golf Majors, Formula One and a slew of cricket shows and matches.
If you had the option to experience/live in one music video which would it be and why?
I’d have been happy just to sit in the corner of the Huntington Beach set, petting Izzy Stradlin’s dog, as Guns N’ Roses made the Sweet Child O’ Mine video.
What was your favourite televised live sport event or moment that you remember from childhood, why did it make such a lasting impression on you?
I was only six when the 1970 World Cup took place, but I remember my father calling me into the living room and making me watch Pele and company whenever Brazil played. Even then, I was struck by the way sport could absolutely leave you transfixed, especially whenever Jairzinho lined up a shot.
Who was playing at the first concert you attended, where and when, and what do you remember of the experience?
AC/DC, Hammersmith Odeon 1978. The band in their pomp, Angus Young charged through the crowd playing a solo and the show was simply electrifying. The following year, singer Bon Scott passed away and heavy rock had lost perhaps its greatest live act of the time.
What do you remember — across all genres — as the most emotional moment in television or film or a sporting event that has brought tears to your eyes?
I don’t recall crying during any sporting event and in film and television it tends to be anything involving cruelty to children or animals that gets me choked up.
What was your childhood or earliest ambition?
I honestly couldn’t say I had any specific ambition but in terms of day-dreams, they would involve scoring goals or tries, taking wickets and winning races on the track. I was obsessed with sport.
Which experience had the biggest impact on your life and how you see the world?
Moving to Singapore in 1997. I threw myself into the most important role of my life as a multi-sport anchor at ESPN Star Sports, learning something new every day and racking up staggering hours on air. I learned to take my craft seriously, to collaborate with a production team and also to appreciate the cultural diversity in my workplace. Simultaneously, I met the amazing woman who was to become my wife. Within 18 months, we were married. 12 months later, we had the first of our two daughters. Professionally and personally, these were the best things that ever happened to me and I learned the vital lesson of respecting myself, my trade, my team and my family.
If your 22-year-old self could see you now, what would he think and what advice would you pass back to your younger self?
I don’t have any of those motivational speaker lines for you, I’m afraid. It would probably involve realising it is important to save money and get on the property ladder.
What day in your life would you most want to repeat??
The day I married Gina in Singapore in December 1997. A perfect day, surrounded by family and good friends, in my favourite place. We staged the wedding based on doing what we liked, not what traditional dictated and we had a blast: my day began with a run and a swim on the East Coast, our reception began in an old colonial bungalow built by Arabian traders and it ended with a party in a beach bar.
Which TV shows’ intro/theme songs do you never skip because they are so good?
What is a compliment that you really wish people wouldn’t give you?
‘I grew up watching you.’
What is/was the new technology or device that you immediately understood was going to be life-changing and how has it/did it impact your life?
Wireless technology. It just felt so right to cut cords and be able to do what I was doing in a studio, on-site, or wherever without restriction.
Without saying what the category is, what are your worst five of all time?
Backstreet Boys, N’Sync, Westlife, 98 Degrees, Take That
What are the best books you’ve read in the past year?
‘The New Iberia Blues’ by James Lee Burke, one of my all-time favourite writers for his brutal but lyrical evocations of crime and social injustice in Louisiana and Montana.
I’d also like to plug my friend James Chadwick’s remarkable first novel, ‘Path: A Story of Love, A Guide to Life’.
What are the three most rewarding podcasts, newspapers apps, or IG, YouTube and Twitter accounts you follow and why?
Joe Rogan’s podcast, which I usually watch bits of on YouTube, I like the sports writing in The Athletic (I pay for the app) and I love what is happening in the streaming space, so I subscribe to one of my favourite musicians’ Twitch channel, “Kiichichaos” by Matt Heafy of Trivum: he streams five days a week from his home studio, playing, singing and engaging with fans.
What’s the best, most useful word from another language that you aren’t fluent in?
‘Wabi-sabi’(侘寂) , the Japanese term that describes seeing beauty in imperfection, particularly in the natural world.
Tell us something even your colleagues might not know about you
I really dislike cake, especially sponge cake, and have to do my best to disguise this (or slip away to the bathroom or anywhere out of range) whenever it appears.
What non-curriculum subject[s] should be required for anyone leaving school or university to understand fully before they enter the workforce?
Anything to do with the technical skills we increasingly need to communicate ideas in the workspace.
If someone gave you a box that contained everything you have lost in life, what’s the first thing you would search for?
My father first. I miss him. Then, the Anterior Cruciate Ligament from my left knee. Boy I miss that guy and wish he had never exploded back in 1998.
What is the first sentence from the best novel yet to be written about the coronavirus?
‘Donald Trump set down his bottle of Corona and fixed the Mexican President with a steely gaze…’
To quote The Goo Goo Dolls, for you, ‘… the closest to heaven that I'll ever be …’ is where, with whom, when and doing what
Either in the front row of a heavy rock concert (Alter Bridge, Trivium, Megadeth) with my amazing metal-loving wife or on holiday in Hawaii with Gina and the girls.
During this lock-down what are the things you’ve come to value most by their absence from your life and how will you put that right when this over?
Listening to talented musicians and watching great athletes doing what they do best. In the flesh, not via a screen. We need to experience them as much as we can, when we can, in case they are taken away from us again.
What celebrity death hit you the hardest and why?
Chris Cornell. The man’s singing and lyrics always touched my heart. It was made even worse by the fact that he foretold his own death so often and we all just hoped they were only lyrics.
What is something your generation did that you regret most your child’s generation will never get to experience or understand?
Journalists used to get really close to managers and players, maybe even befriend them, while at the same time being able to differentiate between their personal and professional dealings.
What is the darkest, most unsatisfactory and on-going issue you have seen or experienced in your business?
The politicisation of things that really should just come down to merit.
If you had access to your lifetime stats in any area, what would you put forward as your most interesting statistic, and what should be learn from this?
The answer is 36. As in 36 years between individual gold medals (HK Schools A Grade 400 metres finals 1983 and 2019 Singapore Spartan Race Men’s 55 and over). Lesson learned: should have kept running track as long as I could or discovered obstacle course racing a lot earlier.