13 reasons sports presenter Ed Chamberlin loves Hampshire
- Credit: Espom Racecourse
From Broughton Buffalo to Leckford Golf Club, Ed shares his favourite things about Hampshire
As ITV Racing’s lead Presenter, Ed Chamberlin has probably seen more of the United Kingdom than most of us. Yet one thing he is sure of, he is happiest here in Hampshire. Unsurprisingly this year he has enjoyed “eating, sleeping and breathing Hampshire” more than ever, having spent the lockdown at his home in the village of Broughton. Even presenting almost a month of “behind closed doors” racing from his sitting room before a small Production team were allowed to return to the racecourses.
Ed fell in love with racing as a child and owes his grandfather for sowing the seed.
“He loved watching racing and every Saturday afternoon, I would become his runner and would help pick his horses. Our family would have a sweepstake for the Grand National each year and I remember 1981, was the first year I was allowed a bet. I put 50p each way on Spartan Missile. I was gutted he came second but from that day on, I was hooked.”
Ed’s father was in the Green Jackets and commanded the barracks in Winchester. He was born in Somerset but he spent most of his childhood in Hampshire, living in Little London and St Mary Bourne. Every two years the family would be posted abroad but Hampshire was always considered home.
He spent his early working life in London including his first racing job for Ladbrokes, before he moved to Sky Sports where he eventually became a principal football presenter. But he admits his heart remained in Hampshire and in 2006, moved back with his family. Initially King’s Sombourne and now Broughton, with his wife Charlotte, 14-year-old daughter Polly and 11-year-old son Sam.
The ITV racing role is all consuming but when he is not working, Ed would choose to be with his family in Hampshire.
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“Sport plays a huge part in our family life, both watching and playing. I have a sport mad son, who plays cricket for Hampshire Central, and also Andover. Because I am usually working, my father loves coming to watch him.”
A die-hard supporter of Southampton Football Club since infancy, he frequently goes to watch games with his son.
“The Saints are particularly close to my heart and my son is now a huge fan. I have fond childhood memories of watching them play at The Dell. Now they are at St Mary’s stadium it is an even better experience.”
When Ed worked as a football presenter, his experience of reporting at Southampton matches could be bittersweet, both home and away. “It should have been extra special because I had such close ties, but actually it could be a complete nightmare”, he admits. “Southampton always lost when I was presenting any of their games, so it ended in heartbreak and I became known as the curse by the players. That curse lasted about two years, and it was finally lifted when then won against Manchester United in a game at Old Trafford.”
As a family they watch a lot of cricket and naturally they are ardent supporters of The Hampshire CC. They are regulars at the Ageas Bowl, particularly the Twenty20 matches and try to go when England are playing there. “I love what Rod Bransgove has done for the venue and for the club” he says.
When it comes to eating and drinking the Chamberlin’s prefer supporting the local producers and businesses in Hampshire. “It’s not difficult because there is so much quality around us. Robinson’s are probably one of the best butchers around. Thyme and Tides is a really cool place to get fresh fish and it really helps that we have The Test running so close.
“Stockbridge is very near to us so we will often go there to eat and drink. A friend of mine, Simon Henderson, has just bought The Grosvenor and is restoring it to its former glory. He has been very brave given it was due to open this year, so I’ll do everything I can to support him.
“The Tally Ho is a great drinking pub. And the Greyhound, (not to be confused with the one in Stockbridge, which is also good) serves fantastic Thai food. So that’s wonderful to have in my village, but it’s also probably the reason I look a little bit wider on screen”, he laughs.
During the lockdown, the surrounding countryside was fully appreciated. Walks with their black labrador, Hebe were part of the entertainment as well as bike rides.
“We are so spoiled with the countryside around here. It was difficult to feel anything other than extremely lucky. ”
Although something of a rarity, a perfect weekend off for Ed would involve a round of golf at Leckford Golf Club. Then go for a pub lunch at the Mayfly in Stockbridge or if the weather is good he likes to barbecue some locally produced Broughton Buffalo. “If you like beef, it’s unbeatable- so lean and delicious. Then we might go for a walk on Broughton Down, and possibly a village pub.”
Whilst it sounds like a charmed existence, life has not always been plain sailing. In 2009 he was diagnosed with stomach cancer, enduring chemo, months in hospital and the fear that he might not make it. It did not stop him tuning into sport every day as he explains, “I was the only person to have a television brought into intensive care, so I could watch Cheltenham and the Champions League. I was watching Tony McCoy and remember my chemo drip coming out because I was shouting at the telly so much. Every time I sit in the presenting chair, I think how lucky I am. It has given me a totally new perspective. If I hadn’t been on that journey I wouldn’t have left football to move to ITV racing.”
Racing was one of the first sports to resume after the lockdown, and initially the ITV presenting team was taking “Working from home” to another level. Together with his co-presenter Francesca Cumani, they were presenting from their homes, including a number of significant races like the 1000 and 2000 Guineas. There was the odd technical hitch but they managed to pull it off with the same professionalism and panache that helped win them Broadcast Sports Presenter of the Year at the prestigious Sports Journalists awards in 2019. The ITV Racing team previously won a BAFTA 2017 for the Grand National, for which Ed was lead Presenter.
Royal Ascot was the first festival where the ITV Presenters were allowed on course but the experience for Ed and the team was nothing short of surreal. “Racing behind closed doors was really weird. I’ll have to remind myself in the future that I presented to The Classics, from my sitting room. But we have been so lucky compared to other sports and other people. And we are lucky that racing is a sport that works so well behind closed doors.”
Despite this the viewing figures for the ITV racing output have been eye-popping. With approximately 200,000 more viewers on average.
The big meetings like Royal Ascot and the Derby were very strange without spectators, explains Ed. Royal Ascot would usually expect approximately 300,000 guests over five days of racing.
“It was a real challenge to add that excitement without the crowds. My worry is that race courses will be so damaged by this if we don’t get the crowds back soon. York and Doncaster have said they’re willing to try pilot schemes with spectators but nobody really knows when this might actually happen. It’s in everyone’s interest to get the crowds back in to all sports, they are the lifeblood after all.”