Commentators from Channel Nine and Fox Sports have been informed that NRL referees will punish the mispronunciation of players’ names from this weekend, in a move similar to the crackdown on head-high tackles during Magic Round.
“Commentators must correctly pronounce the names of all players during broadcasts,” announced Jared Maxwell, General Manager, Elite Officiating.
“TV commentators are paid a lot of money to talk about football, so the least they can do is get the names right- especially since many of them are household names.”
An extra official will be appointed to every game to specifically monitor broadcasts, and commentators will be sent to the sin bin for the first infringement, or sent out of the commentary box for the rest of the game for repeated or serious errors. Regular trips to the judiciary will result in suspensions or fines.
“So, every time Ray Warren tells us that Tino Fa’asuamaleaui is from ‘Malawi’, he’ll be sent to the bin and cannot broadcast for 10 minutes. If he and other commentators continue to get it wrong, they’ll be off for the rest of the game. I think you’ll hear a lot of commentators calling him ‘Big Tino’ from now on.”
The Gold Coast Titans enforcer is not the only player whose name is mangled on a regular basis.
“The new crackdown obviously applies mostly to the pronunciation of Pasifika names – players from countries such as Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and PNG, as well as Maori names,” explained Maxwell.
“Players with Pasifika heritage now make up about 50% of all NRL squads, so it’s important that everyone in rugby league, especially commentators, pronounce their names correctly. We understand that many of the names are very long and unfamiliar to the predominantly Caucasian commentators who cover the games on TV, but we also believe that pronouncing names correctly is a bare minimum requirement for the highly-paid TV personalities.”
“It’s 2021, you shouldn’t be getting paid a fortune to stuff up a name and just laugh it off”
Maxwell also stressed that most of the names which trouble commentators belong to the stars of the game, like Jason Taumalolo, Josh Papali’i, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Fa’asuamaleaui and Nelson Asofa-Solomona, plus emerging stars such as Keaon Koloamatangi.
“Fans have also noticed that names like Josh Papali’i sound different this season, and the crackdown reflects that correction. Also, it’s impossible to win a premiership these days without Pasifika players, so the least the commentators can do is pronounce their names correctly.”
Channel Nine and Fox Sports are yet to publicly respond to the announcement, but insiders from both networks revealed that all commentators have today started a 3-day pronunciation boot camp in preparation for the first game under the new rules on Thursday, when Taumalolo, Connelly Lemuelu and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow will face a Knights squad containing Sauaso Sue, Pasami Saulo and Christian Ma’anaima.
Commentators from the various radio stations which cover NRL have also been put on notice, and if the initiative proves successful, it is expected to be adopted by AFL, Rugby Union and Football administrators, even though it is less of an issue in these codes.
Australia’s other major football codes would most likely introduce it next season, giving AFL commentator Brian Taylor time to practice those tricky Italian names.