Valleys Firefighter who takes role as Gladiators Referee

Written by on 31st January 2024

A firefighter and fitness trainer has described working on the reboot of the 1990s gameshow Gladiators as his “coolest job”.

Lee Phillips, who is from Aberdare said he remembered dreaming of being on the show as a child.

When offered to be part of the reboot of the Gladiators for BBC One, he said he jumped at the chance. Lee was offered the role of a fitness tester behind the scenes, and then on screen as an assistant referee.

The London firefighter of 23 yeas said: “I was like ‘why not?'”

Speaking to Behnaz Akhgar on BBC Radio Wales, he said “It is a pretty cool thing to do.”

Growing up in the valleys, Lee said Gladiators was a “big Saturday night event”.

“We didn’t have phones and social media to distract us so everyone sort of got round the TV and watched it.

“I think the new series has stayed true to the original,” he said.

“There are people now who grew up watching that show as kids who’ve now got kids themselves… so it’s sort of excitement across the whole family, I think.”

Lee Phillips (left), Sonia Mkoloma and Mark Clattenburg are the referees for the new series of Gladiators. Photo – BBC

Lee is a fitness professional, firefighter and athlete. Following University, he moved to London where he joined the fire service and became a full time firefighter. After joining the fire service Lee began competing in firefighter fitness competitions and in August 2017 competed in the World Police and Firefighter Games in Los Angeles amongst 10,000 athletes. He won gold in the Ultimate Firefighter and CrossFit competitions making him double World Champion.

Lee said he was initially asked to run fitness test for the Gladiators, which turned into a role wearing the black and white stripes.

Lee and Sonia Mkoloma, a coach with the England women’s netball team, are assistants to head referee Mark Clattenburg, a former Premier League football match official.

Lee said he got to know all the Gladiators during their fitness tests.

Viper is pretty much “as you see him on the show”, he said.

“He doesn’t say a lot… he’s always got that sort of look on his face,” Lee said with a laugh. “You’ve got to stay on the right side of Viper definitely.”

He also got a chance to feel what it is like to be a contender during rehearsals.

“I got to do an eliminator,” he said.

“I remember thinking as a kid, ‘I’d love to have a go at that’, then to actually do it myself was pretty cool.”

The series continues on BBC One.

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