Phillip Schofield: How star nearly sacrificed his big UK break for his girlfriend

Philip Schofield had established himself on the New Zealand TV show ‘Shazam!’ at that point in his career. His love life was equally successful too, with him then dating DJ host Fenella Bathfield. They met after a music awards show that he hosted and quickly became infatuated with one another. Young Fenella boasted to her mother Adrianne that he was “really lovely”. The feelings equally reciprocated – if not amped up even more so – by the future ITV This Morning host. As his colleague Louise Jones recalled: “He didn’t come down to earth for days after the awards”. In her opinion, she was the big love of his life. But soon enough their romance would come crashing down to reality after Phillip longed to be reunited with his family back in the UK. With limited career progression in New Zealand and deeply missing his mother, father and brother, the host was stuck with the dilemma: ‘Do I stay, or do I go?’.

The difficult decision was documented in Robin McGibbon’s 1992 biography, ‘Phillip Schofield: The Whole Amazing Story’.

During the early days of their love affair, the budding presenter’s colleague Ms Jones recalled: “He just went Boom, and fell in love. 

“I remember him being totally distracted for more than a lunch hour! He just wanted to be with Fenella all the time.

“Like the song says, ‘Love is the drug’ – you can’t get enough. Fenella was definitely the big one in Phillip’s life.”

Another DJ John Sweetman recalled the pair were a “really hot item – always kissing and cuddling whenever they were together.”

During the beginnings of their courtship, Phillip reportedly serenaded her with Barbra Streisand hits and doted on Fenella’s every move.

But the decision of whether he would renew his work contract with TV show ‘Shazam!’ was looming at the beginning of 1985. 

While the star was madly in love, he also worried what he might be missing out on 14,000 miles away, back in Britain.

Despite this, his fears he had to acknowledge that he had been extremely successful in New Zealand. 

In a matter of years, Phillip had become one of the nation’s biggest TV names and was known by “millions of adults… as well as children”.

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He feared that a move back to the UK, without much lined-up, would be a risk that could leave him out of work for months. 

Biographer Mr McGibbon wrote: “All the possibilities and options and hopes and fears swam around in Phillip’s ambitious mind.

“All the time, making a decision more difficult was his love for his family he missed so much, and Fenella.”

With the absence of family, Phillip turned to his ‘New Zealand mum’ Adrianne Bathfield – the mother of his girlfriend Fenella.

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She told him that it would be a foolish decision just to stay because of his lover for her daughter.

Adrianne said: “Phillip was very fond of Fenella, though, and had mixed feelings about leaving her. 

“I told him he was silly, and that he must go back because there was nothing in New Zealand for his talent.”

Phillip’s agonisingly hard choice was made a little easier by Adrianne, who would later take him to the airport after he booked his flight home.

She said: “Eventually, he did choose to go. And we all had a tearful goodbye at the airport.”

News of Phillip’s return was printed in the newspapers and not long after he would bag his first gig on the BBC. 

While the excitement of new career opportunities loomed, a part of the future star must have thought back to Fenella and the sweet mothering nurture from Adrianne. 

It’s without doubt that he was endlessly grateful for her support – and without those wise words, British TV audiences may never have known the name Phillip Schofield.

Reflecting on the relationship, Adrianne added: “I wouldn’t have wished my daughter on anyone at that stage. 

“Their relationship was one of those lovely romances that can happen when you’re young, but they both had so much happening in their lives at that time.”

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