Legendary commentator John Motson, who had an illustrious 50-year career with the BBC, has died aged 77. Motson covered 10 World Cups, 10 European Championships, and 29 FA Cup finals for BBC Sport before retiring from the organization in 2018.
Popularly known as ‘Motty’, he had worked on Match of the Day since 1971.
“It is with great sadness we announce that John Motson OBE died peacefully in his sleep today (Thursday),” said a statement from Motson’s family.
He is survived by his wife Anne and son Frederick.
“John Motson was the voice of a footballing generation – steering us through the twists and turns of FA Cup runs, the highs and lows of World Cups and, of course, Saturday nights on Match of the Day,” said BBC director-deneral Tim Davie.
“Like all the greats behind the mic, John had the right words, at the right time, for all the big moments.”
Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker said he was “deeply saddened” by news of Motson’s passing.
He added: “A quite brilliant commentator and the voice of football in this country for generations. He’ll be very much missed.”
The son of a Methodist minister, Motson had stints as a reporter on the Barnet Press and Sheffield Morning Telegraph at the start of his career.
He also worked as a freelancer for BBC Radio Sheffield before he joined the BBC on a full-time basis in 1968.
After starting out as a sports reporter on Radio 2, he made his breakthrough on Match of the Day during the famous FA Cup replay between Hereford and Newcastle four years later.
Originally billed as a five-minute segment, Hereford’s shock 2-1 win – featuring Ronnie Radford’s famous 30-yard strike – saw the match promoted to the main game, with Motson capturing all the drama.
For most of the period from 1979 to 2008, Motson – known for his trademark sheepskin coats and encyclopaedic knowledge of the game – was the BBC’s voice on major finals such as the FA Cup, European Championship and World Cup.
That run included his record-breaking sixth World Cup final in Berlin in 2006 and his 29th FA Cup final in 2008.
He also covered more than 200 England matches and commentated on almost 2,500 televised games.
His final game for Match of the Day was between Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion in 2018.
He was invited on to the pitch after full-time and applauded by the fans before Palace manager Roy Hodgson presented him with a framed copy of the programme from his first and last matches at Selhurst Park and a crystal microphone.
He returned to work for a stint at Talksport and also provided voiceovers for some football computer games.
Motson became an OBE in 2001 for services to sports broadcasting.
He was also honoured at the British Academy Film and Television Awards (Bafta) in 2018 for his “outstanding contribution to sports broadcasting”.
“He was a legendary figure in the commentary box and will be sorely missed. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family,” said BBC pundit Chris Sutton.
Commentator Clive Tyldesley, who worked alongside Motson at the BBC in the 1990s, said: “As a teenager I just wanted to be John Motson. Nobody else. Terribly sad.”
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