Legendary football commentator John Motson, who had an illustrious 50-year career with the BBC, dies aged 77.
Motson covered 10 World Cups, 10 European Championships and 29 FA Cup finals for BBC Sport before retiring from the organisation 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,” said a statement from Motson’s family on Thursday.
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-general Tim Davie.
“Like all the greats behind the mic, John had the right words, at the right time, for all the big moments.”
Director of BBC Sport Barbara Slater said: “John Motson was a giant of broadcasting with a career spanning over 50 years and his distinctive voice has gone hand in glove with so many great footballing moments.
“For so many of us, John’s voice will have provided a special memory and commentary line that still strongly resonates.
“He had an extraordinary passion for the game and his enthusiasm behind the microphone captured the experience and excitement felt by fans in the stands, all delivered with his unique style. Our condolences and thoughts are with his family.”
The son of a Methodist minister, Motson had stints as a reporter on the Barnet Press and Sheffield Morning Telegraph newspapers 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.
Motson 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.
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.”
Motson became an OBE in 2001 for services to sports broadcasting.
He was also honoured at the British Academy Film and Television Awards in 2018 for his “outstanding contribution to sports broadcasting”.
“Desperately sad news. It’s quite a shock for all of us who knew him,” said BBC football correspondent John Murray.
“If you speak to a whole range of commentators of my generation and younger, he was certainly someone who everyone that came after him looked up to and, really, aspired to be him.
“He was 24-carat gold broadcasting royalty. He was synonymous with football for generations of football followers.”
‘The standard-setter for us all’ – tributes to Motson
The Football Association said: “We are very sad to hear that John Motson has passed away. His iconic voice will always be synonymous with football.”
Football Association president Prince William said: “Very sad to hear about the passing of John Motson – a legend whose voice was football. My thoughts are with his family and friends.”
The English Football League described Motson as “a defining and legendary voice of English football”.
It awarded him the Contribution to League Football Award in 2018 in an annual honour given to an individual who has given a lifetime’s service to the professional game on and off the pitch.
The Football Supporters’ Association said: “John was awarded a lifetime achievement award by supporters at our awards ceremony back in 2017 – John was a gent that night and it was a pleasure to have him along.”
Commentator Clive Tyldesley, who worked alongside Motson at the BBC in the 1990s, said: “I’ve lost a friend, first and foremost, but such was the reach of John Motson, such was the distinctive nature of his voice and his commentary style, that I think many thousands of people who never got to meet him will feel as if they have lost a friend too.
“What I can tell people is, if they felt that way about John, that was the real John. There was no front.”
“An absolute legend of the game. So many of us grew up listening to this man describe the action and goals on MOTD and cup finals. Sad loss,” said former Liverpool and England defender Jamie Carragher, who is a Sky Sports pundit.
Former BBC commentator Barry Davies, speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, said: “John was excited by the game and everything about the game. Years later he said that if Ronnie Radford’s shot had come back off the crossbar he probably wouldn’t have got the job that he got.
“We used to have a laugh about the sheepskin coat because I once said to him ‘I was wearing a sheepskin coat before you came along but you got a better deal than I did’. His record is without comparison. I don’t think his record will ever be passed.”
Sky Sports commentator Martin Tyler told BBC Radio 5 Live: “John was the standard-setter for us all. We basically all looked up to him – his diligence, his dedication, his knowledge. He was a very serious broadcaster but he was a real fun guy to be around.
“I went on a few football tours with him. We all had to stand up and speak and when Motty spoke we knew we were in for a good time – he had a great sense of humour.”
Premier League leaders Arsenal, who were one of a number of clubs across the country to pay tribute to Motson, said: “One of the greatest commentators of his generation, he was synonymous with so many of the beautiful game’s most incredible moments.”
Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish said: “A lovely man who came to many games with us long after he had ‘retired’.
“He was one of the greats, his words perfectly punctuating so many incredible occasions.”