John Motson, the BBC soccer commentator who was one of the most well-known voices in British sport for 50 years, has died. He was 77.
The BBC announced the death of Motson on Thursday, without giving any details.
Fondly referred to as “Motty,” Motson called games for Britain’s national broadcaster from 1968-2018, covering 10 World Cups, 10 European Championships and 29 FA Cup finals.
He commentated on almost 2,500 televised games, the BBC said, before retiring at the end of the 2017-18 Premier League.
Motson was known for his passion and knowledge of soccer, and was synonymous with wearing a sheepskin coat in the commentary box.
“A quite brilliant commentator,” said Gary Lineker, the former England captain who works for the BBC as the presenter of its flagship soccer show, Match of the Day, “and the voice of football in this country for generations.
“He’ll be very much missed. RIP Motty.”
Tim Davie, the BBC director-general, described Motson as a “legendary figure in British sports broadcasting, respected by those in the game, loved by fans and an inspiration to those who followed him in the commentary box.”
“Like all the greats behind the mic,” Davie said, “John had the right words, at the right time, for all the big moments.”Motson started as a newspaper reporter before joining the BBC in 1968 as a radio sports presenter.
His big break came in 1972 when, on trial as a fledgling commentator, he was asked to call an FA Cup match between Hereford, which played in England’s non-leagues, and first-division Newcastle.
It was supposed to be a formality — Newcastle was the heavy favorite — but Hereford won after extra time on a muddy field at Edgar Street. Hereford’s equalizer, a long-range shot by Ronnie Radford, has gone down as one of the most famous goals in English soccer and Motson’s commentary on it became iconic.
“If Ronnie hadn’t scored that goal and Hereford had not beaten Newcastle, I don’t think I would be here talking to you now,” Motson said as he reflected back on his career before retirement.
“It changed my life, in the sense I was on trial that year at the BBC, I hadn’t got a contract at that stage. I had been in radio, and they kind of borrowed me for a year if you like to see if I made out.”
Among his most famous one-liners on commentary was his remark at fulltime of Wimbledon’s shocking 1-0 win over Liverpool in the FA Cup final in 1988.
“The crazy gang have beaten the culture club,” Motson said.
Motson was the commentator on the FA Cup semifinal between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough in 1989, during which there was a crush that led to the death of 97 Liverpool fans. Motson went on to give evidence at the inquest.
In 2001, Motson received an OBE (Order of the British Empire) for services to sports broadcasting.