Tag Archives: BBC Sport

John Motson: legendary commentator on his 50-year career and retirement

When legendary football commentator John Motson revealed last September that he would be hanging up his mic at the end of the current season, many would have been forgiven for feeling a touch of sadness and loss.

Indeed, over the last half a century, the 72-year-old has become a national treasure in Britain – as has his signature sheepskin coat.

Having described the action on the pitch in fans’ living rooms every Saturday night on Match of the Day.

The Londoner did his first radio commentary way back in 1969 and, in an illustrious 50-year career with the BBC, has covered 10 World Cups, 10 European Championships, 29 FA Cup finals and countless league and cup matches for Match of the Day and BBC Radio 5 Live.

Hence, it’s no surprise that as his retirement nears ever closer, ‘Motty’ had a lot of memories to share with Elephant Sport in this exclusive interview.

How did you get into commentary?
When I was on a daily newspaper in Sheffield, a local radio station started up. They were looking for sports writers to give news pieces over the radio, so my sports editor put me forward.

That’s where I got my first broadcast experience. Then a few years later I saw the BBC were looking for sports radio assistants, which I applied for and got. And the rest is history.

Was commentary always the goal?
Well, yes and no. When I got into broadcasting and realised I was going places with my voice, I then pursued it.

However, when I left school and joined the Barnet Press, I hadn’t set commentary as the be all and end all. It all just happened.

What would your advice be for aspiring football journalists or commentators?
My advice would be to get in touch with newspapers and media outlets and look for work experience because when you come out of a course, it doesn’t guarantee you a job.

Never take a rejection and be very persistent. I had to try a lot of papers before I got my first job. Getting your foot in the door is the key. It will get easier after that.

You’ve seen so many different players over the last 50 years. Which one was the best?
The best English player would be Paul Gascoigne. He made a huge impression on me. With the foreign players, I’d have to pick three. Thierry Henry, Eric Cantona and Cristiano Ronaldo.

What was the best match you commentated on?
That would have to be Germany 1 England 5. I’d never seen England beat a major country by that scoreline away from home. Yes, it was only a qualifier, but it was magical.

And the best team?
I’ve seen many great teams, but the Liverpool team of the eighties was really good.

Which grounds did you most enjoy visiting?
Well, I am London boy and, therefore, liked the old Highbury, Upton Park and White Hart Lane.

Finally, what’s the plan after retirement and will you miss the commentary box?
Oh, I will find somewhere to use my voice, that’s for sure. Probably, some corporate work, speaking at dinners.

The commentary gig has got a lot harder in recent years, I will say that. When I started out, there was only 11 players and one sub, and their shirt numbers would be one to 12. Now they all have different numbers.

To be honest, I don’t know whether I’ll miss it. I’ll just have to wait and see.

Images courtesy of BBC Sport

Panorama Twitter feed

Navratilova wades into row over gender pay gap at the BBC

Nine-time Wimbledon champion, Martina Navratilova, has accused the BBC of valuing male pundits more highly than females, after discovering that colleague John McEnroe is paid at least 10 times more than her.

Navratilova expressed her concerns on the BBC show Panorama: “It was a shock because John McEnroe makes at least £150,000… I get about £15,000 for Wimbledon and unless John McEnroe’s doing a whole bunch of stuff outside of Wimbledon, he’s getting at least 10 times as much money.

“We were not told the truth, that’s for sure”, she continued, after the 61-year-old was assured by the BBC that men and women were being paid equally.

“It’s still the good old boys’ network … The bottom line is that male voices are valued more than women’s voices.”

Pay row reignited

The emergence of this information has led to a reignited the BBC gender pay gap row, last summer, when the corporation published a list of its top-earning, on-air stars, which revealed that just a third were women and the top seven were men.

The list further revealed the highest paid male at the BBC to be radio host Chris Evans, who earned more than £2m, while the top woman on the list was Claudia Winkleman, whose salary stood between the region of £450,000 and £500,000.

This led to more than 40 of its highest-profile female presenters, including Clare Balding, Fiona Bruce and Emily Maitlis, to publicly call for change through a letter to the director general, Tony Hall.

Since the reveal, BBC Sport have defended the discrepancy, saying McEnroe’s role was of “a different scale, scope and time commitment”, to Navratilova, adding: “They are simply not comparable.”

‘Highly valued’

Whilst the former world No.1 added that she is currently working “part time” for the corporation, her concerns remain for the other women at the BBC in more permanent roles where the problem may be even bigger.

A spokeswoman added: “Along with Sue Barker, John is regarded as the face of our Wimbledon coverage. He is a defining voice within the BBC’s coverage.

“He is widely considered to be the best expert/commentator in the sport, highly valued by our audiences and his contract means he cannot work for another UK broadcaster without our permission. His pay reflects all of this – gender isn’t a factor.”

Other broadcasters who have been vocal over the gender pay gap at the corporation, which has been hitting headlines for some time, are former China editor Carrie Gracie and ex-news presenter Maxine Mawhinney.

Wembley dream over as Not for Me Clive go out of FA People’s Cup

For the second consecutive year, my team, Not For Me Clive FC,  participated in the FA People’s Cup at the Shoreditch Power League.

The People’s Cup is a superbly organised event run on behalf of the FA. This national five-a-side football tournament is free to enter and welcomes male, female and disabled players from under-14s to veterans.

It’s a fun but competitive environment, with all games lasting ten minutes.

The tournament starts at hundreds of 5-a-side centres across the country, with the winners from each one gradually moving through the competition to regional qualifiers, and the eventual final being played at Wembley Stadium in April.

Clive and kicking

Last year’s People’s Cup performance saw our team lose every single game, after being placed in one of the most difficult groups in the history of the competition.

When my cousin Alex created the team WhatsApp group at the beginning of the year, it was time to prepare for the Cup all over again. We couldn’t do any worse than last year… could we?

But this year was a new year, a new team, and a new team name: Not for Me Clive FC.

With the addition of my cousin Robert, previously of Southend United and recently returning from a football College in Canada, the team’s expectations of success were somewhat higher than in 2017.

Football focus: The Clive ‘keeper Harry sporting eye-catching gloves

Shoreditch sensation

After months of anticipation, we arrived at Shoreditch Power League on a freezing cold afternoon alongside hundreds of other players, kitted out in base-layers, gloves and hats, eager to get playing.

Following a sizing up of the competition, our group was announced. Our team name was the only one of any comedy value, so it became evident we were going to be playing serious teams with experience and ability.

On the back of a brief warm-up of dynamic and static stretching and a few shots at the goalkeeper, we were ready to play our first game.

“Up the Clive!” shouted Alex, our manager/captain/general day organiser, as we kicked off against a side in actual matching kits, opposed to our mish-mash of red coloured tops. ‘They must be decent,” I thought.

A tense, cagey affair, we went 1-0 up through a tidy finish from yours truly. A goal! We were winning a game! An FA People’s Cup first for our team. All we had to do was hold on.

Then came an unbelievable moment. The ball fell to me in our own half with seconds remaining. The score still 1-0, I tried my luck at a Tony Yeboah-esque thunderbolt.

The ball flew past the opposing defenders and goalkeeper into the top corner of the net. Teams from the side-line applauded the finish, and the final whistle blew. Two-nil to the Clive, and a 5-a-side career highlight for myself.

The next few games saw us draw one, lose one, and win two; keeping us in the race for top spot. Our Wembley dream was still alive.

Parking the bus

As the late-February sun set in Shoreditch, we took to the pitch for our must-win decider. It was win or bust.

Charlie in action during the first game, pre-wonder goal

I’m sure their manager had been taking notes from Jose Mourinho, and we witnessed a possible moment in history: the first team to park the bus on a 5-a-side pitch.

Almost impossible to break down and score against, the game ended in a 1-1 draw, and it was time to call it a day, at least until next year. We were proud of how we had done, it was a sure improvement on last year.

‘The ball flew past the opposing goalkeeper into the top corner’

As they say, though, every cloud has a silver lining. There was an underlying sense of relief amongst the Clive team after our elimination, with the entire side looking near frozen.

With most of the side Arsenal supporters, it was time to hit the pub, watch the Carabao Cup Final, and have a well-deserved pint.

It was only at full-time after watching the Gunners embarrass themselves against Man City, that one of the boys proudly announced: “The Clive would’ve put up more of a fight than that!”

Despite the heart-breaking exit right at the death, it was a fantastic event once again, and we will be sure to be back competing stronger than ever next year.

Review: Whites vs Blacks: How Football Changed A Nation

The widespread outpouring of emotion sparked by the recent death of Cyrille Regis underlined the fact that he was not just simply a footballer but an inspiration to so many.

Part of West Bromwich Albion’s swashbuckling ‘Three Degrees’, Regis – along with Brendon Batson and future Real Madrid star Laurie Cunningham – would terrorise defences throughout the late 1970s and into the 80s

Arguably the first real black stars of the English game, they even had racists on the terraces – and there were plenty of them at the time – talking about how good they were.

The sad demise of Regis at the age of 59 gave the BBC another opportunity to screen a documentary made by TV sports presenter Adrian Chiles, a lifelong West Brom fan, in 2016.

It chronicled the testimonial match for Baggies stalwart Len Cantello in May 1979, in which the ‘Three Degrees’, along with other black players from as far down the footballing pyramid as Hereford United, took on a team of white players mostly comprised of the WBA starting XI.

In the cold light of 2018, the very thought of such a contest might make many a person wince.

However former Wolves, QPR and Leicester City defender Bob Hazell, who played on the black side that day, said in the film that it was “fantastic, great memories and a great day everybody wanted to be a part of”.

A galvanising moment

What was noticeable about the differing views on the game was that the black players remembered it with far more clarity than those the white players.

John Wile, Albion club captain at the time who played for the white team, reminisced: “I remember all these kids and faces that we’d never seen before, because there wasn’t that many black players playing at that level.

“The game itself I don’t really remember. I think that year I played something like 76 games. So it was just something else that happened at the end of the season.”

This could well be because the team with Regis and Co. won 3-2 on the day; or more likely, because this simply was an historic moment for black footballers in this country.

“This game, if anything, represented a burgeoning progress which the ‘Three Degrees’ would go on to encapsulate”

Only a few years before this match in May 1979, it would have been impossible to configure a side solely comprised of black players from the English footballing leagues.

This game, if anything, represented a burgeoning progress which the ‘Three Degrees’ would go on to encapsulate.

The film portrayed the feeling that the game brought those black players on the pitch that day together, and in a sense, the entirety of the black contingent within the leagues.

It was an important moment to those players even if it was not for their white counterparts. As former Wolves defender George Berry commented in the film: “We wanted to win.”

Institution of hate

However, the game itself was not the sole focus of the documentary, which in a case such as this would have been far too reductive in nature for the subject matter.

Horrific stories of racist abuse were recalled in the documentary, one of the most striking being that told by Berry about playing against West Brom.

“All I can hear from this West Brom fan is, you black b*****d, effing get back up the tree, you effing gollywog – and I’m marking Cyrille Regis!”

‘Death threats, racism, sexism, homophobia – social media risks becoming its own form of National Front-led terrace before our very eyes’

“I just said to this bloke doing the shouting ‘Who are you talking to? Me or Cyrille?’ Cyrille just shook his head.”

The partners, families and friends of black players were forced to stay away from matches even as the far-right National Front infiltrated the terraces. The higher-ups at the FA even refusing to permit Hazell to dreadlock his hair for fear of a backlash.

This was an age where racism around football was almost entirely unpoliced. According to one former NF member and Birmingham City fan, as huge quantities of bananas were bought pre-match ready to be hurled onto the pitch.

The presence of the NF on the terraces, at a time when football seemed to be a dying sport played in crumbling stadia, exacerbated those weekly displays of hatred and bile.

The documentary captured perfectly how the NF aimed to manipulate impressionable young people into doing their bidding.

One rather rotund National Front leader proudly proclaimed: “There is a lot you can do with a football hooligan,” adding that “football fandom is a form of patriotism”.

Happily ever after?

Today, 30 percent of British footballers are black. So given this, why are there so many barriers that still exist within the game?

And, putting the obvious lack of black and minority managers aside for a moment, has that racially-motivated hatred on the terraces gone for good?

Some would argue that improved facilities, leading to higher ticket prices, leading in turn to the gentrification of football, simply priced racism out of the game.

“In the now immortal words of Regis, ‘you’ve got to overcome’ “

Jason Roberts, nephew of Cyrille Regis and former Premier League striker, suggested as much during the documentary. The question posed in the film was: have the racists simply moved online?

Death threats, racism, sexism, homophobia – social media risks becoming its own form of National Front-led terrace before our very eyes.

People with Union Jack flag headers and a ‘Brexit means Brexit’ profile pictures scour the internet looking to aim internalised hatreds directly at people who look, feel and are different to them. Let’s not pretend many of them aren’t football fans – nationalism and fandom again side by side.

However, in the now immortal words of Regis – “you’ve got to overcome.” Thus the opinions of the faceless few on the internet should not denigrating the progress that has been made and which was sparked by the likes of Regis, Batson and Cunningham.

Achievement

Regis and Batson would prove vital cogs in what was the most successful period in West Brom’s history.

Ironically this was overseen by manager Ron Atkinson – a man who whilst working for ITV in 2004 was accidentally heard describing Chelsea defender Marcel Desailly a “f*****g lazy thick n****r” – a sad reminder of how little some mentalities have changed over the years.

Cunningham would go one better than his fellow ‘Three Degrees’ and become the first British player to ever player for Real Madrid. Given race relations in Spain following the Franco years, this was no small achievement in itself.

Cunningham went onto bedazzle defenders at several other clubs before losing his life in car crash in Madrid aged 32. Dion Dublin and Ian Wright paid emotional tributes to their heroes, as if they were kids again, when reminiscing to Chiles.

Thankfully, we now live in a time in which racial hatred has no place in football, or anywhere else, although issues such as that glaring lack of non-white managers persist.

So much progress has been made, however and for that we have in part to thank the ‘Three Degrees’. They helped pave the way towards a far more beautiful game.

Whites vs Blacks: How Football Changed A Nation is currently on BBC iPlayer.

More diversity progress needed in sports media

How hopeful can aspiring sports journalists from black and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds be about getting into the media industry and building successful careers?

On the one hand, many of the delegates I met at DWord2 – the second conference on diversity organised by the Black Collective of Media in Sport (BCOMS) – spoke about opportunities and a widening of the industry’s ethnic and cultural mix.

On the other, research shared by BCMOS founder Leon Mann painted a bleaker picture.

 Among the 450-plus written and broadcast UK media personnel covering this year’s European Football Championship, Wimbledon, the Olympics and Paralympics, BAME representation was just 9.6%.

There were no non-white females covering any of the events for newspapers, only two BAME males reporting for papers at Euro 2016 and one white female. The figures for BAME and women reporters were boosted somewhat by 19 working in TV commentary roles across the four major events.

DWord2, held at the BT Sport studios in Stratford, brought together some of the most influential figures in the sports media industry to discuss its lack of diversity and underrepresentation.

BCOMS Findings
BCOMS facts and figures for Euro 2016, Wimbledon, Olympics and Paralympics

As a young BAME woman with ambitions to work in the sports media, I sense that there is progress being made.

We are in a better position than before, but as the statistics showed, a lot of work still needs to be done.

The Daily Telegraph’s Jonathan Liew summed up the sports media industry pretty succinctly when he said: “They’re white men.”

Glimmer of hope

Whether it’s BBC executive Shelley Alexander, or freelance reporter and producer Benny Bonsu, a more truthful and accurate representation of our society in the media is a must.

From a personal perspective, their success gives aspiring black female sports journalists like myself a glimmer of hope, that, regardless of our race or background – and so long as we are great at what we do, are determined and get guidance and support –  we can one day turn our dreams into reality.

“Young sports journalists like me, aiming to break into a traditionally white, male-dominated industry are doing so at the right time”

Working at the DWord2 event gave me the chance to speak to Kadeem Simmonds, the UK’s first black sports editor of a national daily newspaper (The Morning Star), as well as Rodney Hinds, sports editor of Britain’s biggest and most recognisable black newspaper, The Voice.

Both of these inspirational figures gave me a sense optimism.

Although there’s still a long way to go, looking ahead, and with further backing and support from campaigning organisations such as BCOMS, we may come to find more journalists from BAME backgrounds in position of power and influence.

Uplifting

I spoke to a number of journalists, as well as people who work in different areas of the media from the BBC to Uefa, many of whom said that they had not found it difficult getting into the jobs they currently do.

Neither did they feel that they had missed out on opportunities because of their race or gender. I found their experiences uplifting.

“I hope that, with a lot of hard work and dedication, I will one day be an inspiration for the aspiring young journalists from BAME backgrounds aiming to follow in my footsteps”

As the day continued, I took a step back and I realised that I was surrounded by black excellence, respected by their peers throughout the sports media industry.

In the final year of my BA Sports Journalism degree course at the University Arts of London, they gave me belief that the journey I’m on can lead to a successful outcome.

Young sports journalists like me, aiming to break into a traditionally white, male-dominated industry are doing so at the right time.

This is because pioneers, like many of those attending DWord2, have blazed a trail for us and are actively working for fair and equal opportunities.

Yes, the passionate debate on underrepresentation and the need for more diversity in the sports media stems from deeply embedded institutional problems.

But the fact that the conference attracted so many of the industry’s big hitters, including Philip Bernie, head of TV Sport at the BBC, BT Sport chief Simon Green, and C4 commissioning executive Andy Stevenson, showed the issues are being taken seriously.

I hope that, with a lot of hard work and dedication, I will one day be an inspiration for the aspiring young journalists from BAME backgrounds aiming to follow in my footsteps.

For more on the work of the BCOMS, visit their website.