John Motson, BBC’s Voice of Soccer for Five Decades, Dies at 77
John Motson, the soccer commentator whose animated voice was inseparable from many of the sport’s biggest moments over his 50 years at the BBC, died on Thursday. He was 77.
The BBC confirmed his death, citing a statement from his family. The statement did not specify a cause or say where he died.
The network turned to Mr. Motson, who retired in 2018, for its top matches, including 10 World Cups, 10 European Championships and 29 F.A. Cup finals. He also offered analysis on “Match of the Day,” the BBC’s weekly highlights show.
He was appointed an officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2001.
“John Motson was the voice of a footballing generation,” the BBC’s director-general, Tim Davie, said in a statement, adding that “like all the greats behind the mic, John had the right words, at the right time, for all the big moments.”
Mr. Motson, who also went by Motty, was born on July 10, 1945, in Salford, England. His love of soccer grew after his father, a Methodist minister, took him to games. He dreamed of becoming a newspaper reporter, and started his career after leaving school at 16, first working at The Barnet Press, a weekly, and then at The Sheffield Morning Telegraph, a daily, according to a 2008 article in The Independent.
He was selected to participate in a local radio station’s experiment that relied on print reporters. An editor, after hearing his work on the radio, told him: “John, on the evidence of this copy, I really think you should try the world of the voice,” he told The Independent.
He thrived on local radio, and joined the BBC in 1968 before starting on “Match of the Day” in 1971. He went on to become the station’s leading voice, calling nearly 2,500 games in his career, including more than 200 involving England’s national team.
In 1989, he was at Hillsborough Stadium when policing mistakes and overcrowding led to the deaths of 97 fans of Liverpool’s team. The tragedy, which also saw more than 700 fans injured, has remained in the news decades later.
For many soccer fans in Britain, news of his death inspired remembrances of their favorite calls, from specific games.
According to the BBC, Mr. Motson is survived by his wife, Anne, and his son, Frederick.