John Walker Motson, OBE, was an English football commentator. He was born on July 10, 1945, and died on February 23, 2023. Beginning in 1971, he was a TV commentator for the BBC. Since then, he has talked about more than 2,000 games on TV and radio. Except for a short time in the mid-1990s, Motson was the most important football commentator at the BBC from the late 1970s until 2008.
In 2008, Motson said that he would no longer be doing live TV commentary. He kept covering games for the Match of the Day highlights and made appearances on BBC Radio 5 Live and CBeebies’ Footy Pups. In September 2017, he told the BBC that he was leaving for good. He had been a commentator for 10 FIFA World Cups, 10 UEFA European Championships, and 29 FA Cup finals. In July 2018, he told Talksport that he was coming out of retirement to work again.
Radio 2 sportscaster Motson joined the BBC in 1968. In December 1969, he called Everton-Derby County. He made his BBC Match of the Day debut in October 1971, commentating on a 0–0 tie between Liverpool and Chelsea.
Motson covered an FA Cup replay between Hereford United and Newcastle United for Match of the Day on 5 February 1972, which he subsequently called his big break. Hereford shocked Newcastle by winning. Ronnie Radford’s winning goal commentary was Motson’s “Wow! Radford. Radford! Crowds are on the field. Ronnie Radford hit a beauty.” Motson called this match the season’s tale. His commentary earned him higher-profile Televised fixtures and a three-year deal with BBC.
The 1977 Manchester United-Liverpool FA Cup Final was Motson’s debut as a pundit. Motson replaced BBC-disputed David Coleman. Motson said it was “appropriate that a guy called Buchan should be the first to scale the 39 stairs” when Manchester United’s Martin Buchan received the trophy at Wembley Stadium, referencing John Buchan’s novel The Thirty-Nine Steps.  Motson called every BBC FA Cup finals from 1979 to 2008, except 1995 and 1996. Motson covered 29 FA Cup finals.
In 1985, ITV won the rights to broadcast the English Football League and the BBC discontinued showing Match of the Day due to a growing interest in live football over highlights. However, when Match of the Day resumed in 1992 after the Premier League’s debut, Motson was a key pundit.
Motson was commentating on the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest when Hillsborough happened in April 1989. At the Hillsborough investigation, Motson testified about a tragedy rather than a football event.
In 1985, ITV won the rights to broadcast the English Football League and the BBC discontinued showing Match of the Day. However, when Match of the Day resumed in 1992 after the Premier League’s debut, Motson was a key pundit. Match of the Day stopped airing weekly in 2001 as ITV took over Premier League highlights from the BBC. Match of the Day resumed Premier League coverage in 2004.
Speech therapist Jane Comins analyzed the voices of eight major TV and radio pundits in 2001. Comins determined Motson had the finest pitch, loudness, rhythm, and tone. In an accompanying football fan survey, 32% named him Britain’s favorite pundit.
The BBC lost live FA Cup coverage to Setanta Sports and ITV in 2008. Motson retired from live television commentary when the BBC denied his Setanta application. His last live broadcast was the Euro 2008 final. He covered Match of the Day highlights of pre-recorded games.
Since 1978, Motson covered 10 FIFA World Cups. In 1998, Ronaldo was left off the FIFA teamsheet 72 minutes before the final, but he was eventually added. Motson called Paris “total mayhem and pandemonium”.  In 2010, he traveled to South Africa with the BBC and appeared on Match of the Day and the BBC website.  Motson narrated Footy Pups on CBeebies since 2015.  He covered 10 UEFA European Championships and 200 England national team games.
Motson, Ally McCoist, Andy Gray, Des Lynam, Mark Lawrenson, and Chris Waddle were EA Sports FIFA commentators. Motson and McCoist left the franchise for FIFA 06, but they returned for FIFA Manager 08.
Motson retired from the BBC in September 2017. On 11 March 2018, he called Arsenal-Watford on radio. On 13 May 2018, Match of the Day aired his final pre-recorded commentary, a Crystal Palace-West Bromwich Albion match.
Football INDEX advertised Motson in 2018-19.
Motson and his wife, Anne, lived in Little Brickhill, which is in the county of Buckinghamshire. They had been together for 45 years. Frederick was his only child (born 1986).
In 2012, he said he liked the team, Barnet.
In 1996, This Is Your Life was about Motson, and Michael Aspel surprised him at a charity event.
He also talked about Brian Clough on the BBC Radio 4 biographical show Great Lives in 2007. Clough was his “great life.” Motson’s career was honored on BBC Two on May 19, 2018, with three special shows: Motty Mastermind, Motty: The Man Behind the Sheepskin, and Countdown to the Full Motty.
In the 2001 Birthday Honours, Motson was given an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his work in sports broadcasting. [He died on February 23, 2023, when he was 77 years old.
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