Arsenal legend Alan Smith joins FWA

The FWA is delighted to welcome Alan Smith, the former Leicester City, Arsenal and England striker, as a member.  In his hugely successful playing career Alan won two League Championship titles with Arsenal, the FA Cup, League Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1994, when he scored the only goal in the final against Parma.  He also won 13 England caps and played in the 1992 European Championship finals.

Since retiring soon afterwards, he started as a journalist with the Telegraph, covering matches, writing features and interviewing football personalities. He is a well-known voice as a co-commentator for Sky Sports and since 2012, for EA Sports’ FIFA games.

Now he writes a regular column in the Evening Standard, and has recently released his autobiography “Heads Up” https://www.amazon.co.uk/Heads-Up-My-Life-Story/dp/1472127862 

Alan has always been a good friend of the FWA and attended many of our events, and is a welcome addition to the association.  You can see his thoughts on Arsenal’s prospects this season here:

https://youtu.be/MBujk6ApAiw

 

Gareth Southgate to be honoured by the FWA

We at the Football Writers’ Association are delighted to announce that the recipient of our Tribute Evening at the Savoy in January will be Gareth Southgate.
Following discussions with Gareth, his team and the FA, we have decided against our traditional event. Unlike previous Tribute dinners, this one will not focus solely on Gareth’s career but on what he has created as England manager with a new style of leadership and culture which helped the squad to a World Cup semi-final this summer.
It will also be a celebration of the squad and staff as a whole and Gareth’s determination to bring the England team closer to both the supporters and the media, something which he achieved with spectacular effect during the summer and post-World Cup.
The speakers on the evening will reflect the significant change in culture and Gareth’s determination to build on the foundations in Russia as England prepare for fresh challenges.
The dinner will take place on Sunday January 20, 2019 at The Savoy and the ticket price has been held at £96 per person thanks to the generosity of our title sponsors, William Hill.
FWA members can purchase tickets individually or in tables of either 10 or 12, and we are able to take bookings for smaller groups of FWA members. Please let Paul McCarthy, FWA Executive Secretary, know your ticket requirements by email paul@maccamedia.co.uk
We look forward to an enjoyable night, which is one of the highlights our calendar.

Photos: Press Association Images

David Meek Memorial Service

Following a priivate family service, there will be a Memorial Service to celebrate the life of David Meek at St Ann’s Church, St Ann Street, Manchester M2 7LF on Wednesday 21 November at 1.30pm.

David’s family have pointed out that his favourite colour was pink, so feel free to wear something with a splash of the colour.

In the meantime, we have on our YouTube channel and Facebook page, a beautiful filmed tribute to David made by MUTV, featuring tributes from Manchester United legends Bryan Robson and Paddy Crerand, as well as journalism colleagues Steve Bates, Neil Custis and Andy Mitten.   Visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GYwyugd2MA

FWA Northern Awards dinner

Pep Guardiola led a host of successful managers honoured by the Northern branch of the FWA at the annual awards dinner in Manchester on Sunday November 4.

Guardiola was honoured after winning the Premier League title with Manchester City, and he was joined at the top table be fellow winners Tony Mowbray of Blackburn Rovers, Micky Mellon of Tranmere, Rotherham’s Paul Warne, John Coleman of Accrington Stanley and John Askey for his success with Macclesfield Town. Paul Cook of Wigan was unable to attend for personal reasons, but his assistant Liam Robinson accepted the award in his place.

Guardiola thanked the football writers for making him feel at home in Manchester, and his full acceptance speech can be seen on our YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37gBQPlbo08

A substantial sum was raised for the designated charity, Clare House Children’s Hospice.

Thanks to Dick Bott, Paul Hetherington, Andy Dunn and Steve Bates for their sterling work in organising the event, and also to our sponsors William Hill for supporting it.

David Meek – more tributes

More tributes have come in for David Meek, the former Manchester United correspondent for the Manchester Evening News, who has passed away at the age of 88.

Colin Young was given a huge help in his fledgling career  by David:

“When I was 14, my heart already set on football reporting as a career, my headmaster Alan Walker arranged for me to go over to Manchester to spend a day of work experience with his best school friend and a proud Archbishop Holgate’s Grammar School old boy. He had arranged a similar day out at Old Trafford for Jonathan Champion, who also went on to fulfil his dream, and is now a world-renowned commentator.

The Manchester Evening News’ legendary David Meek met me at Manchester Piccadilly and took me straight to the MEN offices and then into the inner sanctum of Manchester United Football Club, introducing me to the likes of Sir Matt Busby, Ron Atkinson, who was then the manager, and after the match, Bryan Robson and man of the match Jesper Olsen. I hardly closed my mouth all day.

‘Meeky’, as his colleagues called him, was the first person I saw and heard file a live match report and I was mesmerised. United lost to Nottingham Forest which meant I met Brian Clough for the first time. I remember him telling me to go to the press room (then a little cupboard next to the PA announcer) to pick up some quotes from the managers while he filed his final match report to ‘Belfast’. Cloughie, who clearly hadn’t expected such a young young Young man, spent the first five minutes interviewing me, much to the senior journos’ amusement. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, which has lasted to this day. I fell in love. With the job, journalism, Cloughie, although not United. David sent me on my way back to York after buying me a copy of The Pink at the station, with his by-lined match report on the front page.

A week later, I sent him a combination of a thank you letter and match report which he liked so much he kindly printed it in The Pink the following week. It was my first published football article, but certainly not the last.

And so began a warm friendship. When I joined the national newspaper pack, he remembered me the first time we met again at St James’ Park in 1996 and always kept an eye out for me. I can’t tell you how privileged that made me feel. The lovely welcome David extended on that first day was always there whenever I went to Old Trafford and he was still working and ghostwriting Sir Alex’s programme notes.

As well as sharing a love of the game and job, we had a joint interest in the fortunes of York City, and the Yorkshire Evening Press. I started at the YEP as an 18-year-old trainee after two years of voluntary weekly work experience, arranged with Alan Walker’s blessing. David’s dad Wilf was the YEP’s City reporter for many years and eventually became club chairman. He always asked about York and Archies when our paths crossed.

Last year I went to interview him at his home in Milton Keynes. He was such a lovely man, made me tomato soup and was in great form, typically humble, reminiscing from the days when he was appointed the MEN Manchester United man just days after the Munich air disaster which claimed the lives of eight journalists, including the MEN’s Tom Jackson. He made such a positive impression he stayed on for more than 40 years. He was so trusted that he continued to write Sir Alex’s notes when he retired from the MEN. His favourite all-time player was Bill Foulkes. And like any good journo that was based on ability and accessibility.

The bookcase in his office was a sea of red volumes and spines from the 50s, 60s and to the present day. And he had written most of the hundreds of books and magazines on show.

I covered a few Manchester United games in Europe and I remember sitting next to Jon Champion on a return trip from Athens a few years ago. I reminded Jon of his own trip to Old Trafford all those years ago and we agreed how proud Alan Walker and David Meek would be that two Archies lads were living their dreams.

I was fortunate that two great men set me on that path and it was an honour for me to go on to call David Meek a friend and a colleague. RIP ‘Meeky’. Although I always called him David.”

 

Ian Herbert, of the Mail, was another close friend of David’s:

“It was the fundamental humanity of David Meek which so many of those who worked with him will most remember.

Someone made the point, when news arrived of his death on Tuesday, that he was always interested in what you had written, heard, or were doing in life. He’d kept chickens at some stage and I had some vague intention of doing the same. ‘So have you got them yet?’ was his constant refrain when our paths crossed. I’d newly arrived in the forbidding world of football writing at the time, ten years back. Kindness of his kind was a precious commodity.

By then, Meek was a regular traveller on Manchester United’s European trips – there as a representative of the club to accompany reporters and a regular companion on match-day morning walks around some European city or other.

But behind the humility and self-effacement, there was the journalist’s steel. He was the chronicler of Manchester United for the Manchester Evening News and, of course, also the ghost-writer of Sir Alex Ferguson’s programme notes down many years. He gave as good as he got when Ferguson revealed that propensity of his to combust with reporters.

There was trouble when Ferguson took his players for a day trip to the SAS headquarters in Hereford, at the instigation of the club’s head of security Ned Kelly, who had served with the regiment. One of the MEN’s news reporters had got wind of the story. Ferguson asked the paper not to publish – fearing that his club would become a target for the then active IRA – but the paper went ahead anyway.

Ferguson had thus effectively severed all relations with him, but he decided to meet the problem head on at Old Trafford, when the players trained on the pitch there just before Christmas that year.

Ferguson spotted him. ‘The Manchester Evening News is finished at this club,’ he bellowed and marched away up the slope to the top of tunnel. He was out of breath, at the top, when Meek caught up with him. “OK. If that’s how you feel, then Merry Christmas,” Meek retorted as another Glaswegian volley came his way. Meek was marching past him when Ferguson’s arm came out. ‘Nothing personal, you know!’ Ferguson said, a smile breaking across his face. Fire always was best met with fire where Ferguson is concerned.

Meek’s quiet persistence also brought surely the greatest published insights into Ferguson. The relatively unknown book ‘Six Years at United’, which he ghost-wrote with the manager in 1992, is a gem. Its depiction of the insecurity Ferguson felt in those early trophy-less years quite extraordinary when you read it back now.

Meek is also perhaps the journalist who knew Ferguson’s compassion more than any. After illness forced him to break off from 16 years of uninterrupted programme notes, the Scot despatched a huge bouquet of flowers to the hospital where he was recovering. He was convalescing at home a week later when the phone rang. There were no words of introduction down the line, just a growl declaring: ‘The Scottish beast is on its way!’ Ferguson was at Meek’s door in 20 minutes.

Meek related these anecdotes for a piece I was writing for The Independent seven years ago – about the manager’s relationship with the media in what had by then been 25 years at the helm. I felt like the callow newcomer, mining his secrets, yet he was happy to speak of those days with extraordinary affection. ‘He never lost his sense of wonder at the game and his characters,’ someone reflected this week. Which pretty much said it all.”

 

Michael Hart, like David a life member of the FWA, wrote this:

“David Meek was a hero of mine. And not just me. He was a role model for dozens of young football reporters back in the sixties and seventies and, of course, he had the stage on which to perfect his journalistic craft – Old Trafford.

“Meeky” charted the everyday business of life at Old Trafford with the spirit of Denis Law, the confidence of Bobby Charlton and the grace of George Best. These three great players were the cornerstones of the rebirth of Manchester United in the sixties and David found it impossible to say which of them was THE greatest.

But he did say of Best: “I watched him blossom into a rare performer who in my view still stands alone as the most extraordinary and exhilarating player I have ever seen.”

David reported on life at Old Trafford from 1958, when as a young leader writer he took over as United correspondent from Tom Jackson, tragically killed in the Munich air disaster, until 1996.

I had the good fortune to work alongside him on many occasions. I learned many valuable lessons from him and perhaps the most important was the value of trust. “Meeky” would never break a confidence.

I remember a former United manager Dave Sexton, who I knew well from his time at Chelsea, telling me that David Meek was the only reporter he would trust. Years later, David established a similar rapport with Sir Alex Ferguson. He wrote his programme notes for 26 years and despite all kinds of inducements would never reveal the manager’s thoughts before they appeared in the programme. He was privy to the inner most secrets of one of the world’s great football clubs and never betrayed a confidence.

We travelled together across the globe, covering England, and it became a real pleasure watching his charm, his logic and his kindness win over some stubborn passport official, security guard or press box dictator!

I last spoke to him a few days before he died. I wanted to remind him of the debt I owed him. At the Mexico World Cup in 1986 he introduced me to the girl who would become my wife.

Yes, “Meeky” was a not just a special friend. He was my hero too.” 

And the tributes continued on social media:

From Neil Harman: The sad news keeps on hitting hard. David Meek, who became the Manchester United writer for the Evening News in the wake of the Munich disaster [a job he continued for almost four decades] has passed away at the age of 88. I moved to Manchester in 1981 and will never forget his kind words, wise counsel and helpful spirit. There was no more considerate, warm colleague in the press box. Always there for his fellow man, which speaks volumes of him. There will never be another Meeky.

From Matt D’Arcy: Devastating news! My guide and mentor from the time I joined the MEN sports desk in 1966 until I joined the Daily Star in 1978. And even then, he would keep in touch as a friend as much as a colleague, with words of advice and encouragement. He introduced me (young, and new to this world of football journalism) to his closest contacts–like Busby, Best etc–and opened doors for me, generously and unselfishly. David was a wonderful, kind man, a gentle soul, widely admired and trusted by football people who gave their trust and admiration sparingly. What a loss to our profession. My thoughts, now, are with his family. RIP Meeky.

From James Fletcher: Oh no, what terrible news. Lovely tribute Paddy. David Meek was one of the finest men I’ve ever met, not just because he was a proper journalist with proper contacts but, more importantly, it was the way he conducted himself. Always gentle, softly spoken, considerate. Willing to listen to the whipper snappers dominate conversations in the press box or on the press trips whilst he knew what was really going on. I learned a lot from just being around his company, a man who didn’t need to boast or shout or scream, he just quietly and professionally did his job and, never had a bad word to say about anyone. A man of true honour. RIP Meeky, and lots of love and best wishes to his family

From Andy Mitten: Very sorry to hear about journalist David Meek passing away. He covered MUFC for the Evening News from ‘58-95. Helped me loads, with work experience and advice. He was still on Euro aways until 2011. He’d mind my ticket and wanted to hear which daft route I’d taken to the game.

From Mark Ogden:  To many journalists who have covered @manutd, David Meek was as big a figure as some of the players he reported on as the MEN’s United reporter for almost 40 years. A great man, without an ego, and a true legend of his profession. Sad news.

From Stuart Mathieson: Very sad to hear that David Meek has passed away. Always available for advice when I took over in #MUFC MEN role. Meeky tours on Champions League aways were legendary. A coffee and a cathedral visit cured many a hangover. A great man. God bless

From the FWA’s Paul McCarthy: David Meek was a journalist who people trusted implicitly even when he had one of the toughest jobs in the media. His class shone through in everything he did and he was truly a man with the absolute highest standards. He will be greatly missed by so many.

From Gordon Burns: So sad to hear of the death of David Meek the legendary @MENnewsdesk sports writer. Great journalist and really nice man. What a long and outstanding career he had.

From Alex Stepney, former Man Utd goalkeeper: Very sad to hear that David Meek is no longer with us…been a bad week for losing good football people.

David Meek RIP

David Meek RIP

Tributes have been pouring in for David Meek, one of our life members, who has passed away at the age of 88.

David started covering Manchester United for the Manchester Evening News in 1958 after the Munich air disaster claimed the life of the MEN’s Reds correspondent Tom Jackson.

He continued until his retirement in 1996, building close ties with the club and its leading managers including Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson.

He was highly regarded among his peers and the world of football, as a local newspaperman par excellence, always representing the views of his readers while maintaining a strong relationship with the club, which is no easy balancing act.

Manchester United, the MEN and many journalists, fans and players tweeted their tributes to David on hearing the news. Here is the personal recollection of FWA Chairman Paddy Barclay, who knew David from his early days in sportswriting.

FROM PADDY BARCLAY

Journalism is sometimes said to be a ruthless business. But never by anyone judging us by the standards of David Meek.

‘’Meeky’’, who died in the early hours of this morning, seemed incapable of writing a line for the Manchester Evening News without considering its impact on the subject – it might be a football player, manager or director – and anyone else affected.

You could see this quality in his handsome face if you asked a question – as many did, for he was the man to whom we all went for authoritative opinion and guidance on Manchester United affairs. He would frown, concentrating, as he thought the matter through, and then deliver a verdict of sometimes frustrating fairness.

But that was David: a fair and fine man, as well as an outstanding journalist of the old school. In any job you need a few strokes of luck, and one of mine was to start as a football writer with The Guardian in Manchester in 1977. Because our sister paper then was the Manchester Evening News, I got to sit alongside David in the Old Trafford press box, and learn from a master.

It was also a pleasure to travel with him. Latterly this was sometimes in the company of Liz, his beloved second wife. But an early trip was to Tampa Bay, where United played a friendly against the Rowdies, featuring Rodney Marsh. Our baggage initially refused to cross the Atlantic and, upon hearing of this, a United bigwig offered David a club polo shirts; a consignment had been taken as gifts for any fans that might turn up.

When the bigwig, who had better remain nameless, added that David might kindly have the shirt laundered afterwards and returned, our hero, with typical restraint, declined to guffaw. He could see United’s traditional faults – and care with money had been a trait even in the days of Sir Matt Busby, to whom David was introduced a few months after the devastating aircraft crash at Munich in February 1958 – but never ceased to be a friend of the club.

The association began immediately after Munich. Tom Jackson, who covered United for the Manchester Evening News, was among the journalists who died. David was a young leader writer at the time – in succession to Harold Evans, later to become a great editor of The Sunday Times – but he had briefly covered his home-town club, York City, for the Yorkshire Post (his father, a journalist before him, had not only covered York but served as chairman) and that, in the emergency, was deemed qualification enough.

In a matter of days, he was at the Norbreck Hotel in Blackpool, where United’s remaining and hastily signed players had been taken by Jimmy Murphy, manfully standing in for Busby while the boss ailed in a Bavarian hospital. ‘’I’ll always associate those days with the smell of chlorine,’’ said David, ‘’because Jimmy used to hold his press conferences at the end of the swimming-pool.’’

David’s journalism was always constructive if that could be achieved. Not that it saved him from the ire of some of the managers with whom he worked, including a recovered Busby. A couple of years after Munich, relegation threatened United and some papers were calling Busby’s future into doubt. So David sought an interview with the then chairman, Harold Hardman.

‘’My purpose was to get him to say it was rubbish,’’ David recalled, ‘’and Harold responded as I thought he would. He said it was ridiculous – Matt was part of Manchester United and that was how it would stay. I duly wrote the piece. But Matt didn’t see it as I had.’’ He called David into his office and accused him of going behind his back to the chairman and trying to stir up trouble. ‘’I put my case,’’ said David. ‘’I thought he was being over-sensitive.’’

Between Sir Matt and Sir Alex Ferguson, whose complaints were at least more predictable, came Wilf McGuinness, Frank O’Farrell, Tommy Docherty, Dave Sexton and Ron Atkinson. All had the utmost respect for David and on one of the last occasions I saw him socially he and his son Andrew had chats with McGuinness and Atkinson at an event organised by the Association of Former Manchester United Players. His friendship with this admirable organisation was huge and almost palpable and last year AFMUP, who usually salute one of their own, made an exception by honouring David.

He richly deserved the ensuing ovation, for, although he could be critical when he felt it was required – and his barbs had all the more effect for being judiciously placed – his work had a conscience. He was a perennial credit to journalism. Above all, to those of us who knew him, he was the best of friends and a source of wry fun. To Liz, to David’s daughter Joanna, to Andrew, to his step-daughter Emily, grandchildren Jonathan, Victoria, Christopher, Hannah and Dominic and the rest of his family, we can only offer our deepest sympathy.

Funeral details to follow

Games of Remembrance

The FWA is pleased to support two important Games of Remembrance on Thursday November 8 in Nottingham.  Representative teams from the Armed Forces of Great Britain and Germany will play two matches to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Armistice.

The first game, between the women’s teams, is at Notts County’s Meadow Lane kicking off at 12 noon, and then the men’s teams will play at Forest’s City Ground at 7pm.  It is aimed at families especially and ticket packages are very reasonable – for details visit https://www.gamesofremembrance.com/

Vanarama Column – Chorley

Vanarama Column October 25 – Chorley, by Glenn Moore

From a trio of Dutchmen in Rinus Michels, Louis van Gaal and Guus Hiddink, to the Scots Andy Roxburgh and Craig Brown, to England’s Roy Hodgson and Howard Wilkinson, the list of teachers turned football coaches is long and illustrious. Indeed, the highly-regarded Cowley brothers, Danny and Nicky, of Lincoln City are football’s latest alumni of the education sector.

Jamie Vermiglio, however, is a teacher-manager with a difference. The majority of the aforementioned were PE teachers, Vermiglio is a headmaster. The 36-year-old combines running Locking Stumps primary school in Birchwood, Warrington, with managing Vanarama National League North front-runners Chorley.

The Magpies have had an extraordinary start to the season, 15 matches unbeaten taking them five points clear with a game in hand and, after a 3-2 win from 2-0 down against Vanarama National League Barrow on Saturday, into the FA Cup first round.

Chorley, a Lancashire town squeezed between the established clubs of Manchester, Preston and Blackburn, briefly reached the Conference (now Vanarama National League) in 1988 but survived only two years. By 2007 the Magpies had dropped to the eighth tier, Northern Premier League Division One North. The club has steadily risen since, despite a financial crisis in 2011 after two officials were jailed for stealing £70,000.

Garry Flitcroft, the former Blackburn Rovers midfielder, led the club back to the National League North.  Both he and his successor, another noted Rover, Matt Jansen, reached the promotion play-off final, but that final step was elusive.

Jansen left in the summer and some raised eyebrows when Vermiglio was entrusted with the job. A midfielder who spent nine years at the club in two spells before moving onto the coaching staff in 2014 Vermaglio was steeped in Chorley, but it was still a bold move.

It has paid off spectacularly. Vermiglio has retained the bulk of the players but adopted a more attacking style. “We’ve kept the heart of the formation the same but have changed the set-up and get more crosses in and shots on goal,” he said.

Should Chorley maintain their form which, said Vermaglio, will depend on “being consistently up for it, not taking our foot of the gas, even if it’s been a tough week at work”, he may have a tough decision to make.

As the reference to a ‘tough week at work’ intimates, Chorley are part-time. The majority of the Vanarama National League are full-time but Vermaglio, whose school has a Good rating from Ofsted, has no intention of quitting teaching. “It is my career. It’s stable and I have a mortgage. That’s the priority,” he said. The similarities between the roles are most notable, he said, in terms of leadership and preparation.

Vermaglio also has two young children of his own. The juggling act works due to having ‘good people around me’, be that ‘a wife who does everything’ or supportive staff at school and football. “I’ve been involved at Chorley a long time and I want what is best for the club,” he added. “It is difficult to compete at that level part-time.” One possibility is he stays part-time while other staff go full-time. First, however, Chorley have to keep their feet on the gas win promotion.

For more on Chorley FC go to http://www.chorleyfc.com/

For more on Vanarama National League North : http://www.thenationalleague.org.uk/news/general/division-42248

Jeff Farmer – Funeral details

Update – Jeff Farmer’s funeral details
Here are details for the funeral of our friend and colleague Jeff Farmer, who passed away last week.
Funeral: Monday November 5 at 12.30
Streetly Crematorium, 296 Little Hardwick Road, Straitly WS9 0SG

Reception at Moor Hall Golf Club, Moor Hall Drive, Sutton Coldfield,B75 6LN.

Jeff’s family have requested no flowers please, but welcome donations to Marie Curie.org.uk 

 

Tribute by Paul McCarthy
Executive Secretary
For those of us who have been amongst the last stragglers to leave an FWA Footballer of the Year dinner, it was almost guaranteed to be in the company of Jeff Farmer.
Jeff loved being amongst his pals and colleagues for as long as possible, chatting about the game, recounting old stories of the legends he was happy to call friends, not wanting the night to end.
And what a story he had to tell. Of Cloughie. Of Big Ron. Of Jimmy Hill. And of countless West Brom heroes who he idolised.
West Bromwich Albion was never far from his thoughts. Jeff cut his teeth in journalism back in the late Fifties and early Sixties when players and managers would very probably have been arm-in-arm with Jeff at the end of those nights safe in the knowledge he would never have betrayed any of their secrets.
Inspired by the film ‘Ace In The Hole’ starring Kirk Douglas as an intrepid reporter uncovering a a huge scoop, Jeff turned down a job in a bank to join the Midland Chronicle in his beloved West Bromwich before moving to the Wolverhampton Express & Star where he became the paper’s first West Brom correspondent.
It was the start of a love affair with the Hawthorns that saw Jeff join the West Brom board, leaving his imprint on the club that lasts to this day.
The nationals beckoned for Jeff and after two years he became the Midlands correspondent for the Daily Sketch before the paper merged with the Daily Mail in 1970. Jeff was part of a formidable Midlands pack covering the area but he was always the leader and his front page exclusive of Brian Clough quitting Derby County was one of the highlights of Jeff’s career.
He crossed from newspapers into television in 1981 when Gary Newbon enticed him to Central TV as sports editor. As befits an outstanding journalist, Jeff’s news sense and insight marked him out as a television powerhouse but it was his people skills which marked him out.
He was a natural leader, somebody who could always inspire his team and made him one of the most respected sports executives of his generation.
Jeff became ITV’s football editor in charge of their coverage including World Cups and Champions League and in 1998 oversaw the production of England v Argentina which pulled in an incredible 27 million viewers.
The natural move was to ITV’s Head of Sport, a position and role Jeff filled with energy, talent and exuberance. But he never lost sight of his roots within newspapers and was always quick to credit his colleagues on both the local and daily papers for a great story or interview.
He fell ill with cancer two years ago but nobody ever heard him complain or bemoan his lot, he faced the fact stoically and continued to live life to the full until the last few months when the horrific disease took its toll.
Jeff’s advice was always well-intentioned, his praise meant everything and for those of us fortunate enough to enjoy his company on those late nights either at home or abroad, his wisdom and humour was unsurpassed.
It’s been a dreadful few weeks at the FWA and the loss of another great Midlands journalist so soon after the passing of Ralph Ellis leaves a huge hole.
But like Ralph, we can be grateful for the time spent with Jeff and the incredible impact he had on so many during a stellar career.
Everybody at the FWA sends their condolences to Jeff’s family and countless friends.

Leon Mann honoured by Prime Minister

We congratulate FWA member Leon Mann for receiving the Points of Light award from Prime Minister Theresa May for his work striving to increase diversity in the media.

Leon, the former BBC and ITV journalist who now runs his own production company, founded the Black Collective of Media in Sport which works to promote diversity in the media, and he has organised the past three D-Word Conferences, the latest of which was attended by a number of fellow FWA members and Chairman Paddy Barclay.

He also co-founded the Football Black List in 2008. This annual list, released in The Voice UK and coming soon, celebrates and highlights the contributions of Black people across football and aims to ensure there is diversity in front of and behind the camera.

The Points of Light award recognises outstanding volunteers who are making a change in their community and inspiring others. Each day, someone, somewhere in the country is selected to receive the award to celebrate their remarkable achievements.

In a personal letter to Leon, Prime Minister Theresa May said:

“Your dedication to improving access and inclusion within sports media is having a transformational effect on young Black professionals who aspire to work in the industry. By establishing the ‘Black Collective of Media in Sport’ and co-founding the ‘Football Black List’ you are inspiring the next generation of diverse sports journalists.”

Leon said: “It is an honour to receive this award for my work trying to increase diversity in the sports media. BCOMS recent research highlights a lack of BAME and female representation on screen and in the national newspapers that needs to be addressed urgently. The situation behind the camera, in newsrooms and within senior management is not much better. This impacts how stories are told, how communities engage with sport and how we portray diverse people. By working together, funding initiatives in this area and with strong leadership we can change this uncomfortable dynamic. I look forward to continuing to push this agenda forward.”

For more on BCOMS see: https://www.bcoms.co/

For more on the Football Black List see: http://footballblacklist.com/about-us/