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Veteran Football & TV Commentator Tony Gubba Dies Aged 69

Veteran Football & TV Commentator Tony Gubba Dies Aged 69

| On 12, Mar 2013

The sad news of the death of legendary commentator Tony Gubba, most renowned for his work on football among several other sports, at the age of 69 after a short illness was announced yesterday.

Tony Gubba, who has died aged 69 after suffering from leukaemia, would doubtless have been amused by the fact that, despite his long and distinguished career in sports broadcasting, he will be best remembered by many for the tongue-in-cheek commentaries he provided for the hugely popular ITV series Dancing on Ice. “He skates like Benny Hill chasing a chorus girl,” he remarked about the rugby international Kyran Bracken who was competing on the show, and said of the nightlife- loving former Manchester United footballer Lee Sharpe: “He’s not normally this active before midnight!”

Gubba was a serious commentator on ice-skating – one of numerous sports on which he broadcast – during nearly four decades working for BBC Sport. The British ice-dancing gold medallists Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean had suggested he should be recruited by Dancing on Ice to give credibility to celebrities’ sometimes hapless attempts to master the sport. Whether peppering his commentaries with technical descriptions of various moves and lifts, or using a mischievous sense of humour to describe both triumphs and calamities with equal style, Gubba was an integral part of the programme’s appeal from 2006 through to the current series that ended at the weekend.

Born in Manchester, Gubba was educated at Blackpool grammar school. A keen all-round sportsman, he excelled at football and squash and later became an accomplished golfer and fly fisherman. He also cherished early hopes of becoming an operatic tenor, studying music before eventually settling on a career in journalism.

After spending time as the Daily Mirror’s north of England correspondent, Gubba worked in Southampton for Southern Television as a news reporter and news reader, but got his break in BBC sport after being spotted when he entered a competition to find a new commentator. Appointed to present Sportsnight after David Coleman left the programme in 1972, he later became the frontman for Grandstand, alongside Frank Bough, and also presented Match of the Day.

The then Sportsnight editor Jonathan Martin, later head of sport at the BBC, said of Gubba: “His strength was that he was a very good broadcaster and journalist. He was mainly a football man to start with, and that was his real love, but he was very flexible. He could turn his hand to anything. Bobsleigh, table tennis, ice-skating, ski jumping, rowing … He would be on everybody’s team for the winter and summer Olympics. He never complained or grumbled when he was asked to do something, he just went away and did his homework. He could present, commentate and was a first-class reporter.”

The first Olympics on which Gubba worked was Munich 1972, and he had been involved in virtually every games thereafter, most recently when he worked on London 2012 for the host Olympic Broadcasting Services, which sends broadcasts worldwide for the duration of the games.

Gubba was for many years viewed as the BBC’s number three football commentator behind Barry Davies and John Motson, often fulfilling the role as a tenacious interviewer when the occasion arose. Brian Barwick was Match of the Day editor before becoming the BBC’s head of football and sport and was among those who regarded Gubba as a safe pair of hands. “He was an old-fashioned journalist. He was reliable, had strong words and asked the right questions,” said Barwick. “Away from the programmes, he had views and was always prepared to air them. He fought his own corner.”

It might have been understandable if Gubba had harboured resentment towards Davies and Motson, who were regarded as his superiors in football commentary, but according to Davies: “He was always good fun to be around. I suppose he was a jack of all trades. But he was a master of many.” Motson added: “I worked with him for 41 years and regarded him as a personal friend. I can also say he was probably the best reporter I ever worked with.”

Gubba forged a lucrative second career as an after-dinner speaker, often on cruise liners, and wrote numerous articles on travel and fly-fishing.

He is survived by his partner of 15 years, Jenny, along with two daughters from an earlier marriage, Claire and Libby, and three granddaughters.


Culled from The Guardian

Image credits – Yahoo Sport