John MotsonLike many throughout the football world we were saddened to hear of the death of John Motson OBE who died peacefully in his sleep on Thursday 23rd February. There are always certain voices you associate with particular sports and for anyone who listened to football commentary from the early 1970’s until his last game for Match of the Day in 2018, “Motty” was the voice of football.

Of course it isn’t just the right voice that Motty had that made him such a success. His passion for the game, encyclopaedic knowledge of football, warm character, clever turn of phrase and attention to detail are just some of the attributes that contributed to his longevity and his legendary status.

For us in Sports Chaplaincy UK John was always a keen supporter and advocate of the role of the sports chaplain. He first met Rev. John Boyers in 1977 who was then chaplain of Watford FC, before Boyers went on to found Sports Chaplaincy UK (formerly SCORE). From that point Motty was a great encourager of the work of the chaplain in football, seeing the unique role it had to play in such a highly pressured world and he joined the Board of Reference of the charity in its early years.

It is not surprising that Motson understood the importance of pastoral and spiritual support being the son of a Methodist minister. Indeed it was whilst his father was minister of Plumstead Methodist Church that John was first introduced to football when his Dad took him to Charlton games at the Valley in the 1950’s.

Although incredibly busy around the world with his broadcasting commitments John still found time to support chaplaincy. He was guest speaker at the sports chaplaincy annual conference at Lilleshall in the early 2000’s and we were privileged in 2006 when he agreed to write the foreword to Footballing Lives, the book that details the role of the chaplain within football.

It is a great gift to be able to connect with people and that is what most impressed me about John, whether broadcasting to millions or speaking one to one. I was privileged to be at that conference more than 20 years ago. It was fascinating to listen to Motty sharing stories from his life in football as he spoke to a captivated audience in the auditorium. But more impressive was the time he gave to individuals afterwards, as one by one chaplains queued up to introduce themselves. To each one, myself included as chaplain at Charlton, he had a personal story and connection to make which made you feel valued and accepted. No wonder he supported chaplaincy, he would have made a very good chaplain himself!

Thanks Motty, for the football memories, for being the background voice and narrative to so many lives, for your support of chaplaincy but most importantly for your warmth and kindness.
May God bless you and may you rest in peace.

Matt Baker
National Director for England, SCUK