HUGH McILVANNEY, widely considered to be one of the finest British sports journalists, has died at the age of 84.
The Football Writers’ Association, of which McIlvanney was a life member, confirmed the news on Twitter, calling him “one of the true greats of sportswriting”.
McIlvanney began his journalism career on the Kilmarnock Standard before moving to Fleet Street in 1962.
Especially renowned for his reporting on football and boxing, McIlvanney covered the 1966 World Cup final and the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’, after which he remained friends with Muhammad Ali.
When McIlvanney retired in 2016 after a career spent predominantly with the Observer and the Sunday Times, Ali was one of the first to pay tribute.
Ali had said: “His words were a window to the lives, the courage, the struggles and the triumphs of the great champions of his time.
“He has contributed richly to the fabric of our sport.”
McIlvanney’s friend and former colleague Pat Collins wrote on the FWA’s website: “His influence on British sports writing is profound, and he has long since secured his place alongside Ian Wooldridge and Frank Keating in the trinity of our greatest sports writers.”
His friend, the broadcaster Danny Kelly, wrote on Twitter: “When you were having a proper barney with Hugh, his use of language… made you secretly glad you were fighting. #genius.”