Commentators are often criticised by fans nowadays but there are plenty of well-loved broadcasters who have gone down in history as their words have accompanied the biggest sporting moments. Who makes our top five?
1. Peter Allis – Golf
The late Peter Alliss was synonymous with golf and is among the most-loved UK sports commentators of all time. Allis’ recent passing prompted plenty of tributes from the world of sport from players and fans who grew up listening to him.
Allis may be best known now as an effortless commentator but he was a fine professional player before picking up the mic. Between 1952 and 1969, Alliss won 20 pro tournaments, including three British PGA Championships and he also managed an impressive five top-10 finishes in the Open Championship.
Allis had a brilliant knack of describing the action in a down-to-earth, often humorous manner and, like the best commentators, always seemed to find the perfect, simple words at the right time.
2. Murray Walker – Motor Racing
Walker will probably always be classed as the ultimate Formula 1 commentator. Remembered for his enthusiastic and detailed description, Walker was able to make even some of the most uneventful races sound dramatic. His first radio broadcast was the 1949 British Grand Prix for the BBC but he also regularly worked on motorcycling events and other sports.
He went on to be employed by both ITV and Channel 4 and his meticulous planning for every race ensured his knowledge of the drivers, teams and venues was second to none.
Walker was voted the greatest sports commentator of all time in a poll conducted by British sports fans in late 2009 to underline just how much he was loved.
3. John Motson – Football
Motson’s voice has complemented many of football’s biggest moments over the past 30-plus years. Before retiring from TV commentating in 2017, ‘Motty’ worked for the BBC on 10 World Cups, 10 European Championships and 29 FA Cup finals.
He has admitted his big break came in 1972 when covering the FA Cup Replay between Hereford United and Newcastle United for Match of the Day when non-league Hereford caused a big upset and his iconic commentary of Ronnie Radford’s famous goal that day was part of the main featured game on the programme.
Well-known for his winter duffel coat, Motson fought off strong competition from fellow football broadcasting legends like Kenneth Wolstenholme, Brian Moore and Barry Davies to make the list.
4. Peter O’Sullevan – Horse Racing
In the late 1940s, O’Sullevan voiced some of the earliest television commentaries on any sport and during 50 years of commentating on the Grand National, he talked fans through numerous historic victories, including 100/1 outsider Foinavon’s win in 1967 and Red Rum’s historic three successes in 1973, 1974 and 1977.
O’Sullevan was widely known as the ‘Voice of Racing’ and was knighted in 1997 – the same year he took the mic for his 50th and last Grand National and, at the time, was the only sports broadcaster to have been granted that honour.
5. Henry Blofeld – Cricket
After impressing as a schoolboy cricketer, Blofeld went on to play 16 first-class matches for Cambridge University but it’s his time in the commentary box for which he will be remembered the most.
After working for ITV in the 1960s, ‘Blowers’ joined the BBC Test Match Special team in 1972 and was a regular until his retirement in 2017.
The well-spoken, much-loved broadcaster was able to entertain listeners with his witty asides and would often go off on a tangent, with the action on the pitch seemingly taking a back-seat as he focused on something else entirely.
Blofeld was brilliant at setting the scene and would talk in lengthy detail about what was on offer for lunch, sometimes more enthusiastically than when describing the cricket itself.