Len Martin, voice of football results, dies

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The Independent Online

His was one of the best-known voices in Britain; the man responsible for heralding fortunes across the country. Yet few will recognise his name, even fewer would recognise him. Yesterday saw the death, following a short illness, of Len Martin, aged 76, who for 37 years read the Saturday afternoon football results on BBC Television's Grandstand.

Born in Australia but based in Britain since 1953, Mr Martin joined the BBC programme for its first broadcast on 11 October 1958, and up to this season, had not missed an opening-day appearance.

"Len had the most marvellous broadcasting voice. It was known and loved by millions and must have greeted thousands of pools winners as he delivered the good news through the football results," Jonathan Martin, of the BBC's sports and events group, said yesterday.

That voice had let him down only once. On 9 October 1993, after 35 years of regular Saturday slots, he grew hoarser and hoarser through three divisions of the Football League, finally admitting defeat at Walsall 1 Gillingham 0. The reading had to be finished by a colleague.

"My voice started to get rougher and rougher so that people couldn't hear what I was saying," Mr Martin said at the time, adding: "It's such an easy job I would like to go on until I'm 90."

And the legendary professionalism of the man whose steady tones provided mounting excitement for millions of would-be pools winners was ruffled only once in 37 years of broadcasting. This was the result of the Scottish League Cup Final on 23 October 1971: Celtic 1, Partick Thistle 4.

"I'll repeat that one," he said, after the slightest of pauses and then continued with the results. It was excusable - he had just discovered that he had won pounds 500 with eight draws on his own pools coupon.