David Oates: highly regarded BBC commentator

 

There was an air of disbelief in press boxes last Sunday afternoon when the news came through, just before kick-off, that David Oates would not be returning to the environment in which he was so very much at home.

Although he had been taken ill the previous week, when a virus is thought to have attacked his heart, the shocking loss of such a popular colleague in his prime took many minds off what was about to happen on the pitch.

The 50-year-old – who would plead guilty to looking and acting much younger – was one of Radio Five Live's most enjoyed and respected commentators, on both football and rugby league. If Blackpool Football Club was his first love, he also developed an early passion for the 13-a-side code and was chairman of the Blackpool Borough Junior Supporters' Club in his teens.

His first job in radio was at Radio Manchester in 1986, where his duties included covering Manchester United. Obviously, this was not as glamorous as covering either Blackpool club, but he made the best of it; so much so that, after eight years on that beat, he moved to Radio Five Live at its London headquarters as a sports producer.

"Oatsie", as he was universally known, was always happiest, however, with a microphone stuck in front of him. His commentaries were always informed and unpretentious, with a sharp eye and ear for the absurd. He was the most conscientious of broadcasters, but he never took sport too seriously.

He brought those qualities to countless rugby league and football matches, never losing his freshness, despite the formidable mileages he clocked up. The highlights of his career included three World Cups in both football and rugby league, two Commonwealth Games (in Victoria, British Colombia, in 1994 and Kuala Lumpur four years later) and the shooting events at the London Olympics of 2012.

By what was to be a poignant coincidence, he was commentating when the heart of the Bolton Wanderers player, Fabrice Muamba, stopped on the pitch at White Hart Lane last season. It was fiendishly difficult to strike the right note at a moment like that, but there was general recognition that Oatsie had done so perfectly.

The regard in which he was held by colleagues was evident in the tributes that poured in from the likes of Clare Balding and his frequent co-commentator, Stan Collymore, when his death was announced. There were also tributes from clubs, including his beloved Blackpool, and from governing bodies.

The chief executive of the Rugby Football League, Nigel Wood, was also a close friend. "As a broadcaster he was the consummate professional," he wrote. "His commentaries were never anything other than accurate, intuitive and knowledgable. As a man 'Oatsie' was funny, immensely likeable and thoroughly decent. We are all going to miss him terribly."

For all his deeply ingrained professionalism, sport was more than a job to David; it was an absorbing, life-enhancing hobby. Blackpool's single season in the Premier League was a source of surprise and delight to him. His idea of a good day off was watching his adopted Super League team, the London Broncos, play at Brentford or The Stoop.

Neighbours in Ealing, where he lived with his wife, the Five Live producer Charlotte Nicol, and their daughters, Imogen and Kate, were used to seeing him pounding the pavements, as he was a keen long-distance runner. Along with his enthusiasms, one of his more endearing characteristics was the capacity for some hearty dislikes. Another of his circle of close friends, The Guardian's Andy Wilson, homed in on a few of them this week when he wrote that Oatsie was "not as keen on rugby union, the Tories and Preston North End."

To them, you could add cold weather and chilled lager. There will be plenty of pints of dark mild drunk at room temperature across the North of England in his memory. As his regular collaborator and best mate on Five Live, Dave Woods, put it: "It's what he would have wanted."

David Oates, broadcaster: born Blackpool June 1962, married Charlotte Nicol (two daughters); died London 3 February 2013.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin