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.

Voices
Numbers of complaints about unwanted calls have trebled in just six months
voices
News
people
Arts & Entertainment
Picture of innocence: Ricky Gervais and Karl Pilkington in ‘Derek’
tvReview: The insights of Ricky Gervais's sweet and kind character call to mind Karl Pilkington's faux-naïf podcast observations
Life & Style
Looking familiar: The global biometrics industry is expected to grow to $20bn by 2020
tech
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
Higher expectations: European economies are growing but the recovery remains weak
newsThe eurozone crisis has tipped many into despair and extremism - this radically altered landscape calls for a new kind of politics, argues economist Philippe Legrain
Arts & Entertainment
Tangled up in blue: Singer-songwriter Judith Owen
musicAnd how husband Harry Shearer - of Spinal Tap and The Simpsons fame - helped her music flourish
Sport
Karim Benzema celebrates scoring the opening goal
sportReal Madrid 1 Bayern Munich 0: Germans will need their legendary self-belief to rescue Champions League tie in second leg
Arts & Entertainment
Paul Weller: 'I am a big supporter of independent record stores but the greedy touts making a fast buck off genuine fans is disgusting'
music
Arts & Entertainment
William Shakespeare's influence on English culture is still strongly felt today, from his plays on stage to words we use everyday
arts
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes has claimed supporters understand the need to look at
sportScot thanks club staff and fans, but gives no specific mention of players
News
Strange 'quack' noises could be undersea chatter of Minke whales
science
News
weird news... and film it, obviously
Life & Style
Balancing act: City workers at the launch of Cityfathers
lifeThe organisation is the brainchild of Louisa Symington-Mills who set up Citymothers in 2012 - a group boasting more than 3,000 members
Arts & Entertainment
tv
News
Fresh hope: Ruth Womak and her dog Jess. A free training course in basic computing skills changed Ruth’s life
educationHow a housing association's remarkable educational initiative gave hope to tenant battling long-term illness and depression
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Construction Solicitor – Surrey

Excellent Salary Package: Austen Lloyd: This is a rare high level opportunity ...

Construction Solicitor NQ+ Manchester

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: This is an excellent opportunity within...

Corporate Finance

£80000 - £120000 per annum + Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: US QUALI...

Banking / Finance Associate - City

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: Banking / Finance Associate - We have an exce...

Day In a Page

Migrants in Britain a decade on: The Poles who brought prosperity

Migrants in Britain a decade on

The Poles who brought prosperity
Philippe Legrain: 'The eurozone crisis has tipped many into disillusionment, despair and extremism - we need a European Spring'

Philippe Legrain: 'We need a European Spring'

The eurozone crisis has tipped many into disillusionment, despair and extremism - this radically altered landscape calls for a new kind of politics, argues the economist
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A moment of glory on the Western Front for the soldiers of the Raj

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A moment of glory on the Western Front for the soldiers of the Raj
Judith Owen reveals how husband Harry Shearer - star of This Is Spinal Tap and The Simpsons - helped her music flourish

Judith Owen: 'How my husband helped my music flourish'

Her mother's suicide and father's cancer also informed the singer-songwriter's new album, says Pierre Perrone
The online lifeline: How a housing association's remarkable educational initiative gave hope to tenant battling long-term illness and depression

Online lifeline: Housing association's educational initiative

South Yorkshire Housing Association's free training courses gave hope to tenant battling long-term illness and depression
Face-recognition software: Is this the end of anonymity for all of us?

Face-recognition software: The end of anonymity?

The software is already used for military surveillance, by police to identify suspects - and on Facebook
Train Kick Selfie Guy is set to scoop up to $250,000 thanks to his viral video - so how can you cash in on your candid moments?

Viral videos: Cashing in on candid moments

Train Kick Selfie Guy Jared Frank could receive anything between $30,000 to $250,000 for his misfortune - and that's just his cut of advertising revenue from being viewed on YouTube
The world's fastest elevators - 20 metres per second - are coming soon to China

World's fastest elevators coming soon to China

Whatever next? Simon Usborne finds out from Britain's highest authority on the subject
Cityfathers tackles long-hours culture that causes men to miss out on seeing their children

Cityfathers tackles long-hours culture

The organisation is the brainchild of Louisa Symington-Mills, a chief operating officer who set up Citymothers in 2012 - a group that now boasts more than 3,000 members
Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home

It's not always fun in the sun: Moving abroad does not guarantee happiness

Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home
Migrants in Britain a decade on: They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire

Migrants in Britain a decade on

They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire
Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

The 'Thick of It' favourite thinks the romcom is an 'awful genre'. So why is he happy with a starring role in Sky Living's new Lake District-set series 'Trying Again'?
Why musicians play into their old age

Why musicians play into their old age

Nick Hasted looks at how they are driven by a burning desire to keep on entertaining fans despite risking ridicule
How can you tell a gentleman?

How can you tell a gentleman?

A list of public figures with gallant attributes by Country Life magazine throws a fascinating light on what it means to be a gentleman in the modern world
Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

The duo behind Asos and Achica have launched a new venture offering haute couture to help make furry companions fashionable