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.

News
i100
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsAll just to promote a new casino
News
i100
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Life and Style
Red or dead: An actor portrays Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory, rumoured to have bathed in blood to keep youthful
health
Arts and Entertainment
James Dean on the set of 'Rebel without a Cause', 1955
photographyHe brought documentary photojournalism to Tinseltown, and in doing so, changed the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
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

C++ Quant Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Developer C++, Python, STL, R, PD...

Java/Calypso Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Java/Calypso Developer Java, Calypso, J2EE, J...

SQL Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer SQL, C#, Stored Procedures, MDX...

Front-Office Developer (C#, .NET, Java, AI)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-Office D...

Day In a Page

Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.