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
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Sport
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
football
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel
travel
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
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

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"