Veteran sports broadcaster Tony Gubba has died aged 69 following a short illness, his family have announced.
A long-serving member of the BBC commentary team, Gubba covered everything from World Cups to Summer and Winter Olympics in a varied and distinguished career that spanned more than five decades.
He was one of the most familiar and versatile personalities of British television sport during his career, fronting iconic BBC shows like Grandstand, Sportsnight and Match of the Day during the 1970s and 80s, and, more recently, was the voice of ITV’s Sunday night celebrity skating show Dancing on Ice.
Born in Manchester in 1943, he started out on local newspapers in Lancashire, before working as a staff reporter for the Daily Mirror.
He then gained employment as a newscaster for Southern TV in Southampton, before becoming a Liverpool-based BBC correspondent in 1969.
Three years later Tony was chosen to replace David Coleman as the presenter of Sportsnight, a role which he held until 1975, later going on to present several editions of Grandstand as a stand-in for Frank Bough, as well as the BBC’s football flagship Match of the Day.
In doing so he is one of only a handful of TV personalities to have fronted that trio of major BBC Sport programmes.
As well as football, he commentated and presented on a wide variety of sports for BBC Television, including cricket, golf, tennis, darts, cycling, ice skating, table tennis, squash, bobsleigh and speed skating.
Though Gubba is perhaps best-known for football commentary as a resident on the BBC’s Match of the Day, covering every World Cup finals for BBC TV between 1974 and 2002.
In early 2012, Gubba reached his 40th season as a football commentator, overtaking former MOTD colleague Barry Davies to become the third-longest serving football commentator of all time on British television after John Motson and Gerald Sinstadt.
In 2006, Gubba joined ITV’s Dancing on Ice to commentate on the celebrity skaters’ routines, a role which he continued up to the 2013 series, having been invited by Jane Torvill and Christopher Dean to be part of the show.
Fellow MOTD commentator John Motson led the tributes to Gubba.
“Tony was a great friend and colleague for over 40 years and I shall miss him greatly,” he told the BBC.
“He was one of the original probing reporters – never afraid to ask a difficult question.”
BBC’s head of TV sport Philip Bernie said: “Tony was an outstanding sports journalist and a formidable broadcaster, whose death will sadden everyone at BBC Sport.
“He worked on a huge range of sports during his time at the BBC, always displaying his trademark tenacious, single minded approach.
“For a generation he was one of the most familiar and respected names in sports broadcasting. Our thoughts and sympathies go out to his family and closest friends.”
He leaves his partner of 15 years, Jenny, his two daughters, Claire, 40 and Libby, 38, and three granddaughters.
Various tributes were paid to Tony Gubba on Twitter shortly after the sad announcement of his death:
Gary Lineker, BBC Match of the Day presenter:
Deeply saddened to hear that Tony Gubba has passed away. One of the great voices of football who graced MOTD for so many years. #RIPTONY. Dan Walker, BBC Football Focus presenter:
Very sad to hear of the death of Tony Gubba. His was a face & voice that punctuated much of my childhood & enriched many a sport.. Robin Cousins, Dancing On Ice judge:
RIP Tony Gubba. A great lover of sport and I had known for nearly 40 yrs.was with us since DOI series 1. He’ll be with us in sprit for #9 x. Mark Bright, BBC football analyst and co-commentator:
So sad to hear our bbc colleague Tony Gubba has passed away following a short illness. For those that knew him, #TheresOnlyOneTonyGubba. Jayne Torvill & Christopher Dean:
Tony Gubba RIP. We will miss you my friend. Our prayers go out Toni’s family.. Dan O’Hagan, football commentator:
Lovely story about Tony Gubba – even until recently he used to tip the runners who brought him his cup of tea. Proper old-school gentleman.. Richard Keys, talkSPORT presenter:
So sad to hear about the passing of Tony Gubba. Great bloke. Great broadcaster. Big help to me. RIP Tony. Ian Darke, ESPN football commentator:
Sad to hear about passing of Tony Gubba. Versatile journalist and broadcaster for BBC..