Brian Moore was among the most distinguished, respected and widely-loved commentators in the history of football. In a career that spanned almost 40 years, he commentated on and presented coverage of international football, including the majority of the World Cup tournaments, from 1970 onwards, the most notable of all being the infamous England-Argentina tie in 1998. On the national arena he was commentator at all the FA cup final ties and European games involving British clubs. In terms of football commentary, Moore did it all. He was a caring, professional and determined individual who made it all the way to the top of his game and stayed there for almost four decades.
Sadly, in 2001 Brian Moore passed away, at the age of 69, only 2 years after his official retirement from commentary. Most curiously, he passed away the same day that England thrashed Germany 5-1 in Munich in one of the national team’s most memorable performances, but unfortunately Moore was not able to see the game. Following his death, many of the biggest names in football paid their tributes to the great man, including friends and colleagues Ron Atkinson, John Motson and Martin Tyler.
Moore began his career working in newspaper journalism: first of all, for The Exchange Telegraph and later, The Times. By the beginning of the 1960s he had joined the BBC, and in 1963 made his broadcasting debut as a commentator, becoming the first ever full time football correspondent.
Clearly, the landmark high point of his career came in 1966, when alongside Maurice Edelston, he presented England’s glorious World Cup victory. On the national arena in this period, he presented and commentated on the FA Cup competitions from 1964-67, as well as European Cup Winners Cup triumphs for Tottenham Hotspur in 1963, West Ham in 1965 and Celtic’s European Cup victory in 1967, a somewhat golden period for British football.
Soon after Celtic’s 1967 historical triumph, Moore was headhunted by the new emerging TV channel that at the time was referred to as London Weekend Television and, shortly after in 1968, was launched as ITV. Lured to the new channel by Jimmy Hill, Moore soon established himself as the cornerstone of football commentary on the channel. He proceeded to provide commentary for all the subsequent European triumphs by Arsenal, Liverpool, Nottingham Forest, Aston Villa, Tottenham, Manchester United, Everton and Aberdeen. He also covered all the FA Cup competitions from 1969 to 1988 and again for the last time, in 1998.
Back on the international scene, he presented coverage of all European Championships competitions between 1980 and 1996, except 1984, due to England’s absence from the tournament. However, his presence as a commentator during the World Cup competitions was not always of an equally high profile. The only occasions on which he commentated whilst actually present in the host country were in 1970, 1974, 1978 and 1982. For instance In the Mexico World cup in 1986, he presented most of the coverage from the comfort of his commentating seat in London. The pinnacle of his world cup commentary came in 1998 when he took centre spot in the presenting team for the entire tournament, including the heated, controversial and highly memorable England vs. Argentina tie, in which David Beckham was shown the red card for his violent scuffle with Diego Simeone, and Michael Owen scored a spectacular equalising goal, voted by many as goal of the tournament.
Moore officially retired from full time commentary at the end of the 1998 World Cup tournament, after describing France’s victory over Brazil on their home turf. He did not however, retire all together from broadcasting, as in 1999 he began presenting an interview programme for Sky Sports and also hosting programmes for BBC Radio Five Live and Talksport. Inside the Boardroom was the name of his Talksport show, and involved club chairmen and directors joining him in the studio and accepting phone-in questions from fans. Moore never fully ‘retired’ but merely stepped down the frequency of his broadcasting activities.
Moore, as a man
By those closest to Moore, his fellow commentators, he was described as a meticulous man, who did not enjoy making mistakes on air. Shortly after his death in 2001, fellow commentator, John Motson, made some reflections about his friend Brian Moore, the talisman of football commentary. Motson described how, before his first commentary broadcast, he was incredibly nervous, but when he arrived at his desk he found a personal and reassuring note from Moore reminding him to enjoy the moment. As Motson remarked, this was a true testament to the professionalism and attention to detail of the man. Most surprisingly of all this was while he was working for the “opposition” channel.
Equally, Ron Atkinson, who worked alongside Moore for many years at ITV, described him as the greatest commentator in the history of the game and on a personal note, a great Englishman, a lover of English football and cricket and a genuinely great guy to work with. He was a lifetime supporter of his local team Gillingham FC and was a much loved director at the club for many years. When the Priestfield Stadium was revamped he had the new stand named after him. The club fanzine is also named in honour of Moore and is called "Brian Moore’s Head Looks Uncannily Like London Planetarium", which was a lyric written by the cult indie band Half Man Half Biscuit from their song ‘Dickie Davies’ Eyes’.
Moore hated making mistakes on air, and for this reason rarely made any. He did, however, famously announce to 13 million viewers that Hamburg had won the European Cup in 1980 when in fact Nottingham Forest had won 1-0. Many believe this to be an embarrassment that he never overcame and probably carried with him to the grave. Despite this, however, Moore was a man who always adhered to the highest standards of professionalism. Finally, on a very personal level, Moore was described as a modest and private man, who placed great value on being able to retreat from the public limelight into the privacy of family life whenever he could.