Celebrated journalist

Hugh McIlvanney, doyen of sports writers, dies aged 84

Alex Ferguson and Hugh McIlvanney

Hugh McIlvanney with Sir Alex Ferguson (pic: SNS Group) 


Hugh McIlvanney, regarded as one of the finest sports writers, has died, aged 84.

The Ayrshire-born former Sunday Times and Observer journalist covered many of the most notable sporting events including from the famous Rumble in the Jungle boxing bout between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Zaire in 1974.

After his win, Ali granted him a three-hour interview and the pair remained friends. McIlvanney retired in March 2016, three months before Ali’s death, and the former heavyweight champion express his respect for the writer. He said: ‘His words were a window to the lives, the courage, the struggles and the triumphs of the great champions of his time.’

He also became friends with former Manchester United hero George Best, so much so that when Best was due up in court on a traffic offence, he asked the Scot to appear as a character witness.

He was an admirer of Scottish players such as Billy Bremner, Bobby Murdoch, Jim Baxter and Dave Mackay, and regarded Graeme Souness as “one of the greatest players who ever played for us.”

In a 60 year career McIlvanney also reported on the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 and the 1972 Munich Olympics. He was awarded an OBE in 1996 and named British sports writer of the year seven times. He was the only sports writer to be voted Journalist of the Year.

The Football Writers’ Association called him “one of the true greats of sportswriting”.

His brother William, an acclaimed author, died in December 2015 aged 79.


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