Remembering Ian Laybourn who brought rugby league to national and regional media

Tributes have been paid to Ian Laybourn, the PA news agency’s long-standing rugby league correspondent, who has died at the age of 67.

Laybourn joined PA in 1994 as a sub-editor after spells covering rugby league at the Batley News and the Huddersfield Examiner.

Two years later he was back covering the sport he loved until he retired last year following the Rugby League World Cup final.

In 2022, Laybourn was added to the RFL Roll of Honour when Ralph Rimmer, then the RFL chief executive, thanked him for covering the sport “with diligence, wisdom and care for almost five decades”.

Laybourn, from Huddersfield, estimated he had covered 2,440 matches for PA.

PA sports editor and chair of the SJA Ashley Broadley said: “Ian was an outstanding reporter, with a deep understanding and love for the sport of rugby league.

“We are all devastated at the news and are thinking of Ian’s family and friends at this sad time.”

The Speaker of the House of Commons and president of the Rugby Football League Sir Lindsay Hoyle said: “We were only wishing him well on his retirement a few months ago after five decades as a sports reporter, so news about his death is shocking.

“He was an outstanding journalist who loved rugby league and elevated it as the Sport of Kings. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Susan.”

Former PA sports editor and ex-SJA chair Andy Elliott said: “Ian was a great reporter to have on your staff. He was diligent, self-starting and arguably the most knowledgeable journalist in his sport.

“He was the epitome of an agency man – always available, prolific and respected by his peers, players and officials.

“The fact he was regularly by-lined in national and regional papers told its own story.

“And in all that, he was a thoroughly good bloke – Yorkshire-dry witted, but very warm and generous of spirit.”

Huddersfield Giants wore black armbands on Sunday in the friendly against Castleford as a mark of respect and a minute’s silence was held at the Wigan Warriors-Salford Red Devils match.