Ray Matts, the long-serving Daily Mail sports reporter, died yesterday after a brief illness. He was 70.
Matts died in hospital in Walsall, after suffering from a severe chest infection and cardiac complications.
David Walker, the SJA deputy chairman, said, “Ray was a fine journalist and a great mate to many people in journalism and sport.”
On his blog, James Allen, the ITV F1 commentator, wrote, “Ray was one of the funniest people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet.
“He loved F1 for the people, not particularly for the sport and certainly not for the politics. He came to the sport quite late, having been a football man for most of his career, but he did a good job of bringing out the drama in the goings on at the circuits. He was at his peak in the era of Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill and was well respected by both men.”
When Matts retired, at his send off in Shanghai, Bernie Ecclestone demonstrated how well thought the man from the Mail was by all in the sport, as he presented him with a lifetime paddock press pass.
Matts was nothing if not versatile. Before taking up the F1 beat, he had been a long-standing football reporter in the Midlands, and covered several other sports, including tennis at Wimbledon, where he was known as “Matts Midlander”.
Lee Clayton, the head of sport at the Daily Mail, had his own tribute.
“Mattsy was a richly warm, friendly, welcoming man, who was never short of a story to tell and a joke to share,” Clayton said.
“When I spent a short period as a young reporter in the Midlands, he looked after me and showed me the patch, both on and off the pitch.
“The region wasn’t short of characters at the time, including Brian Clough, but Ray was the best company of them all. If you weren’t in his contacts book, then you hadn’t really made it.
“Later, he became the Daily Mail‘s motor racing correspondent, as well as continuing to work the Midlands football beat, where he was due to cover Nottingham Forest for the Sunday Mirror at the weekend; a ground where he spent many happy years covering their European conquests.
“He was a very good journalist and an exceptionally lovely man. He will be greatly missed by our industry.”