One of the places where the death of David Welch made a huge impact was the media centre at Wimbledon yesterday, and particularly the ground floor where most of the British writers and photographers are based, writes Barry Newcombe, Chairman of the SJA.
It was a world, of course, where David felt entirely comfortable because he understood exactly what went on there and, indeed, in any other Press centre around the sporting world. Wimbledon was hosting the national newspaper sports editors of this country on their annual visit yesterday, so shock and sympathy were present in equal measure.
David’s influence on the working of the Sports Journalists’ Association was massive because of the values he brought to the organisation as chairman of the awards sub-committee and the presentation of our two main events.
Many of the ideas he put in place will live on. He worked at the Olympic Games of Sydney and Athens and so knew all about the unique pressures which go with jounalists covering events of that scale.
He loved the celebrity-strewn Daily Telegraph Christmas party. But if you wanted to see a man relaxed at his sport then the race track was the place to find him. You could see the pleasure he felt from nailing a winner, or if anyone else did.
We have lost a terrific friend and inspiration of modern day sports journalism.
- Among the further tributes published in today’s Telegraph:
AP McCoy, the champion jockey and the SJA’s Sportsman of the Year 2010
David was very good to me and got me into the Daily Telegraph where I am still a columnist to this day. He was hugely respected within sport and the newspaper industry for the way he took the sports pages to a new level of importance. He was good company, easy to talk to, loved his racing, had a good knowledge of it and liked a bet. I think he always assumed I would be able to put one away for him and then let him know when he could have a punt on it. Alas …
Sir Max Hastings, the former Daily Telegraph editor
David was the man who made Daily Telegraph sport what it is. I am a sports illiterate, but one of the early decisions we made when we began to reshape the paper in the late 1980s was that there was a great opportunity to dominate the market in this vital field. Welch was the man who did it, the creator of the Telegraph sports section, a wizard at spotting and promoting new talent and hiring star names. Tough, clear-sighted and absolutely determined, he was one of the key members of the Telegraph in the years we transformed the title.
Henry Winter, the Telegraph football correspondent and SJA member
David was a visionary. Although never a fan of football, David realised in the early Nineties that Sky would revolutionise the sport, promoting the games and stars. He poured resources into covering football, surfing a wave that Sky, Manchester United and others created. The Daily Telegraph went from 1,000 words on football a day to five times that. He also foresaw the glamour of the new Champions League. He’d send me to all-Italian ties and I’d be the only English reporter there. Others soon followed. David had set another trend.
John Inverdale, BBC sport presenter and regular co-host at SJA Awards
All the years I wrote for the paper I felt incredibly proud to be doing so in David’s team. I find myself at a lot of dinners, hosting some of them, or just as a guest, but in the hosting stakes I was nothing but a beginner compared to David. How he wasn’t 24 stone given the number of lunches and dinners he attended will always be a complete mystery. No man on earth could have drunk more bottles of bad Chardonnay than David. He was one of British sport’s great movers and shakers.