Hugh McIlvanney, a “colossus among sports writers”, is to retire at the end of this month.
At 82 years old, the only sports journalist ever to win Journalist of the Year at the British Press Awards will be ending a glorious career which has also included being named the SJA Sports Writer of the Year a record six times.
McIlvanney received the OBE in 1996 and in 2009 he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He has also been recipient of the SJA’s highest honour, the Doug Gardner Award for services to sports journalism.
At the British Sports Journalism Awards in London on Monday, McIlvanney received a prolonged and emotional standing ovation from around 450 colleagues when his friend, Patrick Collins, proposed a toast to the Sunday Times writer, saying “he has, and will always have, our admiration and our respect”.
Earlier in the evening, McIlvanney had been among the contenders for the Sports Columnist of the Year prize, 40 years after he had been the joint winner of the first Sports Writer of the Year award.
McIlvanney has also worked for The Scotsman, the Daily Express and The Observer, before joining the Sunday Times in 1993, where he again graced the back page of its sports section this week, his commentary on the boxing scene as sage and shrewd as ever.
Collins, the SJA President, said, “I can think of only three people over the past 50 years who have succeeded in raising the standards and redefining the craft of sports writing. One was Ian Wooldridge, another was Frank Keating, and the last member of that astonishing trinity is here with us this evening.
“To call Hugh McIlvanney a great sports writer is rather like describing Muhammad Ali as a useful heavyweight.
“He is a colossus among sports writers, a man who has been named Sportswriter of the Year no fewer than six times, and is the only sports writer to have been honoured as Journalist of the Year in the British Press Awards.
“And still he’s not satisfied: in fact, in his 82nd year he’s even made it to one of the shortlists at these awards tonight.
“But later this month, Hugh is going to retire from the trade he loves so well.
“He’s already won everything that the SJA and journalism at large can possibly offer him.
“But I’d like to show him tonight that he has, and will always have, our admiration and our respect.”
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UPCOMING SJA EVENTS
- Mon Mar 7: SJA Diversity Forum, sponsored by BT Sport
- Wed May 11: VIP York Race Day, sponsored by Ladbrokes