Tony Ward, “the voice of athletics”

Tony Ward, the former athletics coach who became known as a stadium announcer and the official spokesman for British athletics, died earlier this month. His funeral was held last week.

Here, published with permission, is Athletics Weekly‘s appreciation.

Tony Ward was the founder of the British Athletics League, as well as a former AW columnist and press officer for the national athletics governing body. Aged 79, he died after suffering complications following a heart operation in August.

Tony, who was also a level four coach for sprints and endurance, was an outspoken writer for AW for several years. Having worked in the 1980s and 1990s as the official spokesman for the national governing body of British athletics for more than 10 years, he was also the author of several books on coaching and the sport, his best known was Athletics: The Golden Decade, which was shortlisted for Sportsbook of the Year in 1991.

He also co-wrote Linford Christie: An Autobiography and The Modern Distance Runner.

As AW’s chief columnist, Tony was not afraid to speak his mind via his “Ward’s Word” columns. His articles polarised opinion and meant AW’s postbag was never empty.

Following his retirement, he continued to write for his own blog and he was heavily involved in coaching. He was also an announcer at track and field meetings for more than 30 years.

He had six children, including Tim, a 10.59 100 metres runner, and he is also survived by his wife, Gwenda, Olympic high jumper and former member of the IAAF Women’s Committee.

UKA chief executive Niels de Vos said: “This is indeed a sad day for the sport. Tony’s contribution to athletics in Britain was remarkable, and he will be greatly missed. Our thoughts go out to his wife Gwenda and their family and friends.”

Tom McNab, the former national coach who was the technical adviser on the Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire, was a long-time friend and colleague of Ward’s. He wrote:

“Our sport is not long on men like Tony Ward. His death robs us of a man whose quality of thought enriched athletics for over half a century.

“My first contact with Tony was back in 1965, when he became the first professional administrator of the Southern Counties AAA. A year later, we embarked by boat and rail to Poland in mid-winter. From this European odyssey we brought back one single idea of value – a national league.

“For some months, we touted the idea to various clubs, and to the AAA, who rejected it. But Tony Ward had undoubtedly touched a nerve. A group of leading clubs went to the AAA and told them that if they did not form a league, then they undoubtedly would. Tony was then set by the Association the task of bringing into being the first national league. The rest is history.

“Tony Ward dearly loved athletics, and will be much missed, particularly by those of my generation. My deepest sympathy goes out to his wife and family.”

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