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Wednesday, 14 June, 2000, 18:53 GMT 19:53 UK
Lynam boosts ITV bid
Des Lynam is the undisputed 'Face of Football'
Des Lynam is the undisputed 'Face of Football'
When Des Lynam left the BBC in a highly publicised move to rival ITV, it was regarded as a blow to the organisation with which he had spent the vast majority of his career.

In his time at the BBC, Lynam, or Des as he is better known, provoked scarcely a murmur of complaint and continually left the public eager for more.

His transfer to ITV last year prompted the rise of former England striker Gary Lineker, who transformed himself from television pundit to Match Of The Day presenter.

Lynam's move was criticised by some for lacking foresight. Although ITV held the rights to live football, including the Champions League and the FA Cup, many argued his global profile as the "Face of Football" would shrink.



I am personally thrilled to be reunited with the Premier League

ITV's Des Lynam
On Wednesday, however, that argument came crashing down.

The news that ITV had beaten the BBC in a battle to broadcast Premiership highlights is a further boost to Lynam, whose presence at the helm of ITV's coverage undoubtedly had an influence when the TV bids were considered.

Lynam was clearly delighted with the deal, which begins next year.

"I am personally thrilled to be reunited with the Premier League," he said.

"I am delighted for my ITV colleagues who have put an enormous amount of work into clinching this contract.

"I know that they will put a vast amount of effort into producing programmes of the highest order to make sure that football fans can continue to enjoy the Premiership on terrestrial TV."

Lynam is the undisputed champion of armchair fans. Sports journalists too, admire his acuity, colleagues and rivals admire his style and critics wonder at his self-effacing poise.

'Desmania'

Des has achieved an almost godly status with the sporting fraternity and women across the country are equally mesmerised by his dulcet tones and homely style.

In some cases this may be because, in tabloid-speak, he is "Dishy Des". But it is also his sheer professional inclusiveness.

He is empathetic rather than "blokeish", he speaks directly to his audience and his accent is almost impossible to trace.


Des
Des awards Michael Owen with the Sports Personality of the Year Award in 1998
Lynam has also taken care to keep his private life private.

He finds his celebrity status absurd. He was, for example, uncomfortable about being asked for his autograph at Wimbledon some years ago while two famous players close by were ignored.

He was born 57 years ago in Ennis, County Clare, but moved to Brighton when he was six, and became a devoted Brighton and Hove Albion fan.

He threw in a secure job in insurance to freelance in sports radio, and soon flew through a BBC audition, not only with his golden voice but by correctly answering 39 out of 40 sports questions.

Beginnings of a star

His first major radio project was to co-write a satirical series, but it was sports reporting that led to his recruitment by BBC Radio in London, where he specialised, for a time, in commentating on boxing.

He claims this was where he learned his trade, from a man called Angus Mackay, and has marvelled that he received absolutely no guidance on how to appear on television.

But this was, perhaps, to his advantage. "He deceives the public," Jimmy Hill once said.

"He looks so calm and relaxed, but his mind's whirring and his heart and pulse rate are thudding."

Hill should know, as the victim of Lynam's famous drollery on many an occasion.

When the pair once talked about the 1966 World Cup final, Hill said: "I was employed even then by the BBC - though in a very minor capacity of course." To which Lynam replied: "You're still in a minor capacity, Jimmy."

Lynam speaks to his audience as if he were talking in the same room. He is familiar and understanding, his manner wry, his phrases truncated.

The BBC's loss is undoubtedly ITV's gain. His love affair with the public will continue, regardless of the channel on which he broadcasts.

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