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Page last updated at 17:53 GMT, Monday, 2 May 2011 18:53 UK

Tribute to BBC's 1966 World Cup director

Weeks in the booth at Elland Road, Leeds
Weeks, centre, produced BBC television coverage of World Cups and Olympics

Former BBC producer Alec Weeks, who directed the 1966 World Cup final coverage, died on Saturday, aged 84.

Weeks worked for the BBC from 1941 until his retirement in 1987. He was part of the Match of the Day team from its launch in 1964 and won a Bafta for his coverage of the 1976 FA Cup Final.

He produced BBC coverage of World Cups from England's famous triumph 45 years ago to Mexico in 1986 and of Winter and Summer Olympics from Innsbruck in 1964 to Los Angeles 20 years later.

Barry Davies
Barry Davies
BBC sport commentator

Alec was a big man in every sense. His imprint on television outside broadcasts is huge because he was one of the pioneers.

I think the greatest thing about him was his enormous enthusiasm. He treated every football match as if it was the first one he had ever done. He just loved it and his approach was extremely thorough.

It became a source of amusement that when he carried out his rehearsal on the morning of a match you could see the cameramen mouthing his words - they had heard them so many times.

Although he could be very hard on a cameraman who didn't get him the exact shot he wanted, the camera crews loved him and he was enormously successful.

I did my first match at the BBC with Alec in August 1969. It wasn't the easiest because I had started the day in Leeds. I was sitting having breakfast with Alan's number two when he received a call. David Coleman had lost his voice and Kenneth Wolstenholme had already gone down sick, so I was rushed to London at the last minute.

Alec Weeks
Weeks was a producer on Grandstand from 1961-1965

I was sent to cover a game I had done no preparation for at all. I had notes on Leeds-Spurs and now I was covering Crystal Palace-Manchester United.

But Alec was enormously helpful, guiding me through what I had to do and we survived with his help.

He was a very strong executive producer and fought for everything the BBC could get. He was a very proud man, proud of the BBC and his country. In many ways he was the television director equivalent of Bobby Robson in the way he was so enthusiastic about his country.

Alec didn't suffer fools gladly. He expected his commentators to do their preparation. He expected them to be part of the team and not be too egotistical in their approach.

He always had an opinion on the coverage and would make his presence felt. People cowered and did what he wanted in most cases. He wasn't a bloke to pick an argument with.

Alec was good company. For the last 20-odd years, he has invited people down for a get-together in Brighton in which we would chew the cud and go back over old times.

He loved his boxing, and there would be a part of Alec that would be quite proud of the fact that he died on the same day as Henry Cooper, who he admired and knew well.

John Motson
John Motson
BBC football commentator

When outside broadcasts first took over from film, Alec was central to the coverage in that he was a hands-on, in-the-scanner, BBC sports director who went out on a Saturday, with only four cameras.

He almost invented the style of football coverage that not just the BBC, but also other companies, have based the more modern techniques on. He didn't have the production vehicles and gizmos you would have now.

He ran the BBC Match of the Day office with a dedication and attention to detail that set the standards for years to come. He worked day and night arranging the next outside broadcast.

There was not the same office support in those days. He was very much a one-man band, he would book everything right up to and including the crews' lunch.

When I joined in 1971, he was a hard taskmaster, one who demanded a lot of you, but as a result got the best out of you and he continued to do that right up until his retirement.

The main memories I have of working with him were the Wembley Cup finals because he used to run them like a military operation. In those days, the BBC and ITV covered it simultaneously but with separate crews. It was a very competitive day.

Quite apart from directing the match, he was involved in who got to the FA Cup first, who got the first manager's interview and so on. He was very involved in every facet of the coverage on those big days.

He was a very formidable character. He didn't suffer fools gladly and if anyone from another channel challenged the BBC's authority he was very much up on his front foot fighting the battle.

He loved doing shots of the Liverpool Kop. When they started to sing You'll Never Walk Alone in the late 1960s and early 1970s that was always the opening shot.

He had a great love of going to Anfield - I don't know whether he was a Liverpool supporter but he certainly sounded like one when he went there.

Simon Brotherton
Simon Brotherton
BBC sport commentator

I used to live near to Alec when I was growing up and he helped to organise a week's work experience for me at BBC Radio Sussex, while I was still at school.

I was 15 at the time and that was where it all started for me, and it was Alec who opened the door, for which I will always be grateful.

He had this unbelievable breadth of experience and directed some of the finest moments the BBC sports department will ever know, like the 1966 World Cup Final. I remember his study had souvenirs of that momentous day in '66, rows of Rothmans Football Yearbooks and his Bafta for coverage of the '76 FA Cup final, casually placed on the side.

When he spoke you listened and, though I never worked for him, I can imagine he would have been someone who demanded the very highest standards at all times, or else! He was proper old school.

I didn't see Alec very often in recent years but when we did get together, we spoke primarily about football, of course, and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about the early days of Match of the Day and some of the game's great characters.

Alec didn't see it as his role to coach me from the sidelines during my career and his advice was rare, but always worth hearing.

Nonetheless, I hope he felt I was worthy of a commentary role on his old programme and that through me he still felt he had a link with Match of the Day, even many years after his retirement.

Bobby Moore lifts the Jules Rimet trophy

1966 - England win World Cup

Barry Davies and John Motson were speaking to Sam Sheringham



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see also
Boxing legend Cooper dies at 76
02 May 11 |  Boxing
The Quite Remarkable David Coleman
21 Apr 11 |  TV/Radio Schedule


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