MALCOLM Brodie, the legendary former sports editor of the Belfast Telegraph, has died.
‘Malky’, as he was affectionately known in the world of sport and journalism, was the key mover in setting up a sports department at the newspaper and served it for more than 50 years.
He lived on the Cregagah estate in east Belfast most of his adult working life.
The tributes have been led by Manchester United manager and fellow Scot, Sir Alex Ferguson.
He told Radio Ulster’s Talkback host Wendy Austin: “Malcolm was a fantastic man.
“I have known him nearly 40 years . I knew him when I first came into management.
“He was a great friend and I always valued his opinion.
“He cut to the chase. He was very straight talking.
“And the amazing thing was he never changed his accent and that was very difficult living in Belfast.”
And Sir Alex said with both being Scottish they could understand each other in their native tongue.
“It is a code. The language is a code to each other,” added Sir Alex.
Life long friend and BBC Northern Ireland football commentator Jackie Fullerton also paid a personal tribute.
He said: “We will never see his like again. The word unique doesn’t do his personality or longevity justice.”
On Wednesday afternoon, the Irish Football Association received a letter from FIFA president Sepp Blatter expressing his sorrow at Malcolm’s death.
Mr Blatter said: “I would like to express my deepest condolences for the loss of one of the true greats of sports journalism and a personal friend of mine, Dr Malcolm Brodie.
“Quality sports reporting is essential to sports organisations such as FIFA thanks to its ability to transmit all the colour and emotions of major competitions such as the FIFA World Cup to the fans back home.
“There was none better at this than Malcolm, who covered an incredible 14 FIFA World Cups and whose contribution to the sport was deservedly recognised with the bestowal of the FIFA Jules Rimet Award on him in FIFA’s centennial year of 2004.
“On behalf of the members of the international football community, I should be extremely grateful if you could extend our deepest condolences to Malcolm’s family, friends and loved ones.
“May his legend continue to inspire today’s sports reporters to promote our game and its spirit with the same passion and commitment that he did.”
Other tributes have paid, including one of his friends in the Belfast Telegraph.
Jim Gracey, the Belfast Telegraph group’s sports editor, said: “He was a wonderful man and a wonderful journalist who must have taught generations of sports reporters, myself included.
“He had a contacts book like no other. Everybody in soccer – from Pele to Sir Alex Ferguson – knew him.
“The man was beyond a legend.”
BBCI NI roving sports reporter tweeted on Wednesday morning: “Just heard the sad news about Malcolm Brodie.
“A great friend and legendary football journalist – covered 14 World Cups. RIP doyen.”
And Belfast-born former Manchester United star Norman Whiteside also tweeted: “What a shame to hear about the passing of Malcolm Brodie RIP.”
UTV’s Ken Reid, who is himself recovering after an illness, also tweeted: “Deeply saddened by the death of Malcolm Brodie.
“World class journalist and a source of encouragement to many, including myself.”
Linfield Football Club have sent its sympathy to the Brodie family.
On its official website Linfieldfc.com, the club said: “All at Linfield have been deeply saddened with the news tonight of the passing of Dr. Malcolm Brodie MBE.
“He had been ill in hospital for a while but this news has still come as a great shock to all who knew the legendary former Sports Editor of the Belfast Telegraph and Ireland’s Saturday Night.”
BBC Radio Ulster Talkback presenter Wendy Austin tweeted: “So very sorry to hear of the death of my old colleague and friend Malcolm Brodie.
“True legend in his own words: magnifico, magnifico, magnifico!”
Former Northern Ireland international player Jim Magilton tweeted: “Just heard the sad news about Malcolm Brodie-an encyclopaedia of football knowledge and a good friend.”
Such is his popularity that friends are trending him on Twitter in his memory: #malcolmbrodie
Dr Malcolm Brodie’s achievements in sports journalism, including reporting at 14 World Cups, were recognised by football’s world governing body, FIFA.
He was also awarded an MBE for services to journalism.
During Northern Ireland’s famous win over Spain in the 1982 World Cup he rang the Belfast Telegraph to file his copy.
Brodie told the copytaker: “Spain 0 Northern Ireland 1 – Magnifico, magnifico, magnifico!”
To which the copytaker replied: “It’s all right Malcolm, I heard you the first time!”
Mr Brodie began his career at the Portadown News, before moving to the Belfast Telegraph in 1943.
As well as establishing the sports department at the newspaper, he was its chief football writer for decades.
Known as the doyen of Northern Ireland football writers, Mr Brodie was on first-name terms with many of its legendary figures including Matt Busby, Jock Stein and George Best.
He was made an honorary life member of the Belfast Telegraph and wrote a history of the newspaper.
The 86-year-old retired from the paper in 1991 but was still involved in journalism, writing a regular column, ‘Down Memory Lane’.
In an interview with the paper four years ago, he told how his parents took a decision to send him and his brother to Belfast from Glasgow when The Second World War broke out as grandparents lived here and felt it would be safer.
Malcolm, who aspired to becoming a journalist as a young boy, got his first job with the Portadown News and ‘got a foot in the door’ at the Belfast Telegraph in 1943 when he saw a vacancy for a copy-taker advertised.
After about a year he became a news reporter, covering the courts – “I remember being baffled by the legalities” – and council meetings at Belfast City Hall.
He went on to be appointed Acting Deputy Parliamentary Correspondent but, after becoming disenchanted with the lack of real authority at Stormont, decided to pursue his dream of working in sports journalism.
“The Belfast Telegraph didn’t have a proper Sports Department at that time so I suggest to them that they should.
“Billy McClatchey, who was known as ‘Ralph the Rover’, and Jack Magowan, both of whom have sadly passed on, helped me form the basis of what is the Sports Department as it is today,” recalled Malcolm.
Among his many achievements, Malcolm was awarded the Jules Rimet Trophy by FIFA as the journalist who has covered more World Cups than any other – a staggering 14, beginning in 1954.
He was also made an Honorary Life Employee of the Belfast Telegraph by former Managing Director, the late Bob Crane.
After he retired, Malcolm set about completing a book chronicling the history of the Belfast Telegraph.
The project had been started by former Editor John E Sayers but, sadly, he died before he was able to finish it.
“I still keep busy. Retirement isn’t on my radar. I still do my column ‘Down Memory Lane’ and I’m writing so many obituaries people think I should be employed by a funeral undertaker!
“The whole aspect of being employed by the Belfast Telegraph has filled me with pride.
“The Telegraph is in my heart. No matter how long you are away from it, I always refer to it as ‘our paper’!