Belfast Telegraph

Sportsound producer leads tributes as legendary BBC broadcaster Adam Coates passes away

By Gareth Hanna

Tributes are pouring in following the passing of the BBC's former voice of Northern Irish sport Adam Coates, aged 76.

Coates was most recognised for his work on BBC Radio Ulster's Saturday Sportsound programme, on which he played a leading role for two decades.

The Scotsman made listeners familiar with his love of his local team Aberdeen and before joining the BBC, had worked as a newspaper journalist with the Sunday Post in Glasgow.

He moved to Northern Ireland at 22 and went on to work for the Daily Mail in Belfast before getting his break in broadcasting.

Adam Coates.JPG
Adam Coates presented the Sportsound Team of the Year awards for the 05/06 season to the Irish League's select stars.

Most of Coates' stint as Sportsound host was spent working alongside current producer Brian Johnston. It was with a fond tone that he looked back on a much-loved colleague.

"What a lovely man Adam was," said Johnston. "He never panicked and never got in a fluster. I could have said to him there was a fire in the studio and asked him to fill with underwater table tennis or something and he could have done it.

"In over 15 years, we never once had cross words and I never saw him losing his composure. We would have discussed things and at times disagreed but he would never have forced his point. If Adam paused for a little moment, that's how you knew he disagreed.

"As producer, I have line of sight with the presenter and if I had forgotten to tell him what was coming up next, he would just glance up. I always used to think I wanted to get through the full programme without Adam glancing up at me.

"Jackie Fullerton used to put on this exaggerated slow walk and he would say it's Adam Coates rushing down to do a Sportsound programme. Adam was such a calming personality.

"I was quite nervous going in for my first show as a producer but having Adam there as presenter was a great reassurance. He could have done it without a producer, he was that good.

"He was a great interviewer too - that was one of his great skills. Some journalists make statements rather than aske questions - he had that knack of getting the most out of his interviewee without saying very much himself. That was because he listened to what they said. He was happy for them to be the star, rather than him."

That willingness to stay away from the limelight was a trait that Coates displayed on and off the job, continued Johnston, even in after-show debriefs.

"Adam had a very dry sense of humour," said the producer. "He wasn't a great extrovert but when we used to go to the BBC club after the show, he would sit with half a pint of Guinness, observe it all and chip in with his funny quips.

"He was so widely read on so many varying topics. He was very knowledgeable on music and films as well as sport and could converse on so many topics. He used to ask me had I seen certain movies or heard certain songs. Very often I wouldn't have. I was always amazed by the breadth of his knowledge.

"It was an honour to work with Adam."

Coates was also a former chairman of the Northern Ireland Football Writers' Association, a post that led to his move into the BBC care of a letter of complaint sent on the association's behalf that turned into an invite to become a contributor.

"Adam Coates was really the voice of Irish League football for many years," said current NIFWA chairman Keith Bailie. "In the 80s and 90s Irish League clubs played Sportsound over their tannoys at half-time, so in the days before Twitter and Livescore, Adam was the first with all the news from around the grounds at 3.45pm.

"Adam was one of the best broadcasters of his generations and a well respected member of the Football Writers'. I'd like to extend my sympathy to his family and friends."

One of Coates' successors at the BBC Joel Taggart led the social media tributes.

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