Lives Remembered

Adam Coates: Legendary broadcaster was voice of Irish League soccer

Adam Coates presented Saturday Sportsound on BBC Radio Ulster for two decades

THE death of sports broadcaster Adam Coates leaves a gap that will be difficult to fill.

Adam was a real gentleman who located to Belfast following a career as sports editor with the now defunct Weekly News in Glasgow.

He quickly became a prominent figure here, first working with the local edition of the Weekly News, then the Daily Mail, before moving on to the BBC where he became anchor man in most sports programmes, most notably Saturday Sportsound.

His broadcasting break came when he wrote a letter to the BBC on behalf of the Northern Ireland Football Writers' Association objecting to a reliance on celebrities - and found himself invited for an audition.

He began covering Irish League games and when Mike Nesbitt moved to another role in 1987, he was asked to present Sportsound.

Adam's main interest was soccer, but he was well versed in all sports and could discuss any discipline with anybody.

His interviews with golfers, athletes, the boxing fraternity, GAA players and others stamped him down as an all-rounder who kept abreast of all news.

His soft Aberdeen accent and laid-back style of broadcasting also made him a big hit with fans of any sports.

It was Adam Coates who introduced me to sports journalism while he was with the Weekly News in Glasgow.

The popular paper, in its Northern Ireland edition, gave full coverage to local soccer but no other sport featured.

I wrote on this point to the paper, stating that GAA had a bigger following than soccer, and I got a reply from Adam.

He told me that he was interested in what I had to say and that he would be in Belfast within a few weeks' time for the Irish Cup final and would like to meet me for a chat.

We got together for a coffee and I told him him what was happening in GAA circles and he was very interested. He agreed that GAA deserved a weekly column in the paper and offered me the job of writing it.

I explained that I wasn't a journalist – I worked as an office manager at the time - but he said that didn't matter. Since I knew the GAA set-up he was prepared to take me on as a columnist.

I was delighted with the offer and from then Adam and I were firm friends.

Shortly afterwards, Adam moved to Belfast to take over the editorship of the local edition of the Weekly News and he never returned to his native Scotland.

He fully adopted Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland fully adopted him.

Adam Coates died aged 76 on March 29 and a thanksgiving service took place at Roselawn Crematorium outside Belfast on Thursday.

Local sport has lost one of its outstanding journalists, while his wife Carole and daughter Joanne has lost much more. May he rest in peace.

Tony McGee

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