News11 Sep 2023

Statistician and commentator Matthews dies


Peter Matthews (© Getty Images)

World Athletics is deeply saddened to hear that athletics statistician and commentator Peter Matthews, one of the most respected and authoritative voices in track and field, died on Saturday (9) at the age of 78.

Matthews dedicated his life to the sport in various guises. He was a long-time editor of the ATFS International Athletics Annuals, as well as the Athletics International newsletter, working alongside fellow British statistician Mel Watman up until Watman's death two years ago. Alongside his work as a TV commentator, Matthews was also an in-stadium announcer for many events over the years.

Born in January 1945 in Hampshire, Matthews had a keen interest in the statistical side of the sport from a young age and joined NUTS (the National Union of Track Statisticians) in 1966. Just a few years later, in 1970 at the age of 25, he was the in-stadium announcer at the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh.

More than three decades later, when the Commonwealth Games were held in Manchester, Matthews was once again the stadium announcer, likewise at the 2003 World Indoor Championships in Birmingham and the 2006 European Championships in Gothenburg. In between time, he worked as a commentator for BBC radio and various TV channels and online platforms.

His role as editor of the ATFS International Athletics Annuals began in 1984 and continued up until the latest edition. He also edited the British Athletics Annual from the early 1980s, as well as the Guinness Book of World Records in the early 1990s.

Matthews was also instrumental in the compilation of the merit rankings produced by Athletics International.

In 2009 he was awarded the Ron Pickering Memorial Award for services to athletics, and in 2018 he was inducted into the England Athletics hall of fame.

"Peter's authoritative knowledge and dulcet tones added so much more to any athletics meeting he commentated on," said ATFS President Paul Jenes. "He was the editor of ‘Athletics the International Athletics Annual’ from 1985 until present. The annual was a must for lovers of athletics and members of the ATFS. Nearly 600 pages of records, rankings, biographies and articles was a great yearly history of world athletics. It was Peter’s Opus Magnum each year. Personally I had known Peter for more than 30 years and it was always a pleasure to sit and talk athletics and his other great love, cricket."

"I am shocked and upset by this news," said statistician Mark Butler. "I've looked way up to him ever since I first started paying attention to statistics in the 1970s. Hardly a day goes by when I don't have to refer to some of his great work in order to do my own. Regardless of athletics, he was always warm and friendly and charming. At a key point in his official IOC commentary of David Rudisha's world 800m record at London 2012, he remarks how none of the others are good enough to keep up with the peerless winner. That comment could equally be applied to Peter Matthews in our world of statistics."

“Nobody in athletics has a bad word about Peter Matthews,” said Geoff Wightman, the in-stadium announcer at the most recent World Championships. “He was unfailingly kind, calm and humorous in all his dealings. The doyen of the commentary box and announcing booth. That voice – so smooth and authoritative. He leaves a mass legacy of work as well as a huge void. Rest in peace.”

"I knew Peter for well over 50 years," said fellow statistician and historian Stan Greenberg. "He was a great announcer, radio and TV commentator, journalist, author, supreme athletics statistician, and all-round good bloke. I cannot recall a single argument or bad word between us, although of course we didn't always agree on everything. He will be greatly missed by all of his worldwide colleagues."

“This is how I will remember Peter Matthews,” tweeted Rob Walker, sharing a picture of him with Matthews at the 2015 World Championships. “In an athletics stadium, in his element, showing the youngsters how it was done. Very, very happy times. He taught me so much.”

World Athletics