Trib­ute to jour­nal­ist Trevor Freck­nall

JOUR­NAL­IST POP­U­LAR WITH ATHLETICS GREATS LOSES BAT­TLE WITH CANCER

Athletics Weekly - - Contents -

PAULA RAD­CLIFFE, Greg Rutherford, Jes­sica En­nis-Hill and Chris Thomp­son were among those to praise the ca­reer and per­son­al­ity of Trevor Freck­nall, who died last week from cancer aged 72.

As AW’s news ed­i­tor from 1993-2000 he in­ter­viewed the ma­jor­ity of lead­ing Bri­tish ath­letes dur­ing the pe­riod and left an in­deli­ble im­pres­sion with many due to his cheery char­ac­ter and nat­u­ral em­pa­thy.

“Trevor’s warmth and gen­uine en­thu­si­asm and love for the sport en­deared him to so many of us,” tweeted Rad­cliffe, while Rutherford added: “He was a lovely, lovely man who did an aw­ful lot for the sport.”

“So sad to hear that Trevor has passed away,” said En­nisHill. “He was great for our sport and more im­por­tantly a re­ally lovely man. He’ll be missed.”

Freck­nall was a skil­ful, old-school jour­nal­ist but he spe­cialised in two ar­eas – the pol­i­tics of the sport and cross­coun­try run­ning. In­deed, he was never more at home than when re­port­ing on win­ter races over the mud and he was in­stru­men­tal in the cre­ation of the Bri­tish Athletics Cross Chal­lenge.

Thomp­son was one of the top young cross-coun­try run­ners at the time and said: “Words can’t de­scribe how much of an im­pact Trevor had in my early ca­reer. In­fec­tious per­son­al­ity, lovely guy. He al­ways made me smile.”

Freck­nall’s weekly Cross Talk col­umn in AW was a must-read for any­one in­ter­ested in that sec­tion of the sport, while he also packed the news pages with ex­clu­sive in­sights into, most par­tic­u­larly, the in­ter­nal bick­er­ing in the sport which cul­mi­nated in the Bri­tish Ath­letic Fed­er­a­tion go­ing bust in 1997.

Freck­nall’s pop­u­lar­ity was due to his bril­liant tal­ent as a jour­nal­ist and his jovial per­son­al­ity. He was for­ever smil­ing, al­though be­hind the jokes there was a steely de­sire to do a pro­fes­sional job, a fe­ro­cious work ethic and a healthy dis­dain of what he called “con­ve­nience jour­nal­ism”, whereby fel­low writ­ers took short-cuts when writ­ing sto­ries.

Be­fore join­ing AW, Freck­nall had been sports ed­i­tor of the Not­ting­ham Evening Post where his stint at the news­pa­per co­in­cided with Brian Clough’s reign at Not­ting­ham For­est. The mav­er­ick foot­ball man­ager was no­to­ri­ously un­pre­dictable and fa­mously did not suf­fer fools. But deal­ing with Clough on a weekly ba­sis meant that noth­ing fazed Freck­nall dur­ing the re­main­der of his jour­nal­ism ca­reer.

Freck­nall would of­ten hold court in bars and restau­rants at in­ter­na­tional athletics events with a rapt au­di­ence laugh­ing at his tales about his days cov­er­ing For­est. He would later write a book about Clough in ad­di­tion to ghost­ing the au­to­bi­og­ra­phy of marathon leg­end Bill Ad­cocks and nu­mer­ous books about the lo­cal his­tory of his na­tive Newark.

He left AW at the turn of the mil­len­nium to work for one of his best con­tacts, Dave Moor­croft, at UK Athletics as a me­dia of­fi­cer but found the mod­ern world of PR wasn’t for him and soon eased into semi-re­tire­ment where he spent more time with his wife Gill and chil­dren Claire and Ian.

Sadly, his only writ­ing in re­cent months were fierce let­ters to politi­cians about im­prov­ing NHS cancer care, plus up­dates on his de­clin­ing health on Face­book, where he at­tracted a fresh au­di­ence of old friends and new ad­mir­ers with his witty and in­sight­ful com­ments.

“HE WAS A LOVELY, LOVELY MAN WHO DID AN AW­FUL LOT FOR

THE SPORT”

PAULA RAD­CLIFFE

Trevor Freck­nall (right): in his role as UKA me­dia of­fi­cer

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