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Peter Matthews, statistician extraordinaire, dies

Peter Matthews, statistician extraordinaire, dies

Highly respected British track and field expert has been one of the sport’s leading writers and commentators for more than half a century

Peter Matthews, one of the most respected voices in athletics and arguably the world’s foremost track and field statistician, has died aged 78.

After a lifetime in the sport where he excelled as a statistician, book editor, stadium announcer, radio and television commentator, historian and club president with Enfield & Haringey, he passed away in his sleep (Sept 10) after having had a recent history of heart problems.

At his time of death he was long-time editor of the International Athletics Annual and chairman of the NUTS (National Union of Track Statisticians). In addition, he compiled the Athletics International newsletter as a solo venture following the death of his co-editor, Mel Watman, in 2021 and he was part-way through the next issue with his desk covered with notes and results when he died.

Matthews was born on January 6 in 1945 in Fareham in Hampshire and he joined the NUTS in 1966. He was involved in the British Athletics League in its early days in the late 1960s and by 1970 he worked as an announcer at the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh.

Peter Matthews (Mark Shearman)

In-stadia announcing became a big part of Matthews’ life as he went on to enjoy this role at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, the 2003 World Indoors in Birmingham, the 2006 European Championships in Gothenburg and countless domestic events in the UK.

With a clear and commanding voice together with encyclopaedic knowledge, he attracted plenty of radio and television work too, broadcasting for BBC radio from 1975-85 before switching to ITV from 1985-1996 and then Channel 4, Sky Sports and the IAAF.

Peter Matthews with Steve Ovett (Mark Shearman)

But it was as a book editor where his work had possibly the greatest impact and endured over several decades. In 1984 he began a long period as editor of the International Athletics Annual, for example, produced by the worldwide Association of Track & Field Statisticians (ATFS), ahead of its 1985 edition and turned it into a brilliantly in-depth summary of the year’s performances.

Indeed, his editor’s notes in the ATFS annual were a must-read and he was never afraid to voice strong views on the sport. In particular he was exasperated in recent years by the dwindling number of competitive opportunities on home soil for British athletes – especially the loss of the traditional…

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