Former Athletics Weekly editor Mel Watman has written a tribute about our former member Neil Allen, who died last Friday.
NEIL ALLEN (14.11.1932-13.9.2019)
It is with deep regret that I report the death, at the age of 86, of my good friend Neil Allen. Of all the athletics writers I have worked alongside since the 1950s, Neil ranks as among the most knowledgeable, compassionate and stylish. He was deservedly a sports journalism award winner and was both a friend and mentor to generations of Britain's leading athletes.
Neil, a modestly talented middle distance runner who joined Woodford Green AC in 1950, began his journalistic career in the best possible way, learning his trade on a local newspaper – the Stratford Express in East London – and in 1952 he became an editorial assistant to Norris and Ross McWhirter on their marvellous, ground-breaking monthly publication Athletics World. His assignments included being present at Iffley Road on May 6 1954 for a certain mile race. That year he started a lively gossip column in Athletics Weekly entitled "News Commentary" which later, for contractual reasons when he became athletics correspondent of The Times in 1955, was transformed into "On My Travels" by "Roamer".
Just turned 24, Neil was the youngest accredited journalist at the Melbourne Olympics of 1956 and he went on to report on 14 of them. I got to know Neil the following year and was indebted to him at the 1958 Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, when I was 20 and covering my first major Games for Athletics Weekly, for showing me the ropes with getting quotes etc.
Neil, who was also the boxing correspondent of The Times, reporting on most of Muhammad Ali's fights (including 'The Rumble in the Jungle' and 'The Thriller in Manilla'), was a prolific writer and for several years contributed authoritative articles to the well loved monthly magazine World Sports.
The coverage he was most proud of was when at the 1972 Munich Olympics he turned news reporter to document the dreadful massacre of Israeli team members by Palestinian terrorists. Three years later he suffered his own tragedy when his wife Sally died, leaving him to bring up his sons Matthew and James, both of whom also went on to have successful careers in the sports media. He married distinguished sports physiotherapist Helen Bristow in 1990 and Neil's third son, Christopher, was born in 1994.
After many years of dedicated service to The Times, Neil moved to the London Evening Standard as a sports columnist and also contributed to the New York Times. He was a founder member of the British Athletics Writers' Association in 1963 and at the time of his death was the Association's honorary vice-president.