Peter Matthews: 1945-2023

We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of world-renowned athletics statistician, author, and broadcaster Peter Matthews.

Highly regarded and much admired, Matthews was inducted into the England Athletics Hall of Fame in 2018 for his contribution to the sport which spanned more than half a century.

Peter Matthews commentating and statisticianAs well as being an outstanding historian and commentator, he was immersed in athletics at the grassroots level in his role as club president with Enfield and Haringey AC.

His views commanded respect and he was not reticent about criticising decisions he felt were not in the best interests of the sport.

He was best known for the multitude of statistical books he compiled or edited, including two essential reference books.

This included the NUTS Annual, produced by the National Union of Track Statisticians since 1959, which contains detailed facts and figures relating to the previous year’s British athletics scene. Matthews – who joined the NUTS in 1966 and was previous chairman – began editing the publication from the 1980 edition.

He took over as editor of the International Athletics Annual, produced by the worldwide Association of Track & Field Statisticians (ATFS), for the 1985 edition and made it into the Wisden of athletics.

Added to the deep world lists were new features, including concise biographies of nearly 600 top athletes of the day. In a momentous period for English athletics the UK section that year featured 11 athletes since inducted into this Hall of Fame: Seb Coe, Steve Cram, Peter Elliott, Dave Moorcroft, Steve Ovett, Daley Thompson, Kathy Cook, Judy Oakes, Tessa Sanderson, Wendy Sly and Fatima Whitbread. More recently, the annual featured 600 pages with over 800 athletes profiled.

Another essential statistical offering was his UK merit rankings, the 2017 compilation which appeared in Athletics Weekly marking its 50th year!

Together with the late Mel Watman, he co-edited and published Athletics International, which was born in 1993 and prints every worldwide result of significance.

As Britain’s, and probably the world’s, foremost athletics statistician and analyst, Matthews wrote, compiled, or edited many other books, and was a former editor of the Guinness Book of Records, sharing the memory for facts and figures of his predecessors, Norris, and Ross McWhirter.

Peter Matthews being presented with his Hall of Fame award by Tony Miller

As an announcer Matthews’ contribution included the Commonwealth Games of 1970 and 2002, the 2003 World Indoor Championships, the 2006 European Championships, and countless domestic meetings.

He broadcast for BBC Radio from 1975 to 1985, switching to television for ITV (1985-1996), Channel 4, Sky Sports, and the IAAF. He worked as a commentator or media manager at numerous Olympic Games and at every outdoor World Championships.

On the domestic athletics scene Matthews was much involved with the British Athletics League in its early days. He served 25 years as president of the Borough of Enfield Harriers and the merged club Enfield and Haringey AC, and as president of the UK Counties Athletics Union from 2009 to 2018. In 2009 he was presented with the coveted British Athletics Writers’ Association’s Ron Pickering Memorial Award for services to athletics by Jean Pickering.

We send our thoughts and best wishes to Peter’s friends and family at this difficult time.

Photos by Mark Shearman