LONDON: Jimmy Hill, one of English football’s most visionary figures, has died aged 87 after a long illness.
The former Fulham inside forward, as chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association, led the campaign for the scrapping of maximum wage, became a manager, club chairman, analyst and regular presenter of BBC’s Match of the Day programme.
Some of the other ideas Hill helped make a reality included establishing a player’s right to freedom of movement at the end of his contract and the introduction of three points for a win.
He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2008.
In a statement, his agent, Jane Morgan, said: “It is with great sadness that Bryony Hill and the children of Jimmy Hill have announced that Jimmy passed away peacefully aged 87 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Bryony was beside him.”
Hill was born at Balham in south London on July 22, 1928. He played as an amateur for Reading then turned professional with Brentford before spending nine years at Fulham between 1951 and 1960 as inside forward partner to England’s Johnny Haynes.
He scored 41 goals in 274 appearances, taking up the chairmanship of the Professional Footballers’ Association in 1957. In the next three years he campaigned successfully for the abolition of the £20-a-week maximum wage with the Football League only conceding defeat after the threat of a players’ strike.
After his retirement at 33 in 1961 Hill took his only managerial role at Coventry City. Here again Hill proved a pioneeer. He changed the club’s strip colour to sky blue, commissioned the first English all-seater stadium, lifted a ban on media interviews, introduced the first electronic scoreboard in 1964 and the first colour match-day programme.
He led the club the the Division Three championship in 1963-84 and the the Division Two title three years later but he quit the club shortly after before the start of their top-flight campaign.
Hill, who has a statue of him at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena, went on to enjoy spells as chairman at Coventry, Fulham and Charlton.
He became a broadcaster and head of sport for ITV between 1968 and 1972 before moving to the BBC six years later where he became presenter of Match of the Day until he handed over the reins to Des Lynam in 1989 after more than 600 shows. He also fronted coverage of the 1970 World Cup in Mexico and introduced the analysts’ panel to UK TV football.
Tony Hall, the BBC’s director general, said: “For generations of fans Jimmy Hill was an authoritative voice as both a presenter and analyst.
“He was committed to innovation in every aspect of the game, including broadcasting and always believed supporters came first. His influence lives on in the programmes we enjoy today.”
Barbara Slater, BBC Director of Sport added: “Jimmy Hill was an iconic and unique figure and we are all deeply saddened by the news.
“He was one of the great innovators and a huge talent, a man ahead of his time with a personality that dominated his era both in football and broadcasting.
“Jimmy was also a dear friend and colleague to many at the BBC and will be greatly missed.”
Coventry paid tribute to their former manager and chairman, saying on Twitter: “Thank you for everything Jimmy, without you none of this would have been possible.”