Steve Bale wins Peter Corrigan Sports Media Award

The Peter Corrigan Welsh Sports Media award is the highest accolade in sports journalism for members of the Welsh media throughout the industry and across the UK.

The former Observer sports editor, Peter Corrigan, was the first recipient in the then Welsh Sports Journalist of the Year award in 1990. Among those who followed in his footsteps are many of Fleet Street’s finest, as well as his son, Jamie Corrigan, who is the Golf Correspondent at the Daily Telegraph.

The award in 2018 went to a man who launched his career at the Neath Guardian and worked his way through the leading titles in south Wales before working as the rugby correspondent at the The Independent and the Daily Express. He then ended his illustrious career at the Sunday Times.

WSHoF committee member Peter Jackson, another previous winner, announced the winner, and the award was presented by Jamie Corrigan and his sister, Sally. This is Peter’s citation:

Our winner went to a Grammar School where the more distinguished Old Boys included two England cricket captains, Cyril Walters and Tony Lewis. Although he didn’t quite scale those heights, he did play for Glamorgan Colts and went on to cover many more test matches than any captain of England in any sport.

He has covered them all over the world, including one behind the Iron Curtain which he survived – more than could be said of all the players. If ever the Welsh Rugby Union create a black museum, like the one at Scotland Yard, Bucharest in November, 1983, will have pride of place – a notorious occasion which became all the more so for our man because he had to mark every player out of 10, a common practice these days, but cutting edge back then.

Like everything else in his life, he did it without fear or favour, an early introduction to the tricky business of repairing fractured relationships as the price for honest criticism. His clothing has acquired a somewhat funereal flavour over the years. Johnny Cash might have had him in mind when he wrote the song ‘Man in Black’, although to be fair that probably has more to do with his love of Neath rugby club.

As with his sense of fashion, he has also separated himself from the common herd in other ways. Unusually among sports journalists, a lifelong aversion to curry means he has never set foot in an Indian restaurant and this is a person who does not have a racist bone in his body.

He has a lofty disdain for chumminess between reporters and performers, an even loftier disdain for anyone who savages the English language. Split infinitives are bad enough, but misplaced apostrophes demand a custodial sentence.

His recent retirement leaves the English language exposed to all manner of maltreatment. Rugby journalism is all the poorer for one who has been truly a stylist in the widest sense – always using a fountain pen, never anything as cheap and nasty as a biro. He also has the best shorthand note of any sports reporter I’ve ever known and an insight into Rugby Football which enabled him to see things many of us often missed until we read his report.

He is also in a class of his own when it comes to singing National Anthems – the Marseillaise, Advance Australia Fair, God Defend New Zealand, Fratteli d’Italia, the Soldier’s Song – he knows them all and sings them beautifully.

His was the old-school route to the top, from home in Resolven to a weekly newspaper, the Neath Guardian, to evening dailies, the South Wales Evening Post in Swansea, the South Wales Argus in Newport, the Western Mail and then to London – where he distinguished himself on The Independent, the Daily Express and, most recently, the Sunday Times. Seven World Cups, seven Lions tours.

And two more revealing things about him post-retirement; he has been spotted on the terraces at Rodney Parade supporting Newport County and he has recently complete a GCSE course in Welsh, which only goes to show it is never too late.

I know that Peter Corrigan admired him greatly and he would be thrilled to hear that the Peter Corrigan Welsh Sports Media Award for 2018 is a man who has been a class act from start to finish, Steve Bale.