The story of John Motson’s iconic sheepskin coat

The story behind John Motson’s legendary sheepskin coat: It became his trademark after being caught in a blizzard at Wycombe in 1990… but it wasn’t supposed to be anything other than a source of warmth

  • John Motson, one the most notable commentators of his age, has died aged 77
  • The sheepskin coat became synonymous with the beloved BBC commentator
  • He never intended for it to become as notable and iconic as it became  

Walk into the National Football Museum in Manchester and beside Sir Geoff Hurst’s 1966 World Cup final shirt and George Best’s first pair of boots, you will find John Motson’s sheepskin coat.

The made-to-measure, knee-length coat became part of the fabric of football — literally. It was synonymous with the man behind the mic who never claimed for a single one of his collection on BBC expenses. His last purchase in 2018 cost £2,000 from Hides Couture in Hertfordshire.

Motson never intended to turn the sheepskin coat into anything other than a source of warmth. He wore it to stop his teeth from chattering in the oft-blustery commentary booths which were his domain. ‘People just latched on to it,’ Motson said. ‘I didn’t mean to turn it into a trademark.’

It was on December 8, 1990, when Motson’s sheepskin coat first gained notoriety. Standing on the Adams Park pitch in the middle of a freak snowstorm, he told Grandstand viewers that the FA Cup tie between Wycombe Wanderers and Peterborough United had been postponed. Photographer Stuart Clarke captured the moment, Motson’s brown coat standing out in the snow.

Martin O’Neill was Wycombe manager that day. ‘I remember it as if it was yesterday,’ O’Neill, 70, told Sportsmail on Thursday. ‘The BBC came down to cover the game and all was fine. Then the next thing you know, Adams Park is covered. It’s getting deeper and deeper, and John is speaking to camera with his feet stuck in a foot of snow and in his sheepskin. It was iconic. He was iconic.’

John Motson became synonymous with his sheepskin coat – though it was not intended

'Motty', as he was affectionately known, simply wore it to prevent his teeth from chattering

‘Motty’, as he was affectionately known, simply wore it to prevent his teeth from chattering

From then on, it was part of the Motson package, as recognisable as his voice. Rory Bremner did an uncanny impression of ‘Motty’, and Steve Coogan’s comic creation Alan Partridge occasionally sported a sheepskin coat in jest. Motson didn’t mind, though, saying: ‘Any publicity is good publicity.’

Football has had its fair share of famous coats, from the one worn by Jose Mourinho in his first spell at Chelsea to the one with the tricky zip that Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger could never master. But none gained as great a following as the one worn by Motson — with fans stopping him in the street to ask where it was, even in summer time!