Posted: June 19th, 2020
Former greyhound editor of The Sporting Life BOB BETTS has died, aged 75, in Addenbrooke’s Hospital [June 19, 2020] following treatment after a fall at home three weeks ago. Bob joined the paper in 1960, working his way up to greyhound editor in 1986. In 2007, Bob was presented with the ‘Services to the Greyhound Industry’ award by the Greyhound Writers’ Association. He leaves wife Di, children Zoe, Steve and Lucy, and three grandchildren.
There were so many tributes for Bobby the weight of emails smashed the editor’s mail limit. Two such tributes follow Paul Duffett’s obituary, below, and there’s a special collection of the scores and scores of wonderful words for Bobby at the very end of this post.
Obituary by PAUL DUFFETT: Bob Betts was born in Gillingham, Kent towards the end of World War Two, and his parents, elder brother Pete and young sister Chris moved to Kingsbury, London NW9 in the 1950s. That’s where he was living when he joined The Life as a messenger boy at the age of 15 in 1959. Within two years he was elevated to the greyhound desk, as well as working on the Sporting Life Guide.
Many of Bob’s colleagues from those days remember holidays and social events. Geoff Duffield said: “He was always good fun and didn’t have a bad bone in his body.”
Bob was captain of the Life football team, leading them to win the London Bookmaker’s League as well as achieving cup success. He finally hung up his boots at the age of 56 after winning Division 6 of the North London Old Boys’ League. He had previously played for Hendon and Finchley in the Isthmian League old boys’ teams.
Bob rose through the ranks at the Life to become greyhound editor when Archie Newhouse left to take over the reins at the sport’s governing body, the NGRC. Immediately putting his own stamp on the paper, Bob was a campaigning journalist who held the authorities and bookmakers to account at all times, while protecting the interests of the punter.
Bob earned great respect and loyalty from executives as well as those who worked under him, many of whom went on to have hugely successful careers in the industry inspired by the confidence Bob showed in them. All the while he maintained his trademark composure, great sense of dry humour and mischievous grin. He achieved his dream of launching The Greyhound Life, a daily eight-page pull-out section in the Life which gave the greyhound racing community what Bob felt it deserved, and it was a huge success. He remained at the helm until the paper’s amalgamation with the Racing Post in 1998.
Soon after that Bob became greyhound editor on The Sun, and held a similar position on the Sporting Press, the Irish greyhound paper, until his retirement four years ago. Bob also kept tabs on the greyhound world as life president of the Greyhound Writers’ Association and was honoured in 2007 for his services to the greyhound industry. He used his acceptance speech to warn against allowing bookmakers too much influence on the running of the industry.
Bob was a real family man, and has left an enormous gap in the lives of his wife Di, daughters Zoe and Lucy, son Steve and his three grandchildren. Steve (40) spoke of the family’s great pride in the father who had always given everything to ensure they had the very best opportunities, and how Steve’s very first thought was always to call his dad to speak about anything. “Dad was always the go-to person for all of us, and I am very proud to know he was so hugely respected in his career, as well as giving us all such a fantastic start in life.” The fact that Bob’s football career went on so long meant that Steve was able to play alongside him up front on a few occasions, another source of great pride. Barnet FC was another love of Bob’s, and in his final days, he visibly perked up on learning they had made the National League play-offs.
The number of tributes that came in following the announcement of Bob’s death says it all. So many people who knew, worked and socialised with Bob recount their memories of a man who was universally loved and respected. We have all lost a very dear friend.
Tributes: Paul Duffett – “Bob was one of those blokes who everyone liked and respected enormously. A ‘Life’ man all his days, he was a great guvnor and I honestly can’t think of a single instance of him losing his rag.
He quietly got on with being a great husband, father and grandfather, and during his time on the greyhound desk as journalist and editor was a loyal and friendly mate to everyone. He was responsible for my opportunity to get into greyhound photography, and there are many others who will likewise owe a debt of gratitude to the man for the openings he provided.
Mostly though, we will all miss a genuinely straightforward, kind, caring and friendly bloke who always enjoyed a pint with his mates, and never missed a Life reunion. Ever.”
John Curle – What a man he was! Without Bob’s help, encouragement and kindness, my life and career would have been very different. As a friend he was great fun, as a boss he was fiercely loyal and as a journalist he was second to none. Working at the Life during the 70s and 80s was amazing. It is impossible to convey to anyone who didn’t work there just what a great place it was. And Bob was a massive part of the scene, whether it was in the office or in the pub.
When Bob became Greyhound Editor the whole of the dog desk stepped up to a different level. His determination to give greyhound racing the platform it deserved brought about the Greyhound Life. Bob worked hard to make it a success. Everybody involved worked hard, too. We wanted the Greyhound Life to succeed, not just for the good of the newspaper but also for Bob as well. It was his ‘baby’ and we all knew how much it meant to him.
He was loyal to everybody who worked under him and because of that we would go that extra mile if ‘Super’ wanted it. The dog desk was always a pretty raucous place to work. God knows there were enough characters to fill a dozen sitcoms! Bob loved the craic and, even when he was in charge, rarely wasted the opportunity to wind someone up (usually me!). [Former greyhound editor] Archie Newhouse’s leaving do will go down in history as one of the great nights. It was outrageous, hilarious and rowdy. Those that were there will never forget it. And right at the centre of it was Bob. Happy to be with his Life mates, enjoying himself and holding everything together.
Bob loved the Life and everyone who worked for it. Once a Life man, always a Life man.
I have been helped by a lot of people in my career. But no-one helped me as much as Bob. I am eternally grateful to have known him, laughed with him, worked with him and been guided by him.
By BILL ROWNTREE, former Mirror Group photographer
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