Tony Millard, sports commentator, ex-Brighton & Hove Albion matchday programme editor and the brains and voice behind the Seagull Line, has died, aged 74, yesterday morning.
He played a key role in bringing the shirt sponsorship deal with British Caledonian Airways to the club while his eye for a good promotional venture also led the Brighton team to record and release two music singles in the early 1980s, as well as fly to the 1983 FA Cup Final via helicopter.
While disliked by some who depict him as ‘rude,’ ‘obnoxious’ and ‘arrogant’, not to mention less than flattering comments about some of his supposed dalliances, Millard is mostly remembered fondly by Brighton fans for his tremendous work at the club as well as commentating on key moments in the club’s history.
Being a superb organiser and doer, the man was a driving force of so much that was great behind the scenes. Taken from the Brighton v Everton programme in April 1983:
Walking into programme editor Tony Millard’s office at the Goldstone can be like stepping into a tornado!
If there is a sports personality in the town who lives a fuller life than Tony, I’ve yet to meet him. It’s not unusual for him to be talking to two people on different telephone lines, whilst looking through programme photographs and Albion promotional material on his desk.
If variety is the spice of life, Tony should be nicknamed ‘Heinz’. He’s always got at least 57 things on the go at the same time! As a sports journalist he has covered everything from speedway and golf, to cricket and basketball. His radio broadcasting has taken him as afar as Los Angeles.
But home is where the heart is and no aspect of Tony’s career is more important to him than his work for Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club. Together, with his friend of many years standing, Ron Pavey, Tony has spearheaded the club’s money-spinning promotions team. He also spends a lot of time fixing personal appearances and interviews for Albion stars.
His journalistic experience means he is never shot of ideas for the match day programmes. Many of the club’s supporters have commented on the improved standard in recent years. Tony also does a great deal as match day announcer. Some of his jokes may be in the Tony Blackburn class, but his professional style eases supporters through the afternoon with pop music, match details and sports news from around the country.
Tony’s match days don’t stop there. He broadcasts reports for local radio stations and he is a regular contributor to ITV’s ‘World of Sport’ big match coverage too. His Saturdays race past in a whirl of activity, but Tony wouldn’t have it any other way.
‘I came to the Albion full-time five years ago,’ says Tony. ‘My first jobs were to reshape the ground advertising contracts and also find sponsors for matches here at the Goldstone. Next I got to work on redesigning the programme and that tied in well with the match day announcing I’d already been doing for some time.
‘It’s a busy life, but I like it. You never quite know what the day ahead holds in store and that’s exciting.’
Tony is a useful cricketer and seems to cram more matches into his summer than Australian sponsors pump into their one-day tournaments. He also plays golf and he enjoyed a fair amount of success as a footballer, playing for Haywards Heath receives, after leaving school.
His flair for organisation shone through as early as 1961, when he became involved with the local football Sunday Leagues. His friendship with Ron Pavey dates back to that time. Now, Tony lives and breathes sport. His energy and enthusiasm combine to make him a popular member of the Goldstone staff.
‘I make my living from being involved with sport,’ says Tony, finally. ‘I really couldn’t ask for more.’
A great example of his intense commentary style can be found here in this famous heartstopping match with Hereford in 1997:
Finally, some classic Millard anecdotes gleaned from the pages of North Stand Chat. Enjoy!
El Presidente – The Albion Supporters Club XI played against the Southern Sound XI in 1985. Millard was playing for Southern Sound, I pushed the ball past him, ran onto it, and his response was to rip my shorts off.
gjh1971 – My favourite Millard moment was during the early eighties at the Goldstone, Andy Ritchie missed an open goal, and Tone had inadvertently left the microphone on, and Millard blurted out ‘pull your bloody finger out, Ritchie’ across the PA.
Harty – My top Millard Moment was at the York City game in 1996, with a near riot taking place and the goals already ripped down ‘our Tone’ comes out with an Albion PA golden moment.
“While we’ve got this break in the play, can I remind you it’s Steve Foster’s testimonial this Tuesday, when the Albion take on Sheffield Wednesday, 7.45 kick off? Hope to see you all back here.”
The Large One – After-match interview with Danny Cullip
Millard: Interesting goal you scored there, Danny…
Cullip: Yeah, well. A bit flukey, but to be honest, it doesn’t matter how they go in – as you should know, Tony.
There’s also another one where he is commentating for radio and accidentally uses one of his catchphrases from his other big project: “You’re listening to Seagull Line on Brighton 8049, that’s the number for Albion information, everyday, 24 hours a day.” Oops. Thanks for the memories, Tony.