Ron Evans: An appreciation

RON Evans, who has died at the age of 75, devoted more than 45 years of his life to Rugby Union in Scotland, as a tireless champion of the sport at all levels as a writer, broadcaster and administrator.

He knew the sport inside out and there are many who would consider the man from Ayr as the best-connected sportswriter in Scottish rugby. He was a committed champion of the grassroots game and every club in the sport is indebted to him.

Ayr-born Ron took immense pride in recent years in Ayr Rugby Club’s championship successes. Indeed, the announcement in the Herald of his passing proclaimed “Forever the pink and black” – the club’s colours.

“His work ethic was unbelievable,” Scottish Rugby Union president Ian Barr said in a tribute. “Scottish Rugby has lost a great friend and servant of the game and a true champion of our clubs. His passing is a huge loss personally and a major blow to Scottish club rugby.”

He added: “I counted him as a very good friend who knew the game inside out and always had its best interests at heart. I know I speak for clubs the length and breadth of Scotland in expressing our sincere sympathies to Ron’s family and many friends”.

Tributes were also paid by fellow sportswriters, broadcasters, club officials and former internationalists, all of them emphasising the depth and scope of his contribution to the sport.

Ron was born in November 1945, the son of Emlyn and Anne Evans. His Welsh father, an Army Commando, had been stationed in the area during the war, undergoing military exercises and staying on thereafter.

Educated at Ayr Academy, where he played both rugby (as a scrum half) and cricket, the young Ronnie was a travelling salesman in his early career before embarking on the most important match of his life when he married local Ayr girl Eleanor Murphy on October 4, 1969.

His first steps in journalism came in the mid-1970s when he covered local club rugby for the Ayrshire Post and the Ayr Advertiser. He went on to cut his teeth in broadcasting in the early 1980s with Westsound radio.

His first real break as a freelance sportswriter came when he was recruited by the late Glen Stirling’s Glasgow Sports Agency, principally to cover rugby. National League Rugby had been introduced in Scotland in the 1970s and Stirling’s agency was a vital link in the chain, providing thorough and widespread coverage, collating club rugby results and reports on a Saturday afternoon.

Ron was the agency’s man in Ayrshire, covering both Ayr and Kilmarnock Rugby Clubs. His heart lay at Millbrae, the home of Ayr – and nothing would give him greater pleasure than to be covering their game on a Saturday afternoon.

His love of rugby could in part be explained by his Welsh heritage, his father having imbued in him a lifelong interest in sport. He was forever convinced that Wales legend Barry John was (in his eyes) robbed of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award in 1971, the vote going to HRH Princess Anne instead – something for which he never forgave either the BBC or the Royal Family.

He continued covering the sport for Westsound as the introduction of professional rugby in the late 1990s provided a new impetus for the sport in Scotland, and he signed up with Glasgow Caledonians (as the city’s professional club was then styled), working in the media and commercial departments.

He was also a key member of the late David Kelso’s Kelvin Media team, providing crucial and valued coverage of the sport, and for a time was a member of staff at Glasgow and District Rugby Union.

For all of his work in local Ayrshire press and radio and his agency work, arguably his greatest contribution to the coverage of club rugby in Scotland came in the late 1990s when he set up his Rerite Sports results service.

Over the next two decades it provided an invaluable supply of results and information to virtually every media outlet in the country – newspapers, radio, television and websites as well as the SRU.

All came to rely on his contacts in order to provide the service that their readers, listeners, viewers and clubs came to expect. Even if, for example, his beloved Ayr were playing a midweek fixture in Belfast, the result would appear in the morning papers the next day, courtesy of Ron and his endless source of contacts.

Premiership, National League or Regional League – every level of club rugby was covered thanks to him. He had a thorough database of numbers, for clubhouses, club officials, and referees,

Evans was also the founder, owner, presenter and commentator of Scottish Rugby TV, producing top-quality coverage of the club game for a number of years in the late 2000s and early 2010s, providing that tier of the sport with an important and almost unique window on a level of the game striving to secure a role in the new professional order. Such coverage is these days recalled with great fondness and is sorely missed.

Ron was pre-deceased by his wife Eleanor in 2005. He suffered a serious heart attack last year and although his initial recovery had been promising, there were subsequent complications.

He is survived by his sons – Greig (based in Invercargill, on New Zealand’s South Island), and Glyn in Paisley, and his mother, who celebrated her 100th birthday last year.