Tees

Voice of the Boro Ali Brownlee of BBC Tees dies

Ali Brownlee
Image caption Middlesbrough-born Ali Brownlee worked in a bank before the BBC hired him in 1982 to report on "the Boro"

BBC Tees presenter and football commentator Ali Brownlee has died three months after being diagnosed with cancer.

Mr Brownlee, 56, was known as the "Voice of the Boro" after commentating on his beloved Middlesbrough FC for more than 30 years, as well as hosting the BBC Tees breakfast show.

He died at his home in Middlesbrough on Sunday night surrounded by family.

Tributes are being paid across Teesside.

For the latest news and more tributes to Ali Brownlee click here.

Image caption Ali Brownlee changed his name by deed poll to Up The Boro! for Sport Relief in 2014

Fellow BBC Tees presenter Neil Green, said: "We are all heartbroken by today's news.

"Away from the microphone, Ali was such a warm, generous and kind man who genuinely cared for his work colleagues.

"I will miss his energy, his voice and his smile that I arrived to work to every morning.

"The North East, Middlesbrough and BBC Tees is a darker place without him today."

Comedian Bob Mortimer went to school with Mr Brownlee and said: "He was as lovely a lad then as he is now."

Image caption Ali Brownlee was as well known for his enthusiasm as he was for his football commentary

Hundreds of fans offered their best wishes to Mr Brownlee after his diagnosis was announced and Middlesbrough supporters held large scale shows of support at matches.

Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson said he had lost "a true friend".

He added: "Alastair Brownlee was a man whose enthusiasm, passion and commitment were evident in everything he did, not just behind a microphone.

"All Boro fans know about Ali and his legendary commentaries over three decades. But there was so much more to him than that.

"His tireless charity work for people in the Teesside community he was so proud to represent was the mark of the man we all knew and loved.

"He was more than a supporter. He loved the club and we loved him."

Former Boro manager Tony Mowbray, now boss of Coventry City, added: "Ali was such a genuinely good human being. I was devastated when I heard a few months ago that he was ill.

"Knowing him personally as well as professionally, he was so full of life and positivity.

"When I turned up as the Boro manager on a match day, I'd often be coming in at the same time as Ali. His optimism made me laugh every time. He could never see anything other than a Boro victory."

Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald said: "Terrible, terrible news today of the death of Ali Brownlee. A lovely, decent man and Boro to his boots. There was joy in everything he did.

"I think of him more as a friend than simply the brilliant broadcaster that he undoubtedly was. I am immensely saddened at his passing.

"We, his audience and his fans are going to miss him but, at this time, we only imagine the pain felt by his family and our thoughts and prayers are with them all."

Mr Brownlee was born in Byelands Street in Middlesbrough, within shouting distance of the Boro's former stadium Ayresome Park.

Image caption Ali Brownlee often spoke about his Labrador Benjamin who he would walk on Redcar beach

He began his career working in a bank before, in 1982, the BBC offered him the chance to report on Boro.

He regularly raised money for charities such as Children in Need, Sport Relief and Zoe's Place, a hospice for children for which he was an ambassador.

Image caption Ali Brownlee (left) regularly hosted the Stockton fireworks

He was also closely involved with the Middlesbrough Foundation, the charity run by the football club and was a keen supporter of youth football in the area.

As well as following the ups and downs of Boro both at home and abroad, Mr Brownlee was also a well known personality in the North East and received the freedom of Middlesbrough.

Image caption Colin Briggs and Ali Brownlee sparred against each other in aid of Children of Need

Another BBC Tees presenter, Lisa McCormick, said: "Sometimes you build up a picture of what a person's like by listening to them on the radio but it's not quite who they are.

"In Ali's case, that big bubbly character full of passion and enthusiasm for life is exactly who he was in real life.

"Ali's positivity was relentless, I'll miss him terribly but I feel lucky to have known him, not only as a colleague but as a friend."

Image caption Ali Brownlee was well known on Teesside, having been born and bred in Middlesbrough before becoming the Voice of the Boro

Northern Echo editor Peter Barron went head to head with Mr Brownlee in the daily headline challenge on the BBC Tees breakfast show.

He said: "You always hear nice things about people when they pass away, in Ali's case he really was the nicest person you could meet, the most polite well mannered person that I ever met.

"He had a natural warmth about him, the mornings just aren't going to be the same.

"Even if you never met him he was your friend."

Image caption Floral tributes and scarves are being placed outside the Riverside stadium for Ali Brownlee

Though he was known as a Middlesbrough supporter, Hartlepool United have also paid tribute saying: "We are devastated to hear of the passing of Ali Brownlee, his knowledge, enthusiasm and passion will be missed enormously."

Sunderland and Everton have also both paid tributes online.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Supporters cheered when a photo of Mr Brownlee was shown at the Elland Road ground

A statement from his family, including wife Wendy better known to listeners as Mrs B and daughters Alison and Emily, said: "We would like to thank everyone for their kind words and support at this very sad time.

"Throughout his illness he maintained his positivity and hope of cheering on his beloved Boro back into the Premier League.

"He was Middlesbrough born and bred and loved his town and the people in it. He will be sadly missed by everyone."

Middlesbrough players wore black armbands for their match against Leeds United on Monday and supporters cheered when a photo of Mr Brownlee was shown on the Elland Road ground's big screen.

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