How a plane crash led to 16 years on Sky Sports for broadcaster Bryn Law

“I took the opportunity handed to me by that plane crash, and it took me to Sky and all the rest of it. It impacted my thoughts on flying too, but I haven’t stopped!”

He was the face of Sky Sports News’ coverage of Leeds and Yorkshire for a decade and a half and was the voice of the Wales national team as they went from the pits of international football to the highs of Euro 2016.

Bryn Law, like many young boys and girls up and down the country, only ever wanted to watch football for free.

It is safe to say the broadcaster has done that and then some in his successful career, first on the airwaves of BBC Radio Leeds and then on people’s screens with Sky Sports News.

Now the 51-year-old has branched out into the freelance world, but as he admits, his timing wasn’t great as the Coronavirus pandemic meant sport grinded to a halt.

His new venture comes 22 years after an incident that could have had tragic circumstances ending up propelling Law onto the Sky Sports screens.

Then working for BBC Radio Leeds, the broadcaster was on board a plane that was taking Leeds United from Stansted back to Yorkshire following a 3-0 defeat at West Ham in 1998.

Just after take off one of the engines caught fire causing the plane to crash land, with all those on board lucky to escape unharmed.

As they say, every cloud has a silver lining, and on that day, that was certainly the case for the young reporter.

Law explains: “The plane took off and the engine exploded and we had to crash land, and we were lucky to get away with our lives.

“This is where I got national press exposure as I was the only journalist on the plane at the time.

“Sky had just been planning to launch their 24/7 news service, Sky Sports News, and the guy in charge saw me as I was the sort of the ‘jonny on the spot’ reporter.

“He recognised my name from stuff I had done before, and got in touch with me after the crash and offered me a job at Sky, and I was there for 16 years.

“It was funny how things worked and they say every cloud has a silver lining.

“I got paid after that by the Daily Express for an article on the crash, it was my first and only paid national newspaper article.

“It was a traumatic event. I remember borrowing David Wetherall’s phone to ring Radio Five’s news desk, and all the journalist training kicked in there, and I was the reporter who broke the story.

“I took the opportunity handed to me by that plane crash, and it took me to Sky and all the rest and had a major impact on the rest of my career.

“It impacted my thoughts on flying too, but I haven’t stopped!”

The front page of the Yorkshire Evening Post following the crash

It had been a sharp rise for Law, who worked constantly from his school days, shadowing reporters and working on local radio stations to get his chance in the highly competitive industry.

When at Sky he threw himself into all sorts to get on in the industry, even commentating on beach football at one point when no other broadcasters were keen.

He became the Sky commentator for his beloved Wales, following them from the lowest ebbs to the highs of their Euro 2016 adventure.

And in amongst all that he was a regular on our screens on Saturday afternoons with Gillette Soccer Saturday and a staple of the Sky Sports News rolling coverage we have come accustom to over the years.

However looking through Law’s back catalogue of career achievements, for avid sports fans, there are two iconic moments that stick the memory that involve a euphoric high and a shockingly sad low.

In 2007 the fanatical Wrexham fan was the Soccer Saturday reporter at the Racecourse Ground as the Dragons faced Boston United in a crunch survival/relegation decider.

As Chris Llewellyn fired in the crucial goal to ensure Wrexham’s last day survival, Law described the action as the tears of joy rolled down his cheeks.

An emotional Law reporting on his beloved Wrexham back in 2007 as they survived relegation on the final day

It was a moment that went down in Soccer Saturday history and showed the emotional side that can sometimes come with the job.

Four years later and Law became emotional in front of the camera again, but this time it was emotion of a different kind.

The world woke on a Sunday morning in November 2011 to discover Wales boss Gary Speed had sadly died at the age of 42.

The footballing community went into mourning and it later transpired that the former Leeds, Everton and Newcastle man had taken his own life.

For Law, who was the go to Leeds reporter for Sky Sports News at the time, it turned out to be the toughest day of his successful career.

A career, that as he explains, also had to take in one of the other truly saddening moments in the history of Leeds United.

He said: “It was no doubt the hardest moment. I had other tough ones, I was the reporter in Istanbul when Leeds were over playing Galatasaray.

“I was in the hotel bar and we found out two fans had been stabbed, and we only knew they were attacked at that point.

“I spent that night outside the hospital in central Istanbul and going around various police stations are learning the two guys had died.

“I’d done that, all the financial collapses at Leeds, and then there was the death of Gary.

“He and I had struck up a relationship from early on when I moved to Leeds, and we were the same age.

“Then I covered Wales games and he would be a studio guest, so when games were on we would spend time in Cardiff and go on nights out and all the rest of it.

“In a way too I helped him get the Wales manager job as I was a bit of a messenger boy between the two parties!

“Then we worked together when he got the job, and we go on so well so it was an incredible and awful shock when it happened.”

Law outside Elland Road reporting on the death of his friend and Wales manager Gary Speed in 2011

Looking back nine years ago, Law admits he was apphrensive about covering a story that struck a chord so close to home.

In the end, he decided to go and reported on what was a highly emotionally charged day in Yorkshire.

On air he shared the text messages he and Speed had sent to each other the previous day, and at one point it all got too much.

The 51-year-old explained: “I was asked by Sky to go and cover it on the day outside Elland Road and I was reluctant to do it.

“They rung me and told me to go and through tears I said I don’t know if I can.

“They said I was the local guy so they wanted me to go, and in the end I thought it should be me because I knew the story, I knew his mum and dad and all the rest of it, and it would be more real coming from me.

“So I went and it was an incredibly difficult day.

“I was having conversations all day as fans came to lay flowers and it got on top of me in the end.

“You shouldn’t show emotion in these situations, but there had been the tears of joy at Boston Wrexham a few years previous, and then there was emotion in different circumstances on this day.

“It all got on top of me and I couldn’t do it anymore. I was sent home and I should have probably been sent home a lot sooner.

“It was hard, because I had set out to be a commentator and just wanted to go and watch matches for free, that was the bottom line, and what I had done with this and Istanbul was so far removed from what I set out to do.”

Law remained a staple of Sky’s rolling sports coverage for a number of years after, alongside other projects such as giving media training to young managers studying for UEFA Pro and A Licenses with the FAW.

And earlier this year the North Walian opted to go it alone, after being a staff broadcaster with the BBC and Sky for decades.

Most recently you could find Law commentating on Leeds United games for LUTV and he has been the voice of the Cymru Premier club’s European matches in recent months.

Law can now be heard commentating on LUTV

His move to the freelance world has come at a time when many other broadcasters, who are regarded as the old guard, have been controversially moved on.

Clive Tyldesley at ITV has made way for the younger tones of Sam Matterface, with others such as Alan Green, Mark Pougatch and in racing, Cornelius Lysaght also being asked to move on.

Such moves prompted some fans of Pougatch to accuse the BBC of being driven by a ‘pathetic diversity agenda’. Sky has since come in for similar criticism after the likes of Matt Le Tissier and Phil Thompson were binned from the Soccer Saturday chairs.

As someone who has been a stalwart of the industry for decades, Law acknowledges that there is a need for diversity.

However he insists that the next generation of young commentators coming through have to step up and devote their lives to these roles, much like the ‘old guard’ have done for decades.

Law added: “Nobody has a right to anticipate they have a job for life. The problem with this job is you want to do it forever, to talk about football.

“There is a need for diversity, social diversity and all the other things.

“People recognise there needs to be a shake up and it is hard. I saw what Clive Tyldesley said when he lost the ITV job, and I went through something similar when I lost the Wales job.

“But nothing lasts forever and you have to reflect on these roles and remember how lucky you were to be involved in them.

“It now lies with the next generation, they need to step up and operate these roles and devote themselves.

“Sports broadcasting requires your total commitment to everything you do, because people watching you would literally give their left arm to be where you are.

“You have to immerse yourself in it, as it is a job others are desperate to do.”

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