LONDON – Simon Haydon, who shaped The Associated Press’ coverage of World Cups and Olympics as international sports editor and reported on landmark news events while traveling the world as a correspondent, including the downfall of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, has died. He was 64.
Haydon had recently been diagnosed with cancer and contracted the coronavirus last week. He died early Tuesday in a hospice in southern England, according to his wife, Barbara.
Haydon left the AP in 2018 after a decade based in London overseeing global sports coverage, retiring to further his recovery from a heart attack and to pursue interests outside journalism.
“Simon never forgot that covering sports is supposed to be fun. He was at his happiest at global tournaments and big events, always willing to help on whatever was needed,” said Michael Giarrusso, the AP’s global sports editor. “He could conduct interviews in several different languages, and he had a deep knowledge of European football history and cricket.”
Despite stepping back from journalism after four decades, Haydon did not lose touch with writing or sports -- particularly soccer, or football as he pushed for the American-based AP to call the world’s most popular sport.
Through his “Fat Ref” blog, Haydon — who would joke about his girth -- used his experience as an amateur referee to analyze calls by officials in the world’s biggest matches.
“While I’ve never been a good footballer, I’ve had a lot to do with football,” he wrote. “My four sons have all played football at varying levels and I became a referee after shouting at a referee in Kent one day and receiving a dressing down from him.”
Likewise, he cautioned AP writers against quoting unsubstantiated criticism by coaches deflecting from losses.