Over a thirty year career in sports news, Charlie Sale was the most read and feared diarist in the business, and his Sports Agenda column in the Daily Mail was scoured by everyone from the England football manager to the lowliest PR intern. When he retired at the end of last year, some of the biggest names in sport lined up to pay tribute to one of the hardest working journalists on Fleet Street. We went to see Charlie at his home in west London, to check on his health and see if his opinions of the people who run sport have mellowed since his retirement. (Spoilers: he's ok, and no). Get the podcast here
On quitting the Mail
"I’m fine, but the illness I had wasn’t conducive with carrying on working at the Daily Mail...I had Auto Immune Hepatitis. Basically, your body attacks itself. It’s pretty serious and you don’t know if it will come back again. Hopefully it won’t but all I can do is live properly, which is hard to do when you’re out on the road.
The Charlie Sale diet
“I’ve lost three stone. I’ve had to eat properly, which I never did when I was working. Drink wasn’t really the problem. I’m just much more careful about what I eat, and don’t drink as much as I did. When you don’t have the worry of a daily column, the stress levels tend to go down.
Fresher’s Week with Seb Coe
"Seb was on the same course as me, Economic and Social History. We all went out to the Fresher’s Ball, which was Gary Glitter as I recall…I doubt he'll be playing Loughborough’s Fresher’s week this year. Anyway, we all met up for a few drinks, and there was no Seb Coe. Where was he? Then someone saw this figure running around the perimeter of the college. So I went over and said to him, ‘Seb what are you doing? Your supposed to be out drinking with us’, and he said, no, I’m training for the Olympics. This was September 1975, so I thought he was a nutter or something, so shouted abuse at him. It was only a few weeks later that I saw in the local paper that he was this proper athlete.”
Why he took an early dislike to Ian Bell
"Ian Bell broke my father’s record for the youngest person to score a first class hundred for Warwickshire. My dad made a hundred in 1938 aged 18 and Ian Bell broke it by a few days. I was on England tour in Johannesburg, on one of the few occasions the press was allowed to mingle in the same bar as the players, and it was after a test victory. I saw Ian Bell and I wondered whether to go and talk to him about it, I was very proud of my dad’s achievement, and still am. So I finally went over and he couldn’t have been less interested. So ever since then I’ve slated him on every possible occasion.
Keeping the Daily Mail’s lawyers in work
"Quite a few stories got spiked by the lawyers, but they were amazingly supportive overall. I read that we’d paid out twenty grand to Peter Kenyon, about two years after it happened. I read about it and thought ‘What?!' They hadn’t even told me about it. You’d thought they’d have let me know."
Premier League power struggles
"Ferran Soriano, the guy from City, just doesn’t understand shared rights. He’s come from Barcelona and can’t get his head around how Huddersfield can get as much money as Man City from overseas TV rights. And that’s the way it’s going. I’m sure Scudamore saw the writing on the wall.
Finding Scudamore’s replacement
"Susannah Dinnage had a meeting with the big six, and it was as if they were interviewing her. She’s highly paid where she is and I’m sure she thought that she didn’t need any of this. Scudamore’s great triumph was to keep the collective together for so long.”
On the role of the public relations officer in sport
"My general default mode was to dislike the PR and start from there...I hate being told what I can and can’t write about. On one Fifa trip, I found out that Martin Glenn was missing a UEFA Congress because he was going on a stag do to New York with his mates. The FA's PR told me I can’t write that. I said, ‘You what? Watch me.’
And there’s plenty more where that came from…The Hundred, Brian Moore, Alastair Campbell, Peter Alliss, Sepp Blatter's swimming pool, Rugby World Cup story embargoes, Jon Tibbs' lapel badge bid strategy, Jose Mourinho's farewell note...sign up here to get the podcast