Oliver Brown

The Telegraph

Oliver Brown’s portfolio as Chief Sports Writer of The Telegraph encompassed a series of remarkable agenda-setting interviews.

Few monopolised attention in British public life in 2023 quite as memorably as Gary Lineker. For a week in March, the Match of the Day presenter was at the top of every nightly news bulletin, while also finding himself the main subject of discussion at Prime Minister’s Questions. The maelstrom had been sparked by a single reply tweet, likening the Government’s small boats policy to the language of 1930s Germany. Lineker granted his first in-depth interview about the furore to Oliver Brown.

He doubled down on his right to continue expressing his political opinions, even in apparent defiance of the BBC’s rules on impartiality. Brown had been among those who criticised him at the time, arguing that it was “unwise to weaponise the most barbarous chapter in human history to advance one’s views in the present day”. The resulting exchange was both gripping and revelatory, as Brown elicited Lineker's sense of bewilderment at being a lightning rod in the culture wars and his belief that the label of “woke” should be treated as a compliment rather than as an insult. Lineker disclosed how he had been moved to tears by the solidarity of his co-hosts. The interview produced a front-page news story in The Telegraph and was widely followed up across all major UK news outlets.

Michael Vaughan was an English sports icon who attracted headlines for very different reasons. For two years, the Ashes-winning captain had put his life on hold after being accused by Azeem Rafiq, his former Yorkshire team-mate, of telling the bowler and three other players of South Asian heritage: “There’s too many of you lot, we need to do something about that.” On March 31, the Cricket Discipline Commission concluded that, on the balance of probabilities, he said no such thing. On the same day, Vaughan spoke to Brown for the first time about the ordeal of being publicly shamed for an alleged 14-year-remark he insists he never uttered.

In the powerful interview, conducted near his home in Wilmslow, he briefly broke down in tears as he contemplated the impact of the experience on his elderly parents. Brown's careful questioning led Vaughan to lay bare the turmoil wrought within his own family. He described how his wife, Nichola, had been taking beta-blockers for 16 months to cope with the stress. “I want people to realise that this is what you go through when you get cancelled,” he said.

Brown also conducted the final major interview with Sir Michael Parkinson, Britain's chat-show king, before his death in August aged 88. Across a remarkably revealing hour-and-a-half at his house in Bray, Sir Michael disclosed a suspicion that the late Prince Philip had never liked him and a belief that hosts in the mould of James Corden "get promoted out of their skill". In a moving final meditation, he reflected: "I've had a gilded life."