Tributes pour in for respected journalist Ian Laybourn, who has died aged 67

Drew Darbyshire
Ian Laybourn and Julie Stott

Tributes have poured in for Ian Laybourn, the well-respected rugby league journalist, who has sadly died at the age of 67.

The Huddersfield-based journalist only hung up his pads, pens and laptop following the conclusion of the Rugby League World Cup last year.

In 2022, he was added to the RFL Roll of Honour when Ralph Rimmer, then the RFL chief executive, thanked him for covering the sport “with diligence, wisdom and care for almost five decades”.

PA sports editor Ashley Broadley said: “Ian was an outstanding reporter, with a deep understanding and love for the sport of rugby league.

“We are all devastated at the news and are thinking of Ian’s family and friends at this sad time.”

Laybourn joined the Press Association in 1994 as a sub-editor after spells covering rugby league at the Batley News and Huddersfield Examiner.

The trusty journalist estimated that he had covered almost 2,500 rugby league matches for PA.

Tributes pour in for Ian Laybourn on social media

Love Rugby League editor James Gordon tweeted: “In shock at this terribly sad news. Ian was the pinnacle of rugby league journalism for the whole time I’ve been involved in it, and I am grateful for the time and respect he afforded me. RIP.”

Love Rugby League deputy editor Drew Darbyshire tweeted: “Absolutely stunned at this. Devastating news. One of the nicest blokes I’ve met and a journalist I’ve always admired. He made me feel at ease in the press box when first starting out. RIP Ian, a true gent and one of the very best journalists.”

The Guardian’s Aaron Bower tweeted: “Stunned, devastated, heartbroken. One of the nicest men I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting: inside and outside of journalism. Many an enjoyable car share to games I’ll never forget. My deepest condolences with Ian’s family. A man who’ll never be replaced.”

Rugby League Live editor Matthew Shaw tweeted: “Terribly sad news. A proper rugby league man. RIP Ian.”

“A true gent and a bloody good writer”

Gary Carter of The Sun tweeted: “Absolutely heartbroken to hear of the sad passing of our friend Ian. An honour to share the press box with him. A true gent and a bloody good writer. We will miss you mate.”

Leeds legend Barrie McDermott tweeted: “Very sad news this Ian was a lovely fella who served our game with pride, passion and professionalism all his life.”

Julie Stott, formerly of the Daily Star, tweeted: “Ian was a fantastic hard working journalist but an even better bloke, friend and golf buddy. Much love to Susan, Harry and Meghan x”

Commentator Dave Parkinson tweeted: “Sad to hear this. Ian was a really good man and journalist who always had time for a chat, firstly as i was just starting to progress and more so in the last few years. He will be missed greatly. I always admired his work ethic. Thoughts and condolences to all family and friends.”

Journalist Ian Cheveau tweeted: “This has just stopped me in my tracks. So sad to be reading this. Shocked. Ian was such a nice guy who was respected and loved by those in our game. Always had time for you and a reporter who would never miss a beat. Relentless. Sending condolences from Widnes to Ian’s family.”

“The chronicler of rugby league for many years”

BBC commentator Dave Woods tweeted: “Ian was a true gentle-man. The most diligent and trust worthy journalist I’ve had the pleasure to work alongside. The game owes him so much – he was THE chronicler of rugby league for many years. And as everyone agrees, a lovely, lovely bloke.”

Dave Craven of the Mirror tweeted: “Heartbreaking news. Ian was such a lovely bloke. One of life’s good guys. Can’t quite believe it. Love to all his family and friends.”

Yorkshire Evening Post’s Peter Smith tweeted: “Awful, shocking news. Ian only retired last November. Thoughts with his family + friends.”

Forty20’s Phil Caplan tweeted: “The benevolent Godfather of the press box which will not be the same, a wonderful, passionate journalist who genuinely loved the sport and an equally staunch ally and friend who was respected and admired by all in the game, and so soon after the retirement he so deserved RIP Ian.”

Gareth Walker, formerly of the Mirror, tweeted: “Devastating news. Professionally, Ian was the press box standard bearer for accuracy, balance and consistency, and a mentor to many. Personally he was brilliant company, both at work and over a pint. So many good nights; he will be massively missed. Thoughts with all his family.”

Love Rugby League would like to share their condolences with the friends and family of Ian Laybourn. He will be missed.