Tributes paid to devoted Sunderland AFC fan Lance Hardy

Tributes have been paid to a devoted Sunderland AFC fan who penned a series of books devoted to the club.

Former BBC Sport editor and producer Lance Hardy, who has died aged 53, was the man behind ‘Stokoe, Sunderland and ‘73’, the in-depth account of the Black Cats’ historic Wembley win, along with editing several volumes of ‘Tales from the Red and Whites’ in which former players, managers and fans – including Lance himself – shared their memories of the club.

He also co-wrote a number of other sporting volumes, including the autobiographies of snooker champ Steve Davis and darts player Bobby George, as well as being an early champion of women’s football.

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BBC Newcastle’s Sunderland commentator Nick Barnes said Lance had been an intensely private man, but had made no secret of his devotion to Sunderland AFC: “He was a big fan and had been all his life,” he said.

Lance was originally from Yorkshire and Nick was unsure what had sparked a lifelong obsession with Sunderland: “It might have been 1973, like a lot of people who saw that match, or it might have been inherited through his family.

"He went to as many games as he could. He texted me about the Papa John’s Trophy Final and whether I was going to Wembley and the last time I saw him was at Lincoln City away in the play-offs.”

Lance Hardy joined the BBC in 1990 and covered a wide range of sports, before specialising in football. He worked as the England men's team producer at several major tournaments and as a creative filmmaker on Football Focus and then became editor of Final Score.

He left the Beeb in in 2011 but continued working in TV home and abroad, as well as launching his career as an author.

Lance Hardy at the Fans' Museum

Fans Museum founder Michael Ganley said Lance had been a keen supporter from the beginning, when the team were holding displays across the city to promote their vision: “I got to know Lance in 2016 when we were in the City Library,” he said.

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"He followed the museum from the start and just loved what it was about and I was able to give Lance items and information for some of the projects he was involved in.

"Then once we got the keys, we had Lance up on several occasions.

”It's unreal.”

Lance Hardy (left) with SAFC legend Gary Bennett (left) and Nick Barnes
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Many of Lance’s broadcasting colleagues have paid tribute following his death. BBC director of sport Barbara Slater said: "Lance was a hugely popular figure in sports broadcasting, where he produced such great work over a large range of output.

"He made friends wherever he went through his immense likeability, and so many are grieving for him.

"We send all our sympathies to his family and all those closest to him."

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Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker added: "Saddened to hear that Lance Hardy has left us way too soon. A hugely talented producer and editor for BBC Sport and a lovely man. RIP Lance”, while Gaby Logan said: "So very sad to hear the news about Lance Hardy. He was passionate about women's football and pushed its coverage on the BBC. Thoughts and prayers to his family and friends."

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