Tributes paid to former Barnsley FC chairman Maurice Watkins CBE

FORMER Barnsley chairman Maurice Watkins CBE has passed away at the age of 79.

Former Barnsley FC chairman Maurice Watkins.
Former Barnsley FC chairman Maurice Watkins.

The one-time Manchester United director and lawyer joined the Oakwell outfit in May 2013 after being asked by Patrick Cryne to become chairman of the board of directors.

Previously, Watkins had a long and successful association with United and was a director at Old Trafford for 28 years from 1984 to 2012.

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He was also a board member of the club's PLC between 1991 and 2004.

Watkins was invited onto the Red Devils' board at the same time as Sir Bobby Charlton and was heavily involved in the appointment of Sir Alex Ferguson in 1986.

Almost a year after leaving Old Trafford in 2012, Watkins returned to football at Barnsley and served at the club for over four years until his departure in August 2017.

In his time in football, Watkins handled many high value soccer transfers at home and abroad and represented clubs and players before FIFA and UEFA as well as the Court of Arbitration For Sport and international and league compensation tribunals. He famously represented Eric Cantona in the “Kung Fu” kick court case.

Watkins was an esteemed figure not just in footballing spheres, but also the wider sporting realm – and served as chair of British Swimming.

He was also chair of the European Rugby League (ERL) and a director of Lancashire CCC and other roles in his working life included being head of sport law for Brabners Solicitors in Manchester.

Watkins also had a spell as interim chairman of the Rugby Football League chairman when Richard Lewis moved on in 2012.

On behalf of the ERL board, Graeme Thompson commented: “Maurice provided great experience in his role, which our organisation massively benefited from. His strong legal career provided great guidance on many matters, governance was another key area he led on.

“His reputation in the sport’s world was high and having him as our chair brought us credibility and the ability to develop new partnerships. The initial relationship with the European Union was due to his extensive network and reputation.”

"All our general managers benefited from his wisdom and mentoring, which was always delivered in such a supportive manner. His board colleagues enjoyed the same and appreciated his kindness and the generosity of time he gave to everyone.

“He was fine company with a good and sharp sense of humour and was proud to be the chair of ERL - he loved the culture of the federation and greatly admired the work that all the nations made, in a collective manner, to develop the sport.”

“It is a very sad day, none more so than for his family who are uppermost in our thoughts. We have been fortunate to have had Maurice play a major role in our journey and we will always be grateful for that and remember his unstinting contribution accordingly.”

British Swimming CEO Jack Buckner said: “He (Watkins) has been a leader of deep wisdom and patient intelligence, the wise steward at the heart of the sport.

“Even in his last days, his total focus was on Tokyo and the great events which unfolded there. Maurice, a piece of these medals belong to you.

“Thanks for your massive contribution to British Swimming and everything you have done for British sport.”