A sporting stalwart in Downham has paid tribute to the team behind him after stepping down from his role on the committee after more than 40 years.
Don Rowell has called it a day with the Downham Town Sports Federation where he has served as chairman for the last 30 years.
Rowell, known as ‘Mr Downham’ said: “I am sorry, but also relieved, to be retiring from being chairman of the Downham Town Sports Federation.
“Having held the job since 1987 it is definitely time to step aside and allow newer, younger and more active members to take on the job.
“My time as chairman has, I hope, been successful, but only due to the help of a small dedicated group of volunteers to whom the clubs owe a big debt of gratitude.
“Paul Carrington, who has been a Federation member from the early days and served as secretary, until he recently retired, but also managed the bar and, for a while, as caretaker.
“Jim Marsh did a splendid job improving and managing the finances for 20 years, and has also now retired.
“Carrie Smith recently joined the team as treasurer and bar manager. I thank these three particularly, and other members, not mentioned, for all their work and help.
“I thank the landlords West Norfolk Council for their help and backing over my years as chairman and will miss the friends I have made there and our regular contact.”
The Downham Sports Federation was formed more than 50 years ago by the Downham Town Football Club and Downham Town Cricket Club.
It was brought about to improve links with the owners and landlords of the Memorial Playing Field, Downham Town Council and, latterly, West Norfolk Council.
Rowell fondly recalled: “In its early days, the only changing and showering facility was “the green shed” which surviving, older ex-players, remember with some affection, and wonder, at the primitive conditions of it all.
“Despite the complete lack of health and safety and environmental issues we survived and had fun.
“The new clubhouse was built in 1979 and the Sports Federation took over its management.
“It expanded, and eventually included the town’s clubs of football, cricket, rugby, tennis, squash, swimming, athletics and petanque.
“Besides managing the clubhouse the Federation organised inter-club events and competitions, including darts, dominoes, sports quizzes and an annual It’s a Knockout Tournament.
The Sports Federation has consisted of a small dedicated committee, elected by the clubs, to manage the day-to-day running and maintenance of the clubhouse and Rowell has seen many changes during that time.
“I became chairman 30 years ago following the passing of Dick Firmage, a long- time stalwart of the football and cricket clubs.
“There have been many changes during the years – expansion, additions and improvements to the clubhouse and changing areas.
“Clubs have come and gone as have many old friends and colleagues.”
Rowell believes that sport in the town remains in a healthy position.
“The football club is strong and active, with many teams including a large youth section of teams of all ages,” he said.
“Downham Cricket Club’s first team have been County Alliance champions six times in the past 10 years and also run a very active youth section.
“Ryston Runners can be proud of their successes in the county and nationally, while squash, tennis and petanque are also active sports at the Memorial Playing Field.”