Obituary: Frank Williams, Founder of Rochdale Sunday League Football

Date published: 14 December 2016

Founder of the Rochdale & District Sunday League and former licensee, Frank Williams, died peacefully at his home at the age of 79 on Monday 5 December 2016.

He leaves behind his children, John, Ian and Debbie and sister Josephine.

Frank introduced Sunday football to Rochdale by establishing the Rochdale Sunday League in April/May 1971, becoming its League Chairman.

He became the first Chairman when the Littleborough Sunday League merged with the Rochdale League for the season 1974/75. He was appointed President of the League in 1976 until 2000 when he was appointed Life Vice-President.

Chairman of the Committee, Trevor Jones, said: “The Committee are very sad to learn of his death. Frank was always proud of the way the League became a major force in Manchester with teams winning the Lancashire Sunday Cup and the Greater Manchester Interleague Cup at open age and U21 levels and the Manchester FA U18 Interleague Cup.

“He was still on hand to present the cup at the Sacred Heart FC game last May; a game which he also sponsored.

“Although he was older than me, we got on well. When he was younger he joined the RAF and served for many years and worked his way up to Flight Sergeant. He also played low level football and cricket for Fieldhouse.

Speaking about Frank’s conception of Sunday League Football, he said: “Frank previously tried to form a Sunday League in the late 50s, early 60s but the local work teams didn’t like the concept. He started the FJ Williams Shield to be competed for by 16 teams in 1971: if the competition was to be a success, it would be a gateway to form a league later that year. The first game was between Plough Inn and the Lark Inn played at Gravelhall.

“It was a huge success and Frank was invited to form a committee for new Sunday League. The grounds were the main problem as there were no council pitches; the teams played at the two football pitches at the top of Kiln Lane where the school is now. New teams played on farmers’ fields and ‘glue pot pitches’ on large slopes at the dreaded Top O’ th’ Lane in Bamford with no water or facilities, but the league was on its way.

“By the second season, council grounds started to become available and the league went from strength to strength and the Committee got stronger over the next couple of years.”

President Eddie Melvin, who joined the Committee in 1972, said: “Frank was a very active chairman and guided work. He did unbelievable things for the Sunday League and it wouldn’t have been possible without him; there would not be a league.

“Up until his passing, he showed interest in the league and presented the FJ Williams Shield. He kept an interest in the league for which we are all very grateful.

“Starting this season, the original FJ Williams Shield will be renamed in his honour to the Frank Williams Memorial Cup.”

Mr Williams’ funeral will take place at 12 noon on Monday 19 December at St Vincent’s Church in Norden.

Family flowers only, with any donations to Springhill Hospice.

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