As you will now know we recently lost Fred Conway, who was the Chairman of Cumberland FA.
His passing was sudden and has left a feeling of loss amongst a large section of the grassroots community and football family, both inside and outside of the county.
The messages of condolence and memories shared of Fred upon our social media posts have been greatly appreciated by The County FA and his partner and family. We have therefore asked some of those with whom he worked with in his various CFA and FA capacities to share their memories of Fred Conway.
Tony Barnett, who was a CFA Council, Committee and remains an Honorary Member of The County FA, had known Fred as a player and subsequently became friends through the game. They remained colleagues within the Egremont & District Sunday League Committee. Tony recalls how Fred initially became involved with The Cumberland FA.
“We spent our early days running the Egremont & District Sunday League. Fred was keen to get involved at CFA level, but never neglected his Egremont & District role. He became involved within The CFA, and when a CFA vacancy was available persuaded me to fill it, which I did and have loved every minute. It was obvious then he would achieve higher status in the county and national game, and sure enough he did.
I have known Fred as a mate for 18/19 years and if it wasn't for him the Egremont & District Sunday League simply wouldn't exist.”
Tony was proved correct as Fred took up a council role within the County FA in the late nineties, and was later elected as Chair.
Albert Murphy, who had been the County FA assistant secretary, Chief Executive, Company Secretary, Treasurer and FA Representee, was heavily involved with Fred after he took on the role of Chairman of Cumberland FA and remembers that when it came to the role itself, “he was very keen on expanding his knowledge. We spent many hours in the office, after hours, absorbing what he thought was applicable to the position of Chair.” He goes onto say that Fred “was very proud of this honour."
Fred was supported throughout his time as Chair, by vice Chair, John Rogerson and throughout that their time together they had become good friends, as well as colleagues. John holds Fred in the highest regard stating.
“I do not think any FA Chairman in the country could have put more time and dedication to Grassroots football than Fred. The time and effort he put in travelling all around the county to attend games and meetings. On many occasions I attended games with Fred with our county U18 team, which was one of his passions. Fred’s number one priority was to help all the clubs in our county, and he will be sorely missed by everybody involved in grassroots football.”
During his early days as Chair no one worked or became closer to him than the County Secretary/Chief Executive and former FA representative, before passing the mantle to Fred, Geoff Turrell.
“During my time in the previous structure as County Secretary, then Chief Executive Officer following incorporation. Fred was always supportive and open to discussions on any aspect of Company activities. He was always forthright in his opinions however, always willing to debate.
He was a real asset particularly with his enthusiasm to develop staff for the delivery of FA initiatives.
Fred’s support was especially appreciated with a number of HR issues during my time in post. These would probably not have been resolved satisfactorily without his intervention.
His success with the County Youth Team is indicative of both his management and coaching skills. It was a pleasure to play a small part within that group.
Fred’s dedication and commitment has built a firm foundation leaving the Association in a healthy position.”
Whilst Fred’s commitment was mainly to Cumberland, he loved the game as a whole and therefore it was no surprise when he was elected to the role as Chair of the Association of Northern Counties. This organisation comprises of 12 County FA and is responsible for overseeing cross county competition and all matters incorporating football governance and development.
John Topping is the County Secretary at Durham FA and worked alongside Fred as an FA Representative, but also as Secretary of The Association of Northern Counties.
“Fred was Chairman of the Association of Northern Counties prior to and after COVID and he conducted meetings in his usual professional manner.
Fred always said it as it was, what you saw is what you got, he was a true supporter of grassroots football and would do anything he could to ensure the volunteers that keep the game thriving received the recognition they deserved.
Some Chairmen sit back and conduct the meeting quietly however those who knew Fred would sit back in anticipation of what he would say, he always spoke from the heart.
He will be sadly missed by all the members of the Association.
He was a true friend.”
In 2020 Fred took over the position of FA Representative from his close friend Geoff Turrell. The FA Council consists of 92 elected representatives from the FA Premier League, the Football League, County FAs and non-executive board members of the FA. The Council meets to decide the major policies of the FA. This role saw Fred attending meetings (initially online but more recently at face to face). Whilst he was not a huge fan of travelling to Wembley. He was honoured to represent the County FA on The FA Council and upon various committees. However, he was always keen to emphasise that his main priority remained Cumberland and he was a staunch supporter of County FAs and Grassroots Football in general.
Richard McDermott is the Company Secretary for The FA and so liaised with Fred regarding his FA Representative position and often received his unique and direct feedback on matters arising from these meetings and general football business.
“Fred was first appointed onto The FA Council in 2020. He served initially on the Facilities Expert Advisory Panel and then transferred onto the Football Development Committee. Fred was a passionate advocate of grassroots football, being a former player, referee and coach. He gained considerable experience in the administration of the game through his positions as chair of local leagues and Cumberland FA. The FA was fortunate to be able to draw on his skills, knowledge and experience in football and he was an asset to both the Council and the committees on which he served.”
However, it was within his own County in which his focus remained. He was not a typical Chair and not only supported the Chief Executive but all staff members, often calling into the office or giving them a ring to discuss some matter or other, but also always checking in to see how they were personally. He had an inquiring nature and tried to maintain a general awareness of all aspects of delivery, never wanting any surprises to catch him out, or not having the ability to fight his corner when out and about in the County at games or events. He was therefore involved in so much more than he technically needed to, but it was all to ensure the best for the game.
James Kendal is The FA Director of Football, within the Grassroots Division, and therefore came across Fred in both his role as Chair and as FA Representative and had witnessed first-hand Fred character and personality.
“The FA Grassroots Division was very sad to learn of Fred’s sudden passing. Passionate about the grassroots game, forthright in his views and wholly committed to the cause, Fred made an outstanding contribution to football in Cumberland and will be a significant loss to it.”
We think that its only right to leave the last words to his great friend Tony Barnett.
“RIP Fred lad (Bad Cop) from TB (Good Cop). It's been a privilege.”
You can share your own message and memories of Fred by clicking here
We plan to collate all messages and share with his immediate family.