Sports champions awarded Chairman’s medal

Two County Durham men who have worked tirelessly to promote grassroots sport have been honoured for their achievements.

Alan Watson and John O’Connor have been awarded the Chairman’s Medal by the Chairman of Durham County Council, Cllr Edward Bell.

They were presented with their medals, which are awarded in recognition of significant achievement and outstanding effort in all walks of life, in front of their families.

Alan, 67, from Framwellgate Moor, has been involved with junior sports clubs for more than 35 years, initially through his involvement with the National Association of Boys Clubs, which later became known as the National Association of Clubs for Young People (NACYP).

Hundreds of young people have attended football, five-a-side, boxing and training events for young leaders that have been organised by Alan.

Many of those he has worked with have gone on to become volunteers themselves and some, such as Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer and Peter Beardsley, have become professional sportsmen and women.

In recent years, Alan has played a key role in setting up a new national youth work charity called the Association of Boys and Girls Clubs.

Alan is passionate about supporting young people and his motivation and commitment has been crucial in the charity’s development.

John, from Shotley Bridge, has been a committee member of Consett RFC since he was 17-years-old. In the early 1990s, John led a buy-out of an ex-workingmen’s club in Consett town centre, rescuing the rugby club and investing all profits into youth rugby development.

The 58-year-old was instrumental in obtaining a £500,000 Sport England grant for new changing rooms, gym, pitch surfaces, floodlights and security fencing at the club.

He also created the Derwentside Youth Charitable Trust to fund sports development for young people and obtained National Lottery funding for free holiday sports clubs.

John has been invited to Downing Street to discuss his work with the Minister for Culture and Sport and in 1999 was presented with the Sport England VIP award for Volunteers in Sport by Sir Trevor Brooking.

He is also Chair of Derwent Valley AAP and a member of the Project Genesis Board, the charitable body set up to develop the town on the loss of its steel works.

Cllr Bell said: “Alan and John are two extremely worthy recipients of the Chairman’s Medal. Their contribution to grassroots sport has been long-running and far-reaching.

“Hundreds, if not thousands, of young people have been inspired by Alan’s passion and commitment to youth sport, while John’s legacy is clear for all to see, from new sports facilities to successful youth sports clubs.”