Suffolk & Ipswich League Fixtures secretary Alan Sparkes was today presented with the FA’s 50 year award for services to local football. The presentation was made on behalf of the FA by Suffolk FA Chief Executive Richard Neal before this afternoons match between Haughley United and Leiston St Margaret’s. Alan spent many years holding several positions with Haughley and Needham Market. Incidentally Haughley were also celebrating their 128th birthday.
Alan Sparkes said he had met some wonderful people during his time involved in local football.
“There are a lots of stories and great memories, but I have also met some wonderful people who I have great admiration for, some of whom are still involved,” he said.
Alan, who was born in Ipswich, started playing adult football in 1963 at 14 years of age for Rattlesden in the Bury & District League on Saturdays.
He was in a group of teenage players that started Stowmarket Athletic on a Sunday. It was a successful club and as well as playing he served on their committee.
In 1969 while in his twenties Alan played for Bacton United and then in 1970 for Stowmarket Town where he unfortunately broke his leg at Marconi Sports ground in Chelmsford whilst playing for Stowmarket Town Reserves. This forced Alan to stop playing as it was a bad break with complications.
His good friend Peter Mead invited him to join Haughley United in 1975 and there started a long career in adult football administration when he was asked to be Club Secretary, a role he held for nearly 20 years.
In 1989 he also became a member of the Suffolk FA Council as the West Suffolk representative, a position he also held for more than 20 years.
Alan’s son became involved in Youth football at Stowupland Falcons and he was asked and accepted a coaching role with his team on Sundays.
Once he finished seven years later, Alan took on another youth team at Falcons as Manager and another seven years later when he thought his time with youth football had finished he was asked to be an academy scout with Ipswich Town which he undertook for nine years. It was a great experience for Alan to be involved with a professional club.
In 1990 on Saturdays Alan moved to Needham Market to become their Secretary and Reserve Team Manager before taking on the role of Chairman when their move to the new ground at Bloomfields in Needham Market took place.
A few years later Alan, who lives in Stowmarket, returned to Haughley United as Club Chairman and stayed in that position until his 70th birthday in 2019.
The past four years have seen Alan take on the Fixture Secretary’s role for the Macron Suffolk & Ipswich Football League, a position he still holds with great distinction.
Alan Sparkes 50-Year presentation Oct 2023
Alan Sparkes (right) receives The FA 50-Year Award from Suffolk FA Chief Executive Officer Richard Neal (left) as Haughley United players and the match officials look on.
Alan, who worked in electrical engineering, said: “It was a lovely coincidence that Saturday marked Haughley United’s 128th birthday after the club was formed in 1895!”
His son Paul travelled down from Yorkshire and he was also joined by wife Beverley, daughter Alison, stepdaughter Katy and four of his 15 grandchildren.
Alan said two moments stood out from his time in local football – one was meeting Sir Stanley Rous and Bobby Robson at the Suffolk FA Centenary Dinner at Copdock in 1985 and the other was Haughley United defeating Lowestoft Town 1-0 at Crown Meadow in an East Anglian Cup tie in the 1980s.
His biggest disappointment came as Chairman of Needham Market in 2008 when they lost to Kirkham & Wesham in the two-legged semi-final of the FA Vase. (Kirkham & Wesham, now known as AFC Fylde, went on to defeat Lowestoft Town 2-1 in the final at Wembley Stadium).