Andy Williamson OBE has been awarded the prestigious Contribution to League Football award at The Football League Awards 2016.Williamson, who will retire at the end of this season, was rewarded for 45 years of unbroken service to The Football League and its clubs. His career at The Football League began in 1971, when at the age of 17, he joined the Player Administration Department. The Yorkshireman went on to serve virtually every department within the organisation.
During the 1980s, when domestic football was at its lowest ebb, was when Williamson began to come to the fore, helping to build the foundations for the successful sport we know today. He spearheaded The League’s anti-hooliganism strategies as football eventually turned the tide on this scourge to our game and was also involved in identifying new revenue streams for cash-strapped clubs through The League's first forays into sponsorship and other innovative ideas.
Williamson was at the heart of many of The League’s defining moments including the introduction of three points for a win in 1981 and the creation of the Play-Offs in 1986. The hugely successful move of the Play-Off Finals to Wembley was at his instigation.
Recognised with an OBE in 2012, Williamson has also provided leadership to The League and its member clubs in challenging circumstances, such as the Bradford fire (1985), the Hillsborough disaster (1989), the formation of the Premier League (1992) and the collapse of ITV Digital (2002).
The latter saw Williamson devise a comprehensive overhaul of The League’s financial governance programme that included the introduction of Sporting Sanctions (points deductions for clubs going into administration), the publication of club spending on agents’ fees, football’s first ‘Fit and Proper Persons’ test, the first limits on club expenditure on players’ wages relative to income, and sanctions for clubs that fail to meet their tax liabilities.
His on-pitch legacy is equally profound as it was Williamson who provided the leadership and drive behind The League’s successful youth development programme over many seasons – a programme that has helped to develop some of the country’s brightest footballing talents. Keen too to ensure young players receive an education, his vision led to the formation of League Football Education, and he remains one of its trustees.
The Football League devotee received the award at the gala ceremony at Manchester Central on Sunday evening in front of more than 600 guests from clubs, sponsors and the football industry.
The Football League Awards 2016 was hosted in Manchester for the first time, the same city in which The Football League was officially formed 128 years ago to the day. In its 11th year, the awards ceremony celebrates on and off pitch excellence across The League’s 72 clubs.
Greg Clarke, Chairman of The Football League, said: “This award is the highest honour bestowed by the Board of The Football League and tonight we’re delighted to recognise a man who is very much ‘one of our own’.
“Andy Williamson’s wisdom and exceptional judgement has earned the admiration and respect of the football world across the last five decades.
“In his lifetime of service to The League he has pioneered changes both on and off the pitch, which have helped define English football. We wholeheartedly thank him for everything he has done and wish him a fantastic evening.”
The Contribution to League Football Award is The Football League’s most prestigious award and is presented annually by the Board of The Football League to an individual who has given a lifetime’s service to the professional game. The recipient of the award receives a special gold trophy honouring their contribution to the game.
Other awards recognising presented on the evening include the Sky Bet Players of the Year, Football League Young Player of the Year, Mitre Goal of the Year and Football Manager Team of the Year, alongside the prestigious Sir Tom Finney Award.
All the news, reaction and photos from the awards can be found via The Football League’s Twitter page, @football_league, while the awards ceremony was also broadcast live on The Football League’s YouTube channel.
To find out more about The Football League Awards, and for a full list of award winners, visit www.FLAwards.com or search #FLAwards on Twitter.