It is with great sadness that we confirm the death of Mike Appleby, General Secretary of the Spartan South Midlands Football League (SSMFL), following complications with Coronavirus.


Mike had been with the League for 4 years, the last 3 as General Secretary, where he made a big impression for his efficiency and thoroughness. He was always willing to help clubs and give them advice with his lifetime of experience in football administration. He was a wonderfully nice man who had time for everybody.


Prior to joining the SSMFL when he retired, Mike had worked for the Football Association (FA) for 38 years in various roles, latterly as Leagues Manager covering Steps 1 – 7 of the National League System.


Born in Alnwick in Northumberland, in his younger days he supported and followed the local football club Alnwick Town FC. His first active involvement in football was when he took up refereeing, which he continued when he moved south to join the FA as Assistant Accountant and officiated on the Isthmian League. His first foray into the world of football administration was when he was appointed Secretary of the North Northumberland League in 1974, which he held until he moved south in 1978. Mike held a number of financial positions with the FA before being appointed National Facilities Manager and then League Development Manager, before finally as Leagues Manager. He was also a Trustee of the FA Retirement Benefit Scheme. His other roles included Accountant to the FA Premier League, Secretary of the FA Benevolent Fund Trust, Secretary of the FA Youth Trust, Secretary of the FA National Sports Centre Trust, FA Representative to the Central Council of Physical Recreation, FA Representative to the Football Trust and FA Representative to the Football Foundation Stadia Improvement Fund. Mike was also a member of the Steering Groups that set up the FA Premier League and the Football Foundation. His role with the Football Foundation helped numerous clubs obtain funding to improve their club facilities.


One of his main successes was being instrumental in setting up the original structure of the National League System (NLS). Part of this was establishing, in conjunction with the Leagues, the National Ground Grading Criteria, which has standardised facility standards across the Country. Mike also developed the Defibrillator Scheme in conjunction with the British Heart Foundation, which has enabled these machines to be made available throughout the NLS. He was responsible for developing the Administration and Development grants available to Leagues. Mike introduced the Groundsman of the Year Awards, which recognised the many unsung volunteers that freely give up their time, often in appalling weather conditions, in an attempt to provide a decent playing surface for the game to be played on.


He was the driving force behind the growth of the England ‘C’ team, which gave the opportunity for players in the upper echelons of the Non-League game to represent their Country. Mike introduced the Four Nations Tournament and the International Challenge Trophy to provide the side with more competitive and meaningful games, visiting the likes of the USA, Russia, Turkey, Bermuda and Jordan and playing other countries at home.


Another of his initiatives was the introduction and development of the FA Inter League Cup which has provided opportunities for Leagues and players at Step 7 to meet new friends around the Country. The winning League was able to enter the UEFA Regions Cup, which gave further opportunity for players to play against quality foreign opposition.


One role he continued with after his retirement from the FA was as a EUFA match delegate, which he fitted in round his duties with the SSMFL by taking his laptop to a number of European countries, visiting Spain, Italy, Belgium, Uzbekistan and Ukraine amongst others.


He will leave a massive gap in the lives of people that knew him.


Pat Burns


Spartan South Midlands Football League