Legacy Legends & Gamechangers

Over the decades thousands of professionals have been involved in managing centres, many moving on to become directors of leisure and recreation, chief executives or trust directors.  Others from the public, private, education and voluntary realms have also made a significant contribution to the story. ‘Legacy Legends and Gamechangers’ is an informal and representative list of those who have been identified during the assembly of the story as having made an important and recognisable contribution to community sports centres and the recreation management profession. The list is not exhaustive and comprises names suggested to and reviewed by the Editorial Group. Further additions can be considered. Some of those recorded here are no longer with us and their inclusion celebrates their lives as well as their contribution.

Legacy Legends”, selected from the Gamechangers list, are those who have, in the opinion of the Board, made an especially outstanding contribution and are detailed here with ‘Legends citations’ accessible by clicking the relevant name.


Blake, Ted (1921-1998) – A guru to a whole generation of sports and leisure managers. Through his philosophy and example he was an enthusiastic supporter for the early development of the recreation management profession. Through his sports equipment company, Nissen International, he initiated and supported the Recreation Management Exhibition and the Sports Council Award for Sports Centre Management.

Douglas, Ian (1941-2015) – A pioneering Scottish Manager. In 1967 he was appointed as Manager of Bellahouston Sports Centre, Scotland’s first centre. He Became Director of Recreational Services at Inverclyde District Council and was twice Chairman of the Association of Recreation Managers.

Howell, Denis (Baron Howell) (1923-1998)Former Labour Sports Minister and the most famous politician ever to be associated with sport. A former Football League referee he was instrumental in the foundation of The Sports Council and was another great supporter of the recreation management profession.

Littlewood, Harry (1915-1993)As the Sports Council’s Head of Facilities he supported the development of centres by such initiatives as The Recreation Management Conference and Exhibition (RecMan,) The Sports Council Award for Sports Centre Management and Grants for Facilities in Areas of Special Need. He was also a strong supporter of the various professional bodies providing forums and platforms for professional development.

Molyneux, Denis (b.1925-2019) – Originally a Lecturer at Birmingham University he was one of the first eminent sports researchers. A member of the “Planning for Sport” Working Party (1968); he went on to be Deputy Director of The Sports Council. Later became Director for recreation services in Luton and then Nottingham.

Munn, James (Jimmy) (1930-2003) A true leader and figurehead of the leisure profession. Few, if any, did more to validate neighbourhood leisure opportunity. As Director in Torfaen, and then Birmingham, he put municipal leisure at the centre of political life. Whenever there was a threat to leisure opportunity, Jimmy was in the forefront of its defence.

Pickering, Ron (1930-1991)Best known as an athletics coach and for his television commentating, Ron was also a major figure in sports centres and leisure management. As the first Director of Sport for the Lee Valley Regional Park he was responsible for planning the Picketts Lock Centre. His partnership with George Torkildsen created one of the pre-eminent leisure consultancies of its day.

Torkildsen, George (1934-2005) – The first community indoor sports centre manager in the UK and pioneering founding father of recreation management. He was a leading figure in the formation of the Association of Recreation Managers in 1970. George became the foremost leisure management consultant of his era and a prolific writer and educator. His classic text “Leisure and Recreation Management”, now in its 6th edition, has been known to thousands of students.

Quinton, Roger (1942-1998) Made his mark on the recreation management scene through successful posts at Lea Valley, Leatherhead, Thamesdown and Arun. He was a key, founding Council member of ARM and ILAM and an influential leader, thinker and writer. He went on to establish RQA, his leading leisure consultancy, working across the UK for the public and private sectors.


Atha, Bernard – Chair of the Sports Council Facilities Committee and passionate advocate of access to sport for those with special needs. Lord Mayor and Chair of Recreation, Leeds City Council. Member of the Yates Committee on Recreation Management Training.

Barnett, Clifford – Pioneering sports centre architect, founder of Gillinson, Barnet Partnership designers of ground-breaking centres including Crowtree, Sunderland (and forerunners of S+P Architects, Project Sponsors).

Barnes, David – Leading proponent of Nottinghamshire Dual Use schemes. With John Spencer (cf) and Ralph Logan he supported the development of Carlton Forum; The Grove, Balderton; Worksop; Bingham and Newark which were among the first centres on school sites available to the public.

Bates, Gordon – He started in Leisure Management in 1973 with the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority. After a short spell as Recreation Manager with Erewash Borough Council, moved to Middlesbrough in 1980 and finished his local government career in 1995 as Chief Leisure Services Officer.  For the next fourteen years, he ran a successful arts management consultancy.  He is a past President of ILAM and was Chair of Tees Active Ltd.

Birch, John. G. – First research officer at CCPR/Sports Council; wrote the first research study of sports centres. Chief Officer Waverley DC and Regional Director London and South East RCSR, then Director of Regional Services, the Sports Council. Later a successful consultant.

Booth, Norman – Founder and first Chair of Redbridge Sports Centre Trust, developers of the second purpose-built centre in England. Secretary to the London Docklands Arena Trust.

Bott, Geoff –  A pioneering centre manager, first as Director of Leeds Athletic Institute and then Billingham Forum.  Director of Recreation for Northampton BC and later President of the British Gymnastics Association.

Bottomley, Roger – Assistant Director, Sport and Recreation, Westminster City Council. CEO of City Centre Leisure one of the first leisure management start-up companies for management buy outs (MBO). Later, Acting Chair, Sport England.

Breeze, Bill – Manager, Pontypool Leisure Centre. First winner of the Sports Council Award for Sport Centre Management went on to be Director and later one of the first leisure managers to become a Local Authority Chief Executive, at Colwyn Bay D.C.

Brooking, Sir Trevor – Former professional footballer who became Chairman of Sport England.  A strong advocate of Dual Use/ Joint Provision he secured funding from Government for initiatives in this area.

Campbell, Kit – Planner, Consultant and Researcher responsible for national facilities strategies in Scotland and England and reviews of provision in many local areas. Led many Planning Policy Guidance (PPG) 17 assessments for Local Authorities in the UK.

Carpenter, David – First Head of Sports Lottery Unit, established criteria which led to the second surge of facility provision and financial basis of GB Olympic success.

Casey, Derek – Facilities Planner, Scottish Sports Council responsible with Mike Hornby for “A Question of Balance” the first major study of centres and participation in Scotland. Became Chief Executive of Sport England and later led the early planning of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games as well as being Chair of the World Leisure Organisation.

Collins, Alec – An early Leisure Director in Macclesfield who brought his administrative and management experience to recreation.  Former Chair of the Association of Recreation Managers and a major contributor to the work of the North West Sports Council. Key figure in the formation of ILAM by a merger of ARM and IPRA and its first President.

Collins, Mike – Head of Research at the Sports Council, he initiated more than 500 research projects to assist with national and local planning. He also oversaw the development of two major strategic documents, “Sport in the Community: The Next 10 Years” (1982) and “Into the 90s” (1989). Later he headed up the Institute of Sport and Recreation Planning and Management at Loughborough University.

Field, Chris – First manager at Carlton Forum, one of the early Notts. C.C. Joint Provision centres. Later Director of Recreation, London Borough of Greenwich.

Gearing, Geoff – Polymath manager whose varied career included public and private sectors. Started at the ground breaking Deeside Leisure Centre in North Wales. Director of Leisure Services for Deeside and Hertsmere Councils. Then, under the direction of Jimmy Hill, launched the “Sky Blue Connexion” the first centre based at a football club (Coventry City) later Chief Executive Foxhills Golf and Country Club.

Griffiths, Gwyn – Leisure educator, leading lecturer on early recreation management course at North London Polytechnic, a course which inspired the career of many early managers/ directors. Was also a consultant with the Torkildsen consultancy.

Grey- Thompson, Tanni.  (Baroness Grey Thompson of Eaglescliffe) – Multi-Paralympic gold medallist. Speaker at RecMan and advocate of provision for people with disabilities within sports centres and the renewal of ageing centres.

Gunn, Peter – Manager of one of the largest and most successful modern leisure centres at Guildford Spectrum and later MD of Bournemouth International Centre. Currently (2017) chair of SPORTA the national association of leisure and cultural trusts.

Halpin, Mike – First secretary / administrator of ARM. Managed at Crawley Leisure Centre and also in Ipswich and Salisbury. The first-ever recreation manager with a professional football club – Bournemouth AFC. Also an officer of the Southern Region, Sports Council.

Hargreaves, Tony – Former Deputy Director of Education, Cumbria County Council. A great officer advocate of sport and sports centres. He helped the development of the first Carlisle Sports Centre, a converted drill hall. He also encouraged dual use of Cumbria schools’ sports facilities.

Haworth, Harry – Main driving force behind the development of Joint Provision and Dual Use schemes in Cheshire, a much-quoted national leader along with Notts, and subsequently with Stockport MBC. A passionate advocate of Joint Provision and Dual Use in the North West Region.

Hinds, Denis – First manager of the Vernon Sangster (Liverpool) and Montem (Slough) centres. Masterminded the opening and management over its first decade of Europe’s largest public leisure centre, Crowtree, Sunderland. Became Director of Recreation for Sunderland.

Hitchen, Harry – President and first Honorary Secretary of ISRM who planned major expansion of wet and dry facilities as chief officer in Hammersmith and Manchester.

Hodson, Denys – Early director of a multi-disciplinary department at Thamesdown B.C. Co-ordinated Arts, Recreation and Libraries in single unit.

Ivory, Keith – Early manager at Witham Leisure Centre and Director at L.B. Bexley and L.B. Tower Hamlets. First leisure director to become a Chief Executive at two local authorities; L.B. Tower Hamlets and Uttlesford D.C.

Jeffries, John – Educator, lead lecturer at the first Recreation Management Masters Degree course, Loughborough University. Headed Loughborough Consultants, one of the earliest leisure management consultancy practices.

Jenkins, Graham – First manager of Afan Lido, the UK’s first true “leisure” centre. The first Hon. Treasurer of ARM. Thanks to his involvement, the Association’s Chairman’s Chain and first member directory were funded by his brother, the actor, Richard Burton.

John, Geraint – Architect. Head of the Sports Council’s Technical Unit for Sport and lead author of the” Handbook of Sport and Recreation Building Design” which influenced the development of many centres. He was also a leader of the Standardised Approach to Sports Halls (SASH) project. Became influential in International and Olympic facility design and was awarded the Pierre de Coubertin Medal for contribution to the Olympic movement.

Jones, Bryan (Griff) – First Manager at The Grove centre, Balderton one of the first Joint Provision centres. later manager at Bletchley Leisure centre and Assistant Director of Recreation Milton Keynes B.C.

Jones, Emlyn – Manager at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre and later Chief Executive, the Sports Council. Hosted first RecMan and supported Sports Council links to the profession.

Johnson, Peter – Started in sports centre management in the 1970s. Was Manager of Clements Hall Leisure Centre and was asked by Rochford DC to take it on as a contract which led to the foundation of Circa Leisure Ltd, one of the earliest, successful contractors. Merged with Relaxion to form Leisure Connection in 1999.

Lloyd, David – Tennis Player and commercial leisure centre developer. David Lloyd Leisure was one of the earliest developers of commercial leisure centres in the UK; building his first centre at Heston near Heathrow in 1982. Initially focused on indoor tennis, the clubs later developed into multi-purpose centres many including gyms and swimming pools.

Major, Sir John – Prime Minister (1992-97) Responsible for the introduction of the National Lottery and the inclusion of Sport as one of the Lottery’ good causes’. He has been credited with providing the finance which encouraged British Olympic and other sporting success as well as the development of community facilities.

Mann, Peter – in a varied career which included centre management, local government, commercial sales and consultancy he influenced a range of centres and other facility developments. Established two leading leisure consultancies, Strategic Leisure and PMP. As Chair of ISPAL, he led the incorporation of the leisure profession into a chartered institute, CIMSPA.

Medhurst, Joe – Director of Physical Education at the University of Lancaster, and early advocate of community use of university sports facilities. His influence was particularly strong in the North-West region.

Miller, John (“Dusty”) – Director, Sports Council for Northern Ireland.  Influential in the creation of a wide range of centres in various communities across the sectarian divisions in Northern Ireland.

Minton, David – established a number of companies concerned with leisure information, originally in directory form. His Leisure Database Company provides computer based leisure market intelligence; including site analysis, customer profiling and market analysis. Its databases are much in use throughout the industry.

Morgan, Les – Early centre manager who went on to become a local authority chief executive. Early proponent of joint working between Leisure and Health Services

Noble, Sir Arthur – Chairman, Harlow Sports Trust, 1958-78. Steered the first centre from its inception in 1959 and achieved funding in 1963.

Osbourne, Mike – Assistant Manager at Harlow. Moved to Mid Sussex D.C. where he was an innovator in the field of G.P referrals.

O’Connor, Danny – Facilities specialist, Sports Council for Northern Ireland.  With Dusty Miller he was a leading figure in the development of centres in the Province and influential in the development of the leisure management profession in Northern Ireland through his role in ARM, ILAM and ISPAL.

Patmore, J. Allan – Educator and planner. As Reader in Geography at Liverpool University he wrote the influential book “Land and Leisure” (1972). Later he also wrote several influential policy papers often with Mike Collins.  One of the founders of the Leisure Studies Association (LSA) and a Vice Chairman of the Sports Council.

Peacock, Stuart – Chairman, Caterleisure Ltd, based in Yorkshire. One of the earliest outsourcing companies for UK leisure centre catering. Built the company from scratch into one of the leading contractors in the field.

Perrin, Gerry – Architect. As the Principal Architect of the Harlow Development Corporation he was closely involved the design and development of Harlow Sports Centre, the UK’s first community leisure centre, working closely with George Torkildsen. He later designed several other centres.

Price, Berwyn – Olympic and Commonwealth Athletics medallist, worked at the Sobell Centre, Islington before managing Andover and Swansea Leisure Centres. In his role with the City and County of Swansea was responsible for the Liberty Stadium, the Wales National Pool and other leisure infrastructure projects. His sporting profile aided the development of the profession, particularly in Wales.

Rodgers, H. Brian – Professor of Geography at Keele and Manchester Universities. Member of the Sports Council during the 1970s and adviser to the House of Lords Select Committee on Sport and Leisure. Author of several seminal books including the ‘Pilot National Recreation Survey’ and ‘Leisure in the North West’.

Sargent, Peter and Potiriardis, Mark – Architects. Founders of S&P and responsible for the design of many early leisure centres.

Sesnan, Mark – Founder and Managing Director of GLL (Greenwich Leisure Ltd.),  one of the earliest (1993) and largest of the new generation of Leisure Trusts (non-profit distributing bodies) now operating over 100 centres including Crystal Palace National Sports Centre and the Olympic Aquatics Centre. Led on the establishment of SPORTA and currently (2017) Honorary Secretary.

Spencer, John – Leading proponent of Nottinghamshire Dual Use schemes. With David Barnes he supported the development of Carlton Forum; The Grove, Balderton; Worksop; Bingham and Newark which were among the first centres on school sites available to the public.

Stoner, Bill – Architect. Partner of Faulkner Brown Associates; led the practice in leisure buildings and was responsible for many sports centre projects particularly in the North of England including pioneering projects such as the Lightfoot Sports Centre on Tyneside (1963), Bletchley Leisure Centre (1973), the Shetland Centres (1982-2002) and Ponds Forge International Sports and Community Centre (1991).

Terry, Liz – Managing Director of the Leisure Media Company, one the world’s leading leisure publishers in print and online. Through the many publications she has developed over the years, including ‘Sports Management’, Liz had a very positive impact on the recreation management profession.

Turner, John – A businessman and marketeer, was formerly Administrator and Marketing Advisor for the Association of Recreation Managers and publisher of the ILAM Journal. Currently runs Leisure Lists, a data agency specialising in providing marketing services to the UK sports and leisure industry.

Veal, Tony – Educator and researcher; carried out many leisure research projects particularly the seminal “Multi-Purpose Recreation centres in Britain” 1974 (CURS working paper no. 30). Former chair of the Leisure Studies Association.  Lectured at North London Poly and in 1986 became a Professor at the University of Technology, Sydney, Australia.

Warden, Bernard – University of Swansea Sports Facility Manager; Manager of Bracknell Sports Centre from 1966-74 – one of the earliest managers of a large multi-sports centre. Later Director of Leisure Services for Dacorum BC and an event organizer for the BBC “Sports Town” programmes.

White Len – Social Development Officer, Harlow Development Corporation and first Secretary of Harlow Sports Trust. Assisted in the funding and development of Harlow Sport Centre.

Whitfield, Alan – Manager of Huddersfield Sports Centre, second winner of Sports Council Award for Sports Centre Management. Later became Leisure Director for Kirklees D.C.

Whitworth, L.S. (“Tiny”) – Followed Chris Field as the second Director of Carlton Forum. Known as “Tiny” from his career in the Royal Marines Appointed Chief Recreation and Amenities Officer for Rushcliffe Borough Council where he oversaw the opening of Rushcliffe Leisure Centre and East Leake Leisure Centre. Former Secretary to the Chief Leisure Officers Association (CLOA).

Wilkinson, Norman – Head of Sport and Recreation at Liverpool City Council, and instrumental in the development of a large number of sports centres, swimming pools and other sports facilities over a 40 year period.

Williams, John – Leeds Athletic Institute. Deputy Director, Billingham Forum and then Manager, Bletchley Leisure Centre. Secretary, ARM Scotland & North of England Region.

Woodman, Denis – Manager of the Oval Sports Centre, Bebington then Deputy Director of Countryside and Recreation at Cheshire County Council. Former Chairman of ARM.  Strong advocate of a stronger and more inclusive professional body contributing to the formation of ILAM.

Wooldridge, Zena – Formerly Director of Sport at the University of Birmingham, responsible for the University’s £33M sports centre development completed in 2017. A former star squash player, Zena is currently (2023) President of the World Squash Federation.

Wright, John – General Manager, Harlow Sports Centre. Took George Torkildsen’s legacy from 1975 all the way to the securing of the new centre, Harlow Leisurezone, in 2004 as part of the major government backed Harlow Gateway Project. Now a trustee of the Centre.

Yates, Anne – Chaired the Recreation Management Training Committee (the Yates Committee) whose report called for a coordinated and strategic approach to the provision of training and was influential in establishing the variety of courses currently available.

Wolfenden, John (Baron Wolfenden) – Chaired the enquiry which was influential in promoting the development of modern sport in the UK. The eponymous report encouraged the development of indoor sports centres.

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