GUESTS heard some inspiring stories as winners collected their awards at the Suffolk FA Awards Ceremony 2023 sponsored by McDonald’s and Jacobsen Ltd.
Around 70 guests attended the event in the Hall of Fame Suite at Portman Road on Wednesday, before watching Ipswich Town’s Carabao Cup Fourth Round tie versus Fulham.
Those honoured were the winners of the Grassroots Football Awards, Grounds Team of the Year and Referees who received Long Service Awards.
Among the most inspiring of stories was that of Chris Collings, who coaches Ipswich Vale Exiles Black U13s and was the winner of the Coach of the Year Male Pathway in the Grassroots Football Awards.
Chris continued to plan and attend all training sessions even though his wife had been diagnosed with stage 3 cancer earlier in the year.
Guests heard that football provided an amazingly positive experience for Chris which he was grateful to share with his team who went undefeated during the season and won their league.
With the help of players and parents he has also helped to raise more than £7,000 for cancer charities this year.
Riley Barber (centre) receives the Young Volunteer of the Year award from local McDonald’s franchisee Carol Rogerson (left) and Suffolk FA Chair Phil Lawler (right) at Portman Road. Main photograph: Chris Collings receives his award for winning of the Coach of the Year Male Pathway. Photographs: Millie Edwards
Then there was Riley Barber of Beccles Town Youth FC, who won the Young Volunteer of the Year category. Riley has dyspraxia and after it became apparent that playing mainstream football was no longer an option for him, the club offered him the opportunity to coach their U7 Hornets team.
Being active helps his condition and Riley has since added his support to the club’s Wildcats U9 and U13 girls’ sessions as well as completing his referees’ course and has already progressed to officiating in open-age football.
The Grounds Team of the Year winners received their certificates and five Referees their Long Service Awards – Irvin Flaherty and Robert Symonds for 40 years and Noel Wilson, Chris Dale and Mark Potkins for 25 years.
Irvin Flaherty (centre) receives his 40-Year Referee Long Service Award from Suffolk FA President David Sheepshanks CBE (left) and Suffolk FA Chair Phil Lawler (right) at Portman Road on Wednesday evening. Photograph: Millie Edwards
Suffolk FA Chief Executive Richard Neal said: “The Awards evening is always a humbling and inspiration experience, but the stories of a number of the winners this year particularly highlighted the fundamental importance of football for reasons sometimes unseen and less obvious.
“So much time, energy, emotion, resource, kindness and sacrifice goes in to the wide variety of roles celebrated through the Awards; from those working to build a club to those coaching various pathways; from those doing everything possible to provide a great player surface to those now giving back to the game through mentoring young referees.
“It was a privilege, with the greatly appreciated support of Jacobsen and McDonald’s as prominent local organisations, to be able to congratulate the 2022-23 winners and offer a small token of recognition to such distinguished recipients’ countless hours dedicated to making Suffolk football possible.”
This year’s Grounds Team of the Year awards were presented by Chris Clifford, Director, Turf Engineering of sponsors Jacobsen Ltd, the Grassroots Football Awards were presented by local McDonald’s franchisee Carol Rogerson, and Referee Long Service Awards by Suffolk FA President David Sheepshanks CBE.
Award recipients, some of who are pictured above beside the pitch at Portman Road after Ipswich Town's match versus Fulham, were as follows:
Grounds Team of the Year
Winner: Simon Edwards (Ipswich Vale Exiles FC)
2nd place: Russell Haynes (Ransomes Sports FC)
3rd place: Neil Hitter & Ray Goudy (Bacton Utd 89 FC)
Simon Edwards (centre) receives his certificate for winning the Grounds Team of the Year competition from Chris Clifford, Director, Turf Engineering of sponsors Jacobsen Ltd (left) and Suffolk FA Chair Phil Lawler (right) at Portman Road on Wednesday evening. Photograph: Millie Edwards
Referee Long Service Awards
25 Years: Chris Dale, Mark Potkins & Noel Wilson.
40 Years: Irvin Flaherty, Robert Symonds.
Robert Symonds (centre) receives his 40-Year Referee Long Service Award from Suffolk FA President David Sheepshanks CBE (left) and Suffolk FA Chair Phil Lawler (right) at Portman Road on Wednesday evening. Photograph: Millie Edwards
Young Volunteer of The Year
Winner: Riley Barber (Beccles Town Youth FC)
Highly Commended: Isaac Mennie (AFC Sudbury) & Conner Leatherby (Ipswich Town Foundation Frame Football)
Positive Football Environment Award
Winner: Casey Arowosafe (Hope Church FC)
Highly Commended: Sharon Rawlinson (Burnt Hill Rockets FC)
Grassroots New Volunteer of the Year
Winner: Jeremy Birt (Stowupland Falcons FC)
Highly Commended: Jenni Prior (Wot’s Up Warriors FC)
Grassroots Match Official of The Year
Grassroots League of the Year
Winner: Wot’s Up Disability League
Highly Commended: Norfolk & Suffolk Youth League
Grassroots Coach of the Year Male Pathway
Winner: Chris Collings (Ipswich Vale Exiles FC)
Grassroots Coach of the Year Female Pathway
Winner: Richard Davey (Coplestonians FC)
Grassroots Coach of the Year Disability Pathway
Winner: Lee Smith (Wot’s Up Warriors FC)
Highly Commended: Alex Wilson (Lavenham Youth FC).
Grassroots Club of the Year
Winner: Halesworth Town Youth FC