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Bob Shackleton retires after 38 years

Bob Shackleton retires after 38 years

The Bradford Premier League's longest serving official Bob Shackleton has announced his retirement after 38 years of distinguished service.

The 83-year-old's contribution and longevity are unrivalled and unlikely ever to be beaten, His devotion and service to the league saw him win the Sir Leonard Hutton Trophy in 1997 and receive a special award after completing 30 years as an official in 2012.

The league management board have made Shackleton the league's first and only vice president as well as awarding life membership in recognition of his outstanding contribution, honours he confesses to being "surprised and delighted" to receive.

He held the posts of secretary (1982-2005), Chief Executive (2005-2010) and Admin Executive (2010-2020) and league chairman David Young led the praise for his achievements.

He said: "No one in the history of the league has made such a great contribution as Bob Shackleton has. Without his dedicated commitment to the league, I know that it would not be regarded as highly as it is today. Bob's tireless efforts over many years are very much appreciated."

League president Keith Moss has known Shackleton for almost 50 years and has seen at first hand his work as an official. "It is fair to say that we didn't always see eye to eye, but I always respected his views. At all times he had the best possible interests of the league at heart and when he made a decision, he stuck by it," he said.

"Second best wasn't good enough for Bob. He was jealous of the standing the league had achieved and did all he could to preserve it.

"He has been a powerful force in the Bradford League and deserves the very highest praise for all his hard work, dedication and determination he has displayed on our behalf."

After playing for Cleckheaton, Shackleton became their cricket secretary and his work at club level led to him being appointed Bradford League secretary in 1982.

He recalls: "I applied for the post in 1981 when the league was seeking a replacement for Eric Sharpe. I had to go before an interview panel consisting of league president Bruce Moss, Eric Sharpe, and Bill Hopkinson. My name was then put forward and I was elected at the 1981 agm to take office for the following year.

"Everything was very new to me and one job I had to do early on was prepare the fixtures. In those days it was a rather time-consuming job using many different pieces of paper for each club.

"In subsequent years I was pointed in the direction the Football League by the former T&A cricket reporter Malcolm Hartley. I wrote to them at Lytham St Annes and received a booklet with all the different formulas for working out who played who. I still have the book today."

The production of the fixtures has since moved on and is now computerised. It is just one of the technological changes that Shackleton has witnessed during his time at the helm.

The submission of match scoresheets is another process to undergo a massive change. When Shackleton became secretary, clubs had to submit a top copy and two carbon copies to a post box in Bradford on a Saturday evening.

This meant that he had to go and collect them. "The top copy was for the league and the carbon copies went to Crabtrees News Agency and the T&A," he recalls.

"Initially they were collected from an address in Sunbridge Road before we moved the collection point to North Parade. It was there I once had the fright of my life. It was 6.30am in the morning and there was the body of a man lying motionless in the doorway.

"I feared he was dead but when I tapped his foot he stirred. He was obviously somebody who was sleeping rough, but I couldn't get away quick enough."

Another time when he had to show a clean pair of heels was July 7, 2001 which was the night the Bradford riots kicked off. "I just saw a gang heading towards me in North Parade and didn't even bother to pick up the sheets."

Eventually the Saturday night collections became a thing of the past as sheets were transmitted by fax to his house before the league adopted on-line scoring and results transmission in 2010. That was the year in which the league adopted on-line registration which was a project led and implemented by Shackleton.

He was also responsible for raising the profile of the league dinner. When he took over the attendance was around 150 and he boosted that up to almost 400.

His first speaker was one of his biggest coups. Entertainer Leslie Crowther proved a big hit at the 1982 dinner. "He came up in his Rolls Royce, declined the offer of overnight accommodation, and drove back to his home in the south afterwards and all it cost us was a cash payment towards his petrol," Shackleton said.

The league's centenary celebrations in 2003 saw Shackleton secure former Yorkshire and England fast bowler Fred Trueman as guest speaker.

Among the jobs he undertook was manager of the league’s highly successful under-21 side and became treasurer of the White Rose competition for more than 20 years.

Representing the league on external bodies has always been important to him. He was president of the Black Sheep Yorkshire Champions Trophy for 25 years and has served on the West Yorkshire League Council and its predecessor the West Yorkshire Area Council since 1982.

His work for the wider game was recognised in the 2019 Yorkshire Cricket Board OSCAS when he won the George Reah Award for Special Services to Cricket.

He is also immensely proud to be the cricket president of his beloved Cleckheaton who he saw win the Bradford League for the first time in 2013 and repeat the feat the following year.

As he takes a step back from the league's front line, Shackleton is clear about his abiding memory. "The best things has been making a lot of friends and striking up friendships with people not just in the Bradford League but other leagues too."

Bob Shackleton receiving the George Reah award from top international umpire Michael Gough, left, and Yorkshire chief executive Mark Arthur.