England Athletics is greatly saddened to hear news of the death of Bob Smith. Bob made a huge contribution to the sport and the work of England Athletics as a volunteer and member of England Athletics staff. Our thoughts are with his family and many friends in the sport at this time.
"Bob provided tremendous support to the London Regional Council from its earliest days and was a valued mentor to England Athletics staff in London. I never ceased to be amazed at his encyclopaedic knowledge of all aspects of Athletics across the whole of London. He must have attended more Athletics events across the Capital than anyone and seemed to know everyone. I had the privilege of assisting Bob with the production of the London Region Strategy Plan prior to London 2012, which among other things led to the highly successful London Run! Programme. We will all miss his wise counsel and his sense of humour." - Chair of London Region Council, Peter Crawshaw
Bob’s enthusiasm for the sport and desire to support a range of people in their involvement in athletics and running were obvious to anyone who met him.
Bob's family, Jo, James and Janet, would like to thank all of his friends and colleagues from the athletics world their support over the last 20 or so months, "We are heartbroken at his loss but it is of great comfort see the affection and respect all had for him.
"Bob followed the family "trade" in athletics but to us he was not just Bob the athletics man but also an incredibly caring, kind and loving son, father and brother. We will miss you Bob and will try to be as strong as you were."
Among those to have paid tribute to Bob are Tony Shiret, who knew Bob through both their shared involvement with Newham & Essex Beagles and Bob’s work for England Athletics in the capital. Tony said, "I have been lucky enough to know Bob from when he was a very average high jumper 30 years ago, over a period when he achieved heights on behalf of our club, Newham & Essex Beagles, and London's athletes, which were remarkable.
“At the peak of his powers he assembled one of the greatest club winter teams and inspired/organised a London participation scheme alongside the 2012 Games that involved over 200,000 Londoners.
“Through all this time he was one of those unique people who was incredibly knowledgeable, enthusiastic, supportive and loyal and this made people want to turn out and do things for him personally which is a rare gift. He was the heartbeat of our club and a great man. We are already missing him.
“I would also like to place on record my thanks for the support given to Bob during his illness by the management and his colleagues at England Athletics and to the many medical care professionals involved in his battle. His family and loved ones have also had a very tough two years. Hopefully they will take some comfort from the high regard in which has was held and the great love felt by many for him.”
Bob’s club, Newham & Essex Beagles have also said, “Bob was an extraordinary person who touched the lives of many with his enthusiasm and unwavering commitment and loyalty, and he will be deeply missed. Newham & Essex Beagles has been blessed by his association with us and we wish him peace after his long suffering.”
England Athletics Chief Executive Chris Jones said, “There is a great sense of grief for many of us at England Athletics at this time. Bob was a dear friend to us as well as being a valued colleague. Our thoughts are very much with his family and other friends at this time of loss.
“As an employee Bob’s knowledge of the sport, the people involved and, specifically, of the London athletics scene have been invaluable. His knowledge was fuelled by his huge passion and love of the sport, and drew on the many different people he knew across the athletics family. As a professional he made a big impact on the sport, particularly in London in the period building up to and after the London 2012 Games. And Bob’s contribution to the sport went far beyond his work for England Athletics with his service of his club and the wider sport as a volunteer.
“But, in many ways, at this moment it is Bob’s friendship that we reflect on and hold so dearly. The personal support and encouragement he gave people, sharing a joke with him or the sound of his laughter carrying across the room, and the way he so clearly cared not just about the sport but, more importantly, the people in it - whatever their role.
“Bob is someone who we will miss greatly and count ourselves privileged to have known.”
Coming from a family that was heavily involved in the sport it was perhaps natural that Bob would become involved in athletics and running. But his contribution was unique.
In club athletics Bob was fundamental to the development and successes of Newham and Essex Beagles in track and field, road running and cross country. While his involvement often saw him carry the title of ‘team manager’ Bob’s support of the athletes at the club was extensive and went far beyond this. As well as clocking up many miles driving athletes to fixtures Bob would always have encouragement, support and advice for those in the team and particularly for those who were going through tougher times. His interest in supporting and helping them always went far beyond club fixtures.
Bob was involved in managing the track and field team that has enjoyed success in the British Athletics League. At cross country he saw the team winning medals at area level and then in winning the team title at the national cross country, achieving the feat of winning the title in the late 1800s, 1900s and 2000s. In 2006 he managed the club to their first ever winning of the ERRA National 12 stage road relays and more titles at both 6 and 12 stages followed. Through all of this Bob built a great sense of camaraderie with and between the athletes.
But it was not just the higher profile events where Bob was involved. He could be seen helping out at the Southern league fixtures and always had a strong love of the Metropolitan League Cross Country. He would give a wide range of athletes a call before the ‘Met League’ to encourage them to put in an appearance. He had a great memory for an athlete’s previous performances and sense of the strength of the field in any given race when seeing the athletes coming in.
And at all these events his vocal support was not just limited to those in a Newham vest. At tracksides, road races and in the muddy fields of cross country races he forged friendships with many athletes and volunteers from different clubs.
With England Athletics Bob’s roles included as a regional and area manager. He also managed England Athletics’ work in London in the build-up and period immediately after the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. This saw Bob’s knowledge of the London athletics scene and the many bodies who could be engaged in partnerships to develop the sport proving invaluable. A range of activities were undertaken from the provision of activities for people who had not previously been involved in the sport, support for established clubs, the creation of new clubs where there were gaps in provision and the pioneering of new approaches to facilitating the sport, such as the compact athletics facility developed in Hackney.
The impact of his work in the sport as a volunteer and a professional will continue to be felt and remembered.
Rest in peace Bob.