Tributes paid to town’s ‘brilliant’ former sports association chairman

John Softley, died on October 1, aged 62. PHOTO; Matthew Usher

John Softley, died on October 1, aged 62. PHOTO; Matthew Usher - Credit: Matthew Usher

A Norfolk town’s sporting community were among the many people who paid tribute to a “brilliant” former chairman of its sports association.

(Left to right) Watton Sports Centre's former vice chairman Paul Adcock and former chairman John Sof

(Left to right) Watton Sports Centre's former vice chairman Paul Adcock and former chairman John Softley outside the club. PHOTO; Matthew Usher - Credit: Matthew Usher

The funeral of John Softley, 62, of Watton, took place on October 22 and saw dozens of people line the streets to pay their respects as the cortege made its journey.

Mr Softley was a former chairman of Watton Sports Association and was instrumental in the successful National Lottery Sports Fund bid in 1998.

His passion for sport and his working knowledge of the construction industry were invaluable in the project, and the resulting grant of £794,000 financed a major expansion of the sports and social facilities at Watton Sports Centre for the benefit of the community.

It took three years to see the lottery bid come to fruition, with the new facilities being officially opened by international boxing legend Henry Cooper and Olympic Athlete Derek Redmond, in 1999.

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Close family friend and former vice chairman of Watton Sports Centre, Paul Adcock, paid tribute to Mr Softley describing him as “brilliant, kind, considerate, and wise”.

“He always had a good word to say and was positive and professional in everything he did,” he said.

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“Everywhere he went, people respected him and the things he did.

“He was one of these people who had a natural ability to solve problems and was always the one to come up with a common sense approach to things.

“It’s been a devastating shock to us all - it’s heartbreaking.”

Mr Softley was very enthusiastic about youth sport and was chairman of Watton Junior Hockey Club and Watton Junior Football Club, and also became a qualified junior hockey coach.

In his younger days, he was a Duke of Edinburgh Award instructor and chairman of the Watton Rotaract Group.

A keen sportsman too, he played football, badminton, golf and darts.

Due to conronavirus restrictions on funeral service numbers, many members of Watton’s sports clubs paid their respects as the funeral cortege passed Watton Sports Centre and Richmond Park Golf Club. Many members of the community also lined the route to the Breckland Crematorium.

Mr Softley died suddenly on October 1 and leaves behind his wife Alison, children Rebecca, Laura, Benjamin and Christopher, and six grandchildren.

- Would you like to pay tribute to a loved one? Contact community life reporter, Donna-Louise Bishop by emailing

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