Tributes paid to football's Ray Bayles who has died aged 73

Ray Bayles sitting in a chair smiling at the camera

Ray Bayles, who dedicated his life to his community, grassroots football, and helping others, has died aged 73 - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

Tributes have been paid to a stalwart of local football who died following a short illness. 

Raymond Stanley Bayles, or Ray as everyone knew him, dedicated his life to his community, grassroots football, and helping others.  

He was born in Fulham, London, on January 9, 1947. 

In his youth, he was a choir boy and on at least one occasion he performed at St Paul's Cathedral. He attended St Marylebone Grammar School in Westminster before starting working life at an architect firm. 

At the age of 11, he met his future wife, Carol, who was his younger sister’s best friend. By the age of 20, they became a couple and married in July 1970. The pair had two children - their son Paul was born in 1974, and their daughter Sally followed in 1977. 

Family photos of Ray Bayles and his family (left to right: Sally, Ray, Carol and Paul)

Ray Bayles and his family (left to right: Sally, Ray, Carol and Paul) - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

By this time, Ray had decided that office work was not for him and tried his hand at social work. He became a residential social worker and realised that the job was a perfect fit for him. He made the tough decision to leave work and study full time to gain his social work qualification and follow his passion. 

Shortly after completing his training, he secured a job in Norwich and would stay in bed and breakfast accommodation during the week while travelling back to his family in Hemel Hempstead at the weekends. Eventually, the family relocated to Norwich in 1984.  

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Once they moved, Ray took everyone by surprise by taking a job in the London borough of Tower Hamlets, which meant once again he had to be away from home. This time he commuted daily, leaving in the very early hours and not returning until late at night.

It was at this point he decided to leave London for good and spent the rest of his working life as a probation officer working in Great Yarmouth, Whitefriars, and finishing his career in HMP Norwich. 

And it was while working as a probation office that he became deeply involved in local football.  

Ray Bayles and wife Carol smiling at the camera

Ray Bayles and wife Carol at one of the many football league dinners he organised every year - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

From around 1991, he held the title of chairman and secretary at both Wroxham Football Club and Dereham Town Football Club. He also held positions within the Norfolk County FA and the Thurlow Nunn Football League.  

His daughter Sally said: "Dad was a firm believer of playing football with your heart and not just your feet."

And while he did not play football, he put his heart and soul in behind the scenes, working tirelessly even when retired.  

His wife added: “Ray was a wonderful man, who saw the good in everyone and would give anyone his last penny. He had a dry sense of humour and never failed to make me laugh in 50 years of marriage. We are all so thankful that we have had him in our lives and he will be missed always.” 

Tributes have poured in from the sporting community since the news of his passing. 

A spokesperson for Wroxham FC said: “His passing will mean a great loss to his family and Norfolk football.” 

The youth team added: “Really sad news. Always a gentleman, and will be a great loss not only to us, but the local football community. Our thoughts and wishes to his family.” 

A spokesperson for Dereham Town FC described his death as “a huge loss”. 

“Incredibly sad to hear this news. Ray was a great football man and an even better man – always there if you needed help. Ray will be a huge loss to Norfolk football and all that knew him.

"Our thoughts are with his loved ones at this difficult time. [He] will be missed by all.” 

He died surrounded by family following a short illness on December 28. Aged 73, he leaves behind his wife of 50 years, his two children, and five grandchildren. 

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