Ryman League Chairman and President Alan Turvey has hailed his trip to Buckingham Palace as part of the Football Association's 150th anniversary celebrations as one of the most 'humbling experiences' of his life.
After nearly six decades in the game as a referee and administrator, Turvey, pictured with his wife Margaret at Monday's royal celebrations, was one of the FA's 150 Grassroots Heroes who were presented with a specially minted medal by his Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge.
The recipients – chosen for their outstanding contribution and service to football – were honoured at a special lunch hosted by Prince William before the palace staged its first ever football match between Civil Service FC and Polytechnic FC, two of the oldest amateur clubs in England.
Despite visiting Buckingham Palace to attend a royal garden party previously, the Ryman's long-serving Chairman said it was ‘unforgettable’ day and is now looking for a suitable place at home to display the gold embossed certificate and medal he received for his 'exceptional services to grassroots football'.
The Chairman said: "It was a fantastic day and a great honour to be part of. I was so pleased to be alongside so many other people who have given so much of their lives to football and to be representing the Ryman there. It really was a humbling experience hearing their stories and meeting everyone.”
HRH The Duke of Cambridge is President of the FA and the Ryman’s Chairman has no doubts about his love of the game and commitment to football. He added: "In keeping with the whole event, he was warm and friendly and I have no doubt that he is a real football enthusiast who will do great work for us all in the years to come."
The Ryman's Chairman also revealed how he bumped into old refereeing colleague, Gilbert Napthine, who was also being honoured for his work with the Leicestershire FA. Napthine was an official alongside him in a European Cup match in the early 70s and he added: "It was wonderful to see him again. The last time we met was when he assessed me during the 1978-79 season for a game between Coventry and Everton!"
Turvey kicked off his career in football when he set up Essex side Wickford Boys in the 1950s before becoming a referee in 1959 and going on to be a top flight official in the old First Division. His connection to the Ryman League goes back to 1961 when he first took charge of an Isthmian League match.
In 1978 he joined the league as a fixtures secretary and after rapid promotion to League Secretary the following year, was appointed Chairman in 1982. In 2002 he was made President of the Ryman League and in recent years has been honoured by the FA with a long service medal to mark his 50 years in the game.