Tributes pour in for Maurice Watkins, the ex-Manchester United director who has passed away aged 79

Maurice Watkins

Former Manchester United director and one of the UK’s best sports lawyer Maurice Watkins CBE has passed away aged 79.

Watkins spent 28 years at Old Trafford before retiring in 2012.

Former United chairman Martin Edwards invited Watkins to become a director of the Red Devils back in 1984 at the same time as Sir Bobby Charlton and he was influential in the appointment of Sir Alex Ferguson in 1986.

Watkins was involved in some of the biggest decisions the club has made in that period.

Additionally, Maurice served as a director of the Rugby Football League in England for 12 years until 2014, during which time he led a comprehensive review of the sport.

He also served on the boards of Lancashire County Cricket Club, British Swimming and the British Basketball Federation as well as a host of non-sports related charities, leading the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Charity’s new build appeal and raising £20m.

He was head of sport law for law firm Brabners in Manchester.

He was also a former North West Business Masters award winner.

Watkins awarded the CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in 2011 for his services to charity.

The father-of-four who lived in Cheshire with his partner Elaine, had battled prostate cancer for some years.

In a statement, Manchester United said: “All at Manchester United are deeply saddened by the loss of our former director, Maurice Watkins, who served the club with such distinction for over a quarter of a century.

“We send our heartfelt condolences to his loved ones at this time.”

Nik White, managing partner at Brabners, where Maurice Watkins was a partner for almost 15 years, said: “We’re all deeply saddened by the news. Maurice had a truly glittering career and was a towering figure in the world of sport, both nationally and beyond.

“He played a crucial role in establishing the standards that professionalised and improved sport, and that continue to have a positive impact today. He was also tirelessly committed to a number of charitable causes, particularly the NHS.

“More than that, though, Maurice was a true character and gentlemen; and a great friend and colleague who made a huge contribution to Brabners, not just with his client work and by mentoring colleagues but also as an ambassador for our firm.

“Our thoughts are with Maurice’s family at this difficult time.”

This morning British Swimming said: “British Swimming is saddened to hear of the death of our chairman, Maurice Watkins CBE, aged 79.

“All of our thoughts and condolences go out to his family and friends at this difficult time.”

UK Sport CEO Sally Munday said in a statement: “I was so saddened to hear about Maurice. My thoughts are with his family and friends.

“Maurice was so well known in the sporting community and the sheer variety of sports that he was involved in throughout his life goes some way to showing the impact he had on the British sporting landscape.”