Buzzer Hadingham

Good-humoured All England Club chairman
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The Independent Online

Not all administrators are blessed with a sense of humour as well as a knack for generally getting things right, as was Buzzer Hadingham, the former All England Club chairman.

Reginald Edward Hawke ("Buzzer") Hadingham, sports administrator: born Scheveningen, the Netherlands 6 December 1915; MC 1943, bar 1943; assistant export manager, Slazengers 1946-49, export manager 1949-51, general sales manager 2951-52, sales director 1952-69, managing director 1969-73, chairman and managing director 1973-76, chairman (non-executive) 1976-83; Chairman, Sparks 1968-94, Life President 1995-2004; OBE 1971, CBE 1987; member, Membership Committee, All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club 1976-84, Club Chairman and chairman of the committee of management, The Championships, Wimbledon 1984-89, Vice-President 1990-2004; President, International Lawn Tennis Club of Great Britain 1991-2004; married 1940 Lois Pope (two daughters); died London 27 December 2004.

Not all administrators are blessed with a sense of humour as well as a knack for generally getting things right, as was Buzzer Hadingham, the former All England Club chairman.

One of the stories he loved to tell concerned the 17-year-old Boris Becker's Wimbledon triumph in 1985, when the German became the youngest men's singles champion in the history of the tournament. Before the Champions' Dinner, Hadingham and his wife approached Becker, who was sitting alongside his mother, Elvira, and his father, Karl-Heinz. When Boris stood up to greet them, Lois Hadingham turned to Mrs Becker and said, "My, how tall your son is. What is he, six one, six two? "Nein," Mrs Becker responded, "6-3, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4."

Apocryphal, perhaps, but Buzzer told it with as much relish as the one about the time he was a guest at an anniversary of the Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club in Dublin. "Tell me," said an Irishman seated beside Hadingham at dinner, "how many members do you have at the All England Club?" "357," Hadingham told him. "Is that all?" said his companion. "Have you ever thought of advertising?"

Wimbledon, the focus of the sporting world for two weeks each year, is perceived by many to be an élitist centre of snobbery, a reputation difficult to overcome. Hadingham, who was appointed the All England Club's chairman in 1983, did much to improve Wimbledon's public image without demeaning the Championships in any way.

There probably was a time when the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club was indeed a bastion of privilege, and few players were considered more of an outsider than the great Fred Perry, the last Briton to win the Wimbledon men's singles title, born in Stockport, the son of a mill worker.

The first of his three consecutive Wimbledon triumphs, in 1934, made him a hero with the public, although the Wimbledon committee member assigned to present Perry with his membership tie left it draped over a chair while Fred was in the bath and told his opponent, Jack Crawford, of Australia, that the best man did not win. Under Hadingham's stewardship, Wimbledon marked the 50th anniversary of Perry's initial victory by renaming the Somerset Road entrance to the grounds the Fred Perry Gates and also erecting a statue in his honour.

John McEnroe's tantrums at Wimbledon, particularly in 1981, brought a new problem to SW19. Hadingham, while horrified by the American's behaviour, tried to understand McEnroe and reason with him, urging him to curb his temper whatever he might think about the accuracy of line calls. It may not have been a coincidence that Mc-Enroe controlled his excesses and enthralled Wimbledon with his skills in 1984.

Hadingham was known as Buzzer, but not as a consequence of some schoolboy prank. After he was born, his brother, Tony, who was two years old, called him "my baby buzzer". His real name was Reginald, after Reginald Doherty, the Wimbledon champion of 1897-1900, to whom his mother, Irene, had once been engaged.

Buzzer was born in Scheveningen, in the Netherlands, where his father, Tim, who was in the Royal Navy, had been interned by the Germans during the First World War. As an officer, Tim was allowed to have his wife join him.

Tim Hadingham became managing director of the sports equipment manufacturers Slazengers, and Buzzer followed his father into the business in 1933 at 18. Buzzer Hadingham, who became managing director and chairman, retired in 1983.

During the Second World War Hadingham served with the Army in North Africa and Italy. He rose to the rank of lieutenant-colonel and in 1943 was awarded the Military Cross and bar. Elected to the All England Club in 1957, he became chairman at the age of 67, on retiring from Slazengers, and played social tennis into his eighties. He retired as chairman in 1989.

A member of Sparks (Sportsmen Pledged to Aid Research into Crippling Diseases), Hadingham persuaded Douglas Bader and Leonard Cheshire to serve terms as the charity's president and also took on the role himself. He was appointed CBE in 1988.

Passionate about poetry, he had a collection, Random Rhymes, published in 1980. True to Kipling's verse over the entrance to Wimbledon's Centre Court, Buzzer Hadingham treated the twin impostors, triumph and disaster, just the same.

John Roberts