Obituary: Phil Appleyard

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The Independent Online
Phil Appleyard was the man who brought hockey to the British public when, one weekend in October 1986, over six million people switched on their television sets to see the closing stages of the hockey World Cup, held in London to mark the centenary of the Hockey Association.

Appleyard had been appointed chairman of the organising committee to oversee the event at Willesden. The tournament attracted more spectators than any previous World Cup. There were "house full" notices, a black market for tickets, and the BBC, at short notice, substituted hockey for its planned Saturday afternoon programme.

By profession Appleyard was an international fisheries consultant, who liked to refer to himself as "a Grimsby fish merchant". In reality he spent most of his working life dealing with governments and international agencies rather than the housewives of Grimsby. In his younger days, when he could find the time, he had kept goal in hockey for Grimsby and was captain of their team between 1950 and 1960.

In 1981, Appleyard had just returned from a United Nations fisheries project in Korea when the Hockey Association, tasked with the running of the World Cup five years later and realising that they were being asked to stage the most expensive World Cup ever, decided that they could not tackle an event of such magnitude within their own very limited resources. They invited Appleyard to take charge of the whole thing. He tackled the task with enthusiasm and very considerable commercial expertise and organised what is still considered by many to be the most successful world hockey event ever staged.

In 1985, during the build-up period to the World Cup, he also took on the equally daunting role of President of the Hockey Association and continued in office until 1995. After the World Cup he set about revitalising English hockey. For the tournament, a drab Willesden Stadium had been transformed temporarily into an attractive welcoming arena for world hockey, only to be returned to its original state after two weeks. Appleyard vowed then to create a national headquarters for the game and with it a national stadium. His dream finally came true last year with the opening of the pounds 9m-plus stadium at Milton Keynes.

Appleyard worked ceaselessly for the Hockey Association, promoting the game and English and Great British hockey in every aspect. He was never happier than when talking about his beloved game, whether it was to television chiefs or potential sponsors or guests at a small club function. There can be few in hockey who at some time had not heard his favourite words: "Things don't just happen" but they did when he was around. He brought to the game a professionalism and commercial approach it badly needed.

It was his initial drive which only last June brought about the merging of the Men's, Women's and Mixed Hockey Associations.

Appleyard represented England on the Council of the International Hockey Federation from 1992 and took over the role of Honorary Treasurer in 1994. He immediately started to reorganise the Federation's financial housekeeping and took on the task of chairing an ad hoc committee to recommend the structure necessary to bring the management of world hockey into the 21st century.

Walter Philip Appleyard, businessman and hockey administrator: born Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire 22 July 1923; OBE 1987; married (one daughter); died 16 August 1997.