TRIBUTES have flooded in for a ‘fantastic sportsman’ and ‘real gentleman’ who has died after a 15-month battle with cancer aged 60.

Chris Hayhurst began playing for Bacup Cricket Club’s first team in 1981, rising through the ranks to become chairman in 1998, holding his post even while he was fighting bowl and liver cancer.

The ‘devoted’ dad-of-three, who lived in Bacup all his life, passed away peacefully at home with his family on Tuesday.

Terry Lord, a cricket club committee member and close friend, said: “He was just a fantastic guy, and it was great to be in his company.

“He was a man’s man and a great team player. Once you met him, you couldn’t get enough of him.

“He loved sports, and was a great amateur footballer, and anyone that ever played cricket with him would say he was fantastic to play with. He played to a really high standard.

“While he was ill, he looked after us for the future, making sure the hand over would be smooth. He never stopped thinking about the club.”

As well as being vice-chairman for 10 years, before becoming chairman, Chris found time to run the junior under-15s team.

Mr Lord said: “He had the cricket club running through his veins, and to say he will be sadly missed seems to be a massive understatement somehow.”

Matt Thompson, captain of Bacup Cricket Club’s first team, said: “I’ve known Chris through the cricket club for 30 years. He was a really upbeat person who loved sport and it’s really sad that he’s gone.”

Mike Bibby, chairman of the Lancashire Cricket League, said: “Members of the league have been shocked to hear that Chris has died. He will be missed far beyond Bacup Cricket Club.”

Peter Hargreaves, secretary of the Umpires Association for the Lancashire Cricket League, said: “I’ve known Chris since the late 1990s and I’m sad to see he’s passed away.”

Chris leaves his wife Lynne, his children Vicky, Matthew and Michael and his brother Andrew.

The funeral will be held on St Mary’s RC Church, in Dale Street, Bacup, on Friday at 11am. A celebration of Chris’ life will be held at Bacup Cricket Club at 1pm. Everybody is welcome.