Footballers will hold a minute’s silence this weekend to pay their respects to one of Lancashire’s longest serving football and cricket league officials, who has died.

Lionel Cooke was a regular fixture on match days at Pleasington Playing Fields, Blackburn, and was always the first league official many footballers and managers would greet as they headed into the changing rooms. 

The Blackburn and District Football Combination League said on Wednesday, Lionel had died following a short illness.

Whilst in the army Lionel became a referee in 1979 and later became the Army Referees Appointment Secretary in Berlin.

In 1994 he became Registrations Secretary with the Blackburn Combination League. In 2003, he took on the role of league treasurer, a position he held for over 15 years. He became League Vice President in 2019.

In addition to these duties Lionel was also a committee member with the East Lancashire Football League. He served as Assistant secretary for the Lancashire league for 20 years from 1985 onwards. At the same time, he helped to run the Blackburn Mid-week League.

In the summer months he would also help out as club scorer for Accrington cricket club.

Lionel was a keen gardener and was involved with the Witton Allotments and had helped out with the Clitheroe County Markets.

He was presented with the distinguished service award, the WM Fox award and in 2014, the Lancashire FA 20 years' service award.

In 2013, alongside wife Maureen he was honoured at the Community Fusion Awards at Ewood Park for services to local sport.

Here, he had revealed that he continued to keep score and manage administration without a computer.

Officials from the Blackburn and District Football Combination League paid their tributes to a ‘good-hearted man, who served football and cricket’.

A joint message from Chairman Colin Brindle, Vice Chairman Jim Regan, League Secretary Michael Hoole, and members of the League Management committee, read: “He was our league’s representative at the Sports Council and of course the man at the turnstile for all our cup finals, and would often be found sat in the pavilion at Pleasington to greet the teams upon their arrival for their games.

“A good-hearted man, who served football and cricket with dedication for over 30 years.

“RIP to our friend and colleague. You will be missed down the fields.

“As a tribute to Lionel, we kindly ask all clubs to hold a minute’s silence before the kick off on Saturday, November 5, to honour the memory of a man who gave so much time to the game he loved.”

Lancashire Telegraph:

Local footballers and clubs had posted their own tributes to Lionel, 82.

Bill Maynard said: “Very sad news a loss in grassroots sport and a friend, condolences to his family RIP Lionel you will be sorely missed.”

Anchor Darwen posted: “Lionel, a great guy thoughts are with you and family.”

Darwen Spitfire posted: “Such sad news. RIP Lionel, all our thoughts are with his friends and family at this sad time.”

Reece said: “RIP Lionel, unbelievably kind man who always had time to have a catch up with anybody. Will be sorely missed down at Plessy!”

Danny Fielding said: “A truly great man, always had time to have a chat with us before and after the game.

"Showed genuine interest in how teams were doing and helped us out loads when starting managing teams. Thoughts with his family. RIP Lionel.”

Ali Mohammed, who had run a number of football teams in the combination for many years, added: “He was the heart of Pleasington playing fields and local football. He was always great to speak to and he will be missed by all.”