British Gymnastics are sad to announce that former British Gymnastics President, Bill Slater CBE passed away aged 91, on 18th December 2018 with daughter Barbara by his side, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s and ill health.
Bill was a man of multiple talents, integrity, wisdom and style. His achievements stretched from his stardom as a football player with 12 full England international caps; participation in the Helsinki 1952 Olympics and the 1958 World Cup in Sweden; and his captaining of Wolverhampton Wanderers to success in the 1960 FA Cup Final.
The same year, unusual though it was at the time, Bill also obtained his degree and was named the Football Writers’ Footballer of the Year, despite being a part-time player. Slaters’ academic career at Liverpool and Birmingham Universities followed his retirement from football along with Deputy Directorship of the Crystal Palace Sports Centre in London.
By the 70s Bill was already a proud father of four and respected sports administrator when destiny drew him to the sport of gymnastics. The reason was his daughter Barbara. She was a member of a local gymnastics club with limited facilities (Solihull, near Birmingham), and early in her career she was left out of the National training squad. Bill decided to take on coaching Barbara and prove that she can actually do what she aspired to. He was PE trained in University and had the enormous knowledge about mechanics of movement, training methods and psychology, which elite competitors accumulate in the course of their careers. Barbara Slater went on to represent Great Britain at the Olympic Games in Montreal 1976 along with Avril Lennox and Susan Cheesebrough.
Following her retirement, Barbara took on a career in broadcasting and is today Director of Sport at the BBC. A position no other woman before her has reached.
“My father used to work the whole day and then we used to go to the University gymnasium when everyone else had gone home. Sometimes we trained between 10pm and midnight or even later. He came to the Montreal Games even though he was not officially accredited. He was allowed in the training hall but not on the field of play. During the competition he was sitting in the audience with my mother who had flown on a plane for the first time in her life to be there. We used to meet outside the Olympic village - he would give me his advice and I would sneak out lots of food and treats from the huge canteen they had as part of the village” remembers Barbara.
“Once in gymnastics, always in gymnastics” – this principle worked for Bill Slater too. He became the President of British Gymnastics in 1989 and led the Association into the turn of the new century. Those were some of the most significant years in British Gymnastics history; an endless effort to aim higher for international results and recognition, and putting in place a foundation for development and education programmes. Thanks to Bill’s efforts in 1993, Great Britain celebrated its first World medalist: Neil Thomas who took silver on floor.
Bill Slater was an instrumental figure in the introduction of the UK Sport’s World Class Performance programme. The first Lottery Funding bid submitted in 1999 was a result of his hard work along with the then Technical Director of the Association John Atkinson.
This is how Alan Sommerville OBE former British Gymnastics CEO, Chairman and President remembers Bill Slater:
“I first met Bill Slater in 1998 when, as East Midlands representative, I joined the then Policy Board, which as President, Bill chaired. I was immediately struck by his natural presence as a leader and his calm diplomatic handling of a board of twenty-seven members, all with differing interests, which served as an example which I tried to emulate in the future.
In 1999, Bill chaired the panel which interviewed me for the post of British Gymnastics’ first professional CEO. After a thorough grilling by Bill and the panel, I was offered the job and for the remaining six months of Bill’s tenure as President, he was a constant support as a friend and mentor as I struggled to understand the complexities of my new role. I will always be grateful for the patience, understanding and unstinting assistance he gave to me personally, but also for his tremendous contribution to the sport of gymnastics over many years. In all his dealings a man of huge competence, great integrity and a true gentleman.”
Bill Slater’s public recognition came in 1982 when he was first awarded an OBE and then in 1998, a CBE.
He left us with the memories of one of the greatest men in British Gymnastics’ history. Our thoughts are with his family of four children and eight grandchildren.
The family’s intention is to have a funeral for family and friends. The family would welcome anyone who worked and knew Bill personally and would like to pay their respects.
The family would like to know numbers. Therefore if you wish to attend, please contact Jackie Shrubb [email protected]