The CEO of Brighton and Hove Albion’s charitable arm Albion in the Community (or AITC) Gary Townsend has died. At just 43 years of age, this is a truly tragic thing to have happened to someone who clearly gave so much in his role as chief operating officer, and latterly chief executive officer, of AITC.
Understandably, tributes have been pouring in throughout the course of the day. Martin Perry, chairman of the organisation and executive director of Brighton and Hove Albion, led the tributes in a club statement; “Gary was a hard-working, effective and extremely popular leader of our charity.” Meanwhile on social media, Brighton goalkeeper David Stockdale sent his deepest condolences as well as Premier League club Everton and fellow Championship side Wolverhampton Wanderers. Having only been appointed chief executive earlier this month, it represents a harrowing and devastating loss.
With the tributes still ongoing, perhaps it is prudent to focus on remembering what Gary Townsend was able to do with AITC, and their wider importance within the Brighton and Hove community.
Just last year, Townsend helped raise over £7,000 for AITC when he ran the Brighton Marathon together with his team member Jadey Yesilada. Townsend pushed Jadey in his wheelchair all the way around the marathon and did so in order to help the disabled take part in more sport, in accordance with Albion in the Community’s key aims.
Albion in the Community outline five major aims on their website; making sport accessible, tackling inequality, improving health and well-being, improving education and creating opportunities. All are noble goals and it seems that these days, organisations such as AITC can be lost amongst the frivolous enjoyment of the sport being played. Really, it can be argued that the crucial work that charities like this and people like Gary Townsend do should be the aim of the sport, and dedicating one’s career to the betterment of others’ welfare is a courageous and deeply unselfish thing to do.
All of our thoughts here at Brighton Journal are with the family and loved ones of Gary Townsend. When any of us next step inside the Amex Stadium, let us all remember that football has power beyond the playing field, and the dedicated organisations and individuals who help the community are a desperately underappreciated facet of the sport.
You can find more information about Albion in the Community on their webpage.