The Football League Awards 2014 - Please click here for live blog and video
Crewe Alexandra's John Bowler has been honoured with the Contribution to League Football Award at The Football League Awards 2014.
Bowler received the award - the highest honour bestowed by the Board of The Football League - at the gala ceremony at The Brewery, London, on Sunday evening in front of over 600 guests from clubs, sponsors and the football industry.
This year a total of 36 clubs were shortlisted for 17 awards.
Bowler joined Crewe Alexandra's Board of Directors in 1980, becoming Chairman seven years later. His 27-year tenure has seen him lead the club to the most successful period in its history on the pitch, while simultaneously developing off-the-pitch foundations that are the envy of clubs in the Premier League, let alone the lower divisions.
In Bowler's time at Gresty Road, the club have won promotion on five occasions, including two Play-Off Finals at Wembley, as well as lifting last season's Johnstone's Paint Trophy. Under Dario Gradi, and more recently Steve Davis, the club has become synonymous with entertaining, passing football, played in a fair and sporting manner. To the extent that Crewe have won their division's Fair Play Award 15 times in the last 20 years.
But it is in the field of youth development that the club has excelled. The conveyor belt of outstanding young players - many of whom have gone on to play at the very highest level, includes the likes of Danny Murphy, Dean Ashton, Rob Jones, Ashley Westwood, David Vaughan and Nick Powell, while the likes of David Platt, Neil Lennon and Robbie Savage have all found a welcome home at Gresty Road after being released by other clubs.
In Bowler's time at Crewe, the club have generated more than £32m of income through player sales, enabling the club to continue its investment in future generations of players and re-develop Gresty Road in the process.
On winning the award, Bowler said: "I'm thrilled, excited and humble to be recognised. The Football League and the whole of football is such a wonderful thing to be involved in so it's a special night for me.
"I played football at a local level, playing for a Nottingham Forest nursery side but decided to go into pharmacy as a career so that ruined my playing days as I had to work on Saturdays, but I always kept my interest by watching games when I could.
"Being Chairman of Crewe Alexandra is such a rewarding job. Our whole ethos is to develop enthusiastic young players who harbour such enthusiasm, so to be able to nurture them and help them with the lows as well as the highs and to see them flourish, well, that is great. It's a wonderful experience and great to contribute in that way."
The Contribution to League Football Award is The Football League's most prestigious award. It is presented annually by the Board of The Football League to an individual who has given a lifetime's service to the professional game, with the recipient receiving a special gold trophy.
Shaun Harvey, Chief Executive of The Football League, said: "Crewe Alexandra are simply an inspiration to others and none of their success over the past 27 years would have happened without John Bowler's thoughtful, knowledgeable and committed leadership.
"John has set the benchmark for prudent, wise and successful stewardship of a professional football club. In doing so, his club has become one of the most widely admired in the domestic game.
"The Football League Awards 2014 has given us the opportunity to reward outstanding achievement, both on and off the pitch, by Football League clubs.
"Every one of tonight's winners is a worthy recipient of their award and all the other nominees have helped set an exceptional standard this year.
"It has been a tremendous celebration of life in The Football League."
The Awards were streamed live on The Football League's official YouTube and Facebook pages, as well as official club websites and YouTube channels for the first time ever.
To find out more about The Football League Awards, and for a full list of Award categories, please visit www.FLAwards.com.