Ten Football League club fans and unsung heroes have been honoured at a special Buckingham Palace ceremony hosted by HRH The Duke of Cambridge to recognise their services to football.
Jeff Hall (Chesterfield), Stanley McGowen (Bury), Paul Samrah (Brighton and Hove Albion), Warner Duff (Ipswich Town), Sue Pollard (Plymouth Argyle), Neil Le Milliere (Exeter City), Kevin Monks (Coventry City), Jim Thompson (Burnley), Paul Bradley (Preston North End), and Billy Neil (Millwall) were among 150 people celebrated on Monday at an event that forms part of The Football Association's 150th anniversary celebrations.
The Football League put forward the 10 individuals to represent all clubs. The 10 were chosen for their outstanding contribution and service to football, with them being selected on the basis of having previously won the 'Fan of the Year' or 'Unsung Hero' award at the annual Football League Awards.
HRH The Duke of Cambridge, in his official capacity as President of The Football Association, hosted the event and presented The Football League winners with medals to commemorate their achievements. In its 125th year, Football League Chairman Greg Clarke and Chief Executive Shaun Harvey were among the specially invited guests to see the presentation.
The event was created to champion the huge role that volunteers play in football on a weekly basis. The nationwide network of grassroots heroes totals more than 400,000 individuals - this includes everyone from the mums and dads, coaches, referees and administrators that give up their time to provide.
A focal point of the day saw the Buckingham Palace garden host its first ever football match, featuring two of the oldest amateur clubs in England - Civil Service FC, the sole surviving club from the eleven that met to create The FA in 1863, and Polytechnic FC.
HRH The Duke of Cambridge, President of The Football Association, said: "In our 150th year, it is hugely important for The FA to honour the efforts of the many thousands of volunteers who week in, week out, help to provide the opportunity for millions more people to enjoy football at grassroots level. Inviting 150 of these volunteers to Buckingham Palace provides a fitting way for The FA to pay tribute and give thanks."
Greg Dyke, Chairman of The Football Association, said: "These volunteers are the heartbeat of football. Without them, the game simply wouldn't function at a grassroots level and it is only right that The FA honours their tireless and selfless work.
"We are delighted that, in his role as President of The FA, HRH The Duke of Cambridge has given his support to this initiative - even going as far as arranging for the first-ever game of football to be played at Buckingham Palace in honour of our grassroots heroes."
Football League recipients
These individuals were selected as they were previous recipients of The Football League's 'Unsung Hero' award, presented to employees of clubs in recognition of their outstanding contribution to their club behind the scenes:
Jim Thompson - Burnley
Now a turnstile operator, Jim was recognised for his longevity of service. Part of the fabric of the club, he started working at Turf Moor in 1946. Of all the roles he has done his favourite has without doubt been working on the turnstiles.
Paul Bradley - Preston North End
As Stadium Facilities Manager, Paul was recognised for his dedicated approach to doing any task at the club even when facing serious health problems. A qualified engineer, he turned up at reception 11 years ago, offering his services to do anything - and since then has done just that, from scrubbing floors to wiring floodlights.
Billy Neil - Millwall
Billy joined Millwall in 1964 as a player, and is still on the full-time staff 49 years later as Commercial Sales Representative. A left-winger by trade, Billy scored 30 goals in 213 appearances before his career was cut short by a knee injury in 1971, when he joined the commercial department. He remains as enthusiastic and passionate about his club as ever.
The following individuals were selected as they are all supporters that have previously received The Football League's 'Fan of the Year' award. The award is presented to someone who has gone above and beyond in their support of their club.
Jeff Hall - Chesterfield
Jeff was recognised for his voluntary work at the club. He gives his time to raise money, keeps the ground tidy, and he even sponsors items at the club.
Stan McGowan - Bury
Stan was recognised for his work supporting the club's disabled fans. He raised £10,000 to buy a second-hand bus in 1999 that was then specially adapted. Stan then drove the disabled supporters' bus to all the club's games. Without Stan, many disabled Bury supporters simply wouldn't get to games.
Paul Samrah - Brighton and Hove Albion
Paul was recognised for his campaigning work in galvanising support for the club that helped them successfully secure a new home at Falmer. In doing so, he displayed personal sacrifice and dedication through a difficult era for his club to for the benefit of generations of Seagulls supporters to come.
Warner Duff - Ipswich Town
Warner is a lifelong Ipswich Town supporter who dedicated himself to improving the matchday experience for the club's disabled supporters. He was also been the driving force behind the RNIB's Soccer Sight project, providing specialist matchday commentary for supporters with visual impairment.
Kevin Monks - Coventry City
Kevin was recognised for the number and range of matches he attends - not just first-team games, but reserve, academy, ladies and friendly games, too. He served on fan committees and helped raise thousands for charity and good causes.
Sue Pollard - Plymouth Argyle
Sue was recognised for her fundraising when the club faced financial difficulties. Sue became the driving force behind an army of volunteers to raise a phenomenal amount of money to help save the club and pay staff.
Neil Le Milliere - Exeter City
A London-based co-opted member of the Exeter City Supporters Trust, Neil organises travel and accommodation to games for exiled fans. He improves the experience of his fellow fans and dedicates his time and energy for the good of his club