Noel Winter

Noel Winter

 Noel Winter 12th December 1936 – 29th January 2012
National Treasurer Institute of Baths Management
National Treasurer Institute of Baths & Recreation Management
National Treasurer Institute of Sport & Recreation Management

Noel was a member of the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport & Physical Activity (CIMPSA) and its founder institute the Institute of Sport & Recreation Management (ISRM) for 50 years, and was also a member of the Institute of Leisure & Amenities Management (ILAM). He was an ISRM National Council member for 20 years, and served as National Treasurer for 19 of those years, as well as working on numerous committees and authoring or contributing to many ISRM and industry publications. Noel was a two-time winner of ISRM’s FR Botham Award, as well as the ISRM President’s Medal, and in 2010 he was delighted to receive the Harold Fern Award from the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA).

A keen swimmer, Noel represented his country in Water Polo in the late 1960s, and went on to become both GB Water Polo Coach and Manager.

Noel had a long and successful career in local government, with his final post being Director of Recreation with Nottingham City Council. After taking early retirement in 1992, Noel accepted the post of ISRM Managing Consultant which he held until 1998, when he moved to the ASA as a facilities consultant, having already served 18 years as a member of the ASA Facilities Committee.

From 2003, Noel was involved in the successful London 2012 Olympics Bid and the subsequent technical design work of the London Aquatic Centre, as well plans for its legacy usage.

Tribute to Noel Winter from David Sparkes – Chief Executive – British Swimming
We are all here today to reflect on a very special man and a friend to many of us, who has cast a long shadow on all our lives and on sport and in particular swimming. As I prepared this eulogy I read through the many tributes on the Swimming Website and the word that kept re-occurring was a gentleman and it is true he was a gentleman, however he was also a quiet and determined person who through hard work and perseverance made a massive contribution to our lives and the lives of so many.

Today I am going to focus in my reflection on Noel’s passion for swimming and water polo. I hope at the end you will appreciate the huge impact Noel made not just on the sport he loved but on all our lives.

Noel began life in swimming as a young backstroke swimmer in Wednesbury in the Black Country where he was also to train as a draughtsman in an engineering company building simultaneously his engineering skills with his passion for swimming which would follow him though his life.

Noel was no slouch at Backstroke in fact he was a Midland District Junior Champion in 1952, however his success was challenged by two other swimmers a young upstart from Coventry Graham Sykes who many of you may know and another local Black Country swimmer Treen who was a tad quicker than him.

However Noel started to play Water Polo and quickly gained recognition as an upcoming star selected to play for the Midland District in match in 1958 against the RAF a game they lost! In the early days he played for his local team Wednesbury but soon moved on to Walsall to play in the National League.

It was during his time at Walsall that they made their first National Title in 1967 when they beat Birkenhead 9-7 and after this Noel was selected to play for his country where he went on to captain the team and also went on to play in the Olympic Qualification tournament. I am confident Noel will be watching us all in London when our team returns to the Olympics after 56 years and will be encouraging the ladies and men to play harder and win.
Noel of course then after his playing career went on to both coach and manage a number of British Water Polo teams passing on his passion and experience to so many young players.

However whilst all this Water Polo was happening Noel was also carving out a career for himself in the leisure industry holding down various jobs around the country starting of course in the Black Country and then going on to Manchester and finally Nottingham where he ended up as the Director of Leisure. During this time Noel also volunteered to help the ASA as a member of the Water Polo Committee and later in the ASA Facility Committee to encourage more and better pools to be built and his experience as a professional and a passionate swimmer was invaluable to the ASA.

Noel joined the ASA in 1999 as our Facility Officer and worked for us up to his retirement in 2010. This was in many ways Noel’s dream job as he could now focus all his passion and experience into encouraging Local Authorities Universities and Architects into building swimming pools that would work for the customers and for the people who had to operate them. Literally around the breadth and width of GBR we can see many examples of Noel’s legacy, pool after pool built with his guidance stimulating people to swim and the faces of the children learning to swim for the first time tells you Noel got it right.

Perhaps Noel’s greatest legacy is the London Aquatic Centre which we will shortly all marvel at as we either see it on TV or if we are lucky enough to be there will marvel at it is frankly a stunning building and one Noel was really proud off.

However what of Noel the man, he was a great colleague and friend to everyone. He always had time to listen to your problems and was known as the quiet wise old owl, he never really appreciated the old word. Many would be seen seeking his council and would listen and act on his sound advice and Noel as all true friends would tell it to you as it was with honesty and conviction.

So as Noel builds swimming pools for us all in heaven let us hope they don’t cost as much as the Aquatics centre. Let us all reflect on Noel a great man, a one off, a friend and confidant a man with passion and conviction and a quiet determination. Noel has left a massive legacy from his time with us, the many swimming pools, so many people who were encouraged to play water polo, but perhaps more importantly he lives on inside us with all that advice we have all had from him in quiet moments. We shall all miss our quiet wise friend.

Tribute to Noel Winter – Friend & Colleague from Ralph Riley – former Chief Executive – The Institute of Sport and Recreation Management

The tributes that Jackie has received about Noel are simply phenomenal and show in no small way just how loved, respected and admired he was. It is going to take a long time for each of us to come to terms with Noel no longer being with us. When we discussed this service we knew that it must be a time when we had to say goodbye to Noel in our own individual ways. Yet we also wanted this to be a time when we could celebrate Noel’s life. So while we should be sad when we remember Noel we should also take comfort from the influence that he had on our lives and on the lives of many other people that he touched through his work, wisdom, dedication and belief.

Noel was born and raised in Wednesbury a typical Black Country Town with back-to-back housing, poverty and pollution. There were little sporting or recreational opportunities except for the local baths and library; these though had a major influence on Noel. He set out in life to be an engineering draftsman and studied hard and successfully. Through swimming at Wednesbury he became a champion backstroke swimmer later moving on to water polo. Swimming and pools were becoming a more significant factor in his life than engineering. Following a spell of National Service where he worked at one of the forces pools for a time Noel changed career. He never lost his engineering background though, or come to that his Black Country accent. At the tender age of 24 he became the manager of the Wednesbury baths. He knew though that great prowess at swimming and a higher certificate in engineering were not sufficient as a professional qualification. So he set out to become professionally qualified. He studied, on his own, at home, for the Student and Membership Examinations of the then National Association of Baths Superintendents both of which he passed with `flying colours’ winning awards along the way. Noel never forgot his youth in Wednesbury, it influenced him greatly in later life. He was acutely aware of the difference that sport and recreation could make to people’s lives and this principle and belief underpinned his own life.

He moved on from Wednesbury, to first Coseley Pool, then Barrow in Furness and then Manchester to work alongside one of the pillars in the sport and recreation industry at that time, Harry Hitchin. Manchester was a massive department with a great many swimming pool, laundry and sporting facilities. It was also a time of great change and working alongside Harry, Noel was responsible for a development programme that removed old, defunct swimming baths to replace with them with “all singing and dancing” sport and recreation centres. The department focus also shifted from Baths to Recreation and Noel combined his love of water polo and role as Senior Recreation Director in conceiving and developing the specialist Varley Street pool, which is still the main training centre for the Great Britain Water Polo.

It was while Noel was at Manchester that I first got to know him. I was pretty active in the Northern Branch of the Institute of Baths and Recreation Management. Noel was in the same Branch and we shared opinions and crossed swords from time to time. Later I was appointed to the National Council of the Institute on which Noel was a well-established well-respected member. He was also National Treasurer; this was a voluntary position that he held for over 19 years. When I was appointed as Chief Executive of the Institute in 1990 it was Noel who as Treasurer dealt with my employment and for the next nine years we worked closely together. Our relationship was not always easy. Noel looked after the Institutes finances as though it was “his own money” and held me very closely to account. And a good thing too, it made the institute strong and successful.

Noel went from Manchester to Sandwell where he was innovatory in introducing sports development schemes for the unemployed to experience the benefits of sport, remembering no doubt his roots at Wednesbury. Then he moved on to Nottingham where just in case you were thinking Noels sole expertise was in swimming, he did ground breaking work in football with Nottingham Forest. He introduced a sports participation programme for people with disabilities which at that time was truly innovatory and “shone out” as a model of good practice. Then, working with the LTA, Noel developed tennis on an unprecedented scale outside London with the establishment of the University Park Nottingham Tennis Centre and successfully bought the prestigious Federation Cup to the City.

In 1992, Noel was appointed as Consultant to the Institute. As a charity the Institutes consultancy was not simply a commercial concern. It was a way of providing help and expertise to sport and recreation operators throughout the UK. Noel often took on work that no one else either had the expertise or the enthusiasm for. It was hugely successful – albeit we didn’t make a great deal of money, the money was secondary. The service was greatly appreciated and everything that we learned through Noel was fed back to our members to help them improve also.

After six years as ISRM consultant Noel left to take up the position of Facilities Officer with the ASA. This was almost an extension of the work he was doing at ISRM except that now much of his efforts were focussed on ensuring that swimming facilities were provided – where they were needed – in the form that they were needed. The culmination of this work was of course Noel’s involvement with the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the development of the London Aquatic Centre. He represented the ASA in deliberations on detailed aspects of the design of the Aquatic Centre in both its Games mode – to ensure the Games are a success and its Legacy Mode – to ensure that it will meet the needs of the whole swimming community once the Games are over.

I have given you only a brief insight into Noel, my friend and colleague for over thirty years. It would be impossible to depict all of his achievements here today. At some stage we must write them down to act as a beacon for future generations. Especially worthy of note for me is Noels serving on the examinations board of the institute. The exam board maintained the standard of the institute’s professional qualifications. As part of the process every year he and a few other dedicated board members, at home in their own time, marked hundreds of examination scripts. Over a period of years he must have marked thousands of scripts and in so doing influenced the careers of very many of the sport management professionals working today.

Neither have I mentioned the numerous awards that have been made to Noel – from the institute – or the ASA – or his own illustrious sporting career as GB water polo player, team manager and coach. His achievements are simply legend.

At the end of each of our lives the question is often asked “did they make a difference?” “What was their impact?” In Noels case it may seem from the picture I have painted that there was no real human outcome apart from better-provided and better-managed swimming pools and sport facilities up and down the country. Yet this would be far from the truth. Noels purpose in life was to bring sport and recreation into peoples lives and he did this through being successful in the services he managed and operated. Hundreds of thousands of people will never know that Noel touched their lives providing them with the opportunity to experience sport and the benefits that this can bring. This is the mark of the man. He helped make sport more accessible, he helped make sport safer, for many people he gave sport more meaning, he helped people to develop through sport. Remember this as later this year you watch the spectacle of the Olympic Games and the athletes powering up and down the Aquatic Centre pool. Remember the influence that Noel has had on both the swimmers competing and the Olympic experience they and we enjoy.

As we say goodbye to Noel our much-loved friend and respected colleague it seems entirely appropriate to recall the words of “The Olympic Creed”.

The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.

There is no one who has fought harder in pursuit of his belief for swimming and for sport than Noel Winter.

Tributes received from members of the Institute of Sport & Recreation Management

“Today we have lost one of our true great leaders and innovators, our thoughts are now with Jackie and Noels family.”
Ralph Riley

“Very sad news and the passing of a truly inspirational but very quiet man. Noel had the Institute’s blood flowing through his veins and did so much in a very quiet way for all the members over countless years. A very sad day indeed. Julie and my thoughts go to Jackie and Noel’s family at this very sad time.”
Colin Crayford

“Condolences to Jackie and all Noel’s family, from all friends and colleagues in Wales, Noel will be sorely missed.”
Kevin Harding

“I was really saddened to hear of Noel, firstly his stroke and then his passing away this morning. Noel was someone who was truly respected by all. He was always there for me when I wanted help and advice and what the man didn’t know about swimming pools wasn’t worth knowing. Debbie and I wish Jackie our deepest sympathy, love and support. A sad day indeed. Thanks Ralph for the information; I know many members will appreciate it.”
Paul Edwards

“Noel’s contribution to the Institute, the Industry and to water polo was immeasurable and much more than he ever let us know. He never stopped working – both at work and is his leisure time. He was a quiet and modest person, who encouraged many others to participate. He will be truly missed. Thank you to Ralph and Bernie for the information. Paul and I are saddened at Noel’s passing and our thoughts are with Jackie and the family.”
Lyn Telford

“Sue and I were saddened to hear of Noel’s passing last night. Noel was a kind and caring man and one who helped shape our industry in ways we may never truly understand for his actions always spoke louder than his words. I recall he also had some rather nice Red wine. Rest in peace.”
Neil Farmer

“I was very shocked to hear the news, Noel was such a great person and well respected in the Industry. His quiet mild manner was well known and he will be missed by all of the many people who knew him. My love and thoughts go out to Jackie and condolences to Noel’s family. Rest in peace.”
Noelle Flaherty
“Just heard the very sad news of Noel’s passing. He was a friend who  on occasions helped me and many others during our careers and will  be sadly missed. It was only recently that I had the pleasure of dining with him at a retirement party and he was on top form. My sincere condolences to Jackie and Noel’s family.”
Jim Thomas

“So sorry to hear of this sad news, Noel was a fountain of knowledge, a true gent and a great ISRM stalwart. My thoughts and prayers are with Jackie and condolences to all his family and friends. Rest in Peace Noel.
Pauline Lawrence

“I was also saddened by the news of Noel’s passing, our paths never crossed as much as those of others; however Noel’s reputation, integrity and gentle manners touched everyone within the industry.”
Bernard Searle

“Noel’s life’s journey is over but he will be remembered with great affection by all who knew him in our industry. It’s with deepest sympathies that our thoughts are with Jackie and Noel’s family at this very sad time.”
Bernard & Gina

“I too am deeply saddened by the passing of a true gentleman and a stalwart of our industry. My condolences and thoughts are with Jackie and Noel’s family.”
Phil Collins

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Share your Memories and Stories