50 year award

Wragg Football League stalwart presented with FA award

League committee member Sylvia Topham recognised for 50 years of service to football

A dedicated committee member of the Wragg Football League, Sylvia Topham, has been recognised by the Football Association for clocking up more than half a century of service supporting grassroots football in the Sheffield and Hallamshire region.

Sylvia has been right beside her husband Stuart helping him run local grassroots teams since the 1970s. For the last four decades, she’s been involved in the Wragg Football League, a veterans’ league for over 35s and over 45s, alongside raising her own family of three boys.

“Stuart worked long hours away from home as well as being a committee member so he didn’t have much spare time,” Sylvia said.

“As everything was done with pen and paper back then, there was lots of admin work that needed processing so I helped where I could. It must’ve been clear I was doing a lot of the work because the league’s president said to Stuart, ‘If your wife is doing all this while you’re away, why doesn’t she just join the committee?”

Sylvia has taken on a variety of tasks over the years, from washing kits and organising fundraising events to selecting trophies and doing buffets at cup finals. On the league committee, she’s been the treasurer, referee secretary, general secretary and is currently the league’s registrar in charge of all registrations.

Not bad for someone who openly admits they didn’t have much interest in football when they first started volunteering.

“I fell into it, but I found I was capable of doing it. It was the admin work that appealed to me and always has been. I’m a typical organised person and like to have things to do.

“Volunteering in football has also given me digital skills that I wouldn’t have got if I wasn’t involved given me. It’s helped me get my head around technology with support from the FA. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve done and I wouldn’t swap it for the world.”

Sylvia was presented with her service award at a recent Wragg League Committee Meeting

Sylvia, from Ecclesfield in Sheffield, knows what it’s like to be the only woman in the room. But she says that sitting on a committee surrounded by men meant she was often listened to more.

“I quickly gained a lot of respect because I was always the lady who knew how fines worked or could answer their questions. It also helped that I could shout loud enough when I needed to.”

Now in her 70s, Sylvia has no plans to step down anytime soon but has put a call out to younger volunteers to get involved in volunteering at leagues.

“It doesn’t matter how big or small the job is, it’s knowing you are doing your bit to get a game of football on at the weekend for everyone to enjoy. It’s not always easy but knowing that without you there would be no league is what keeps me going.

“I’ve played a small part in this league’s history, which has been running for over 100 years, and we need more volunteers to make sure it’s still here in the next 100 years!”

On receiving the award, Sylvia was humble and stated that she doesn’t volunteer to receive recognition.

She said: “I felt a bit overwhelmed to receive this award. While it’s nice to be recognised, I don’t do it for the plaudits. I do it because I want this league to keep developing and provide an opportunity for older players to keep playing football.”

The FA Chief Executive, Mark Bullingham recognised Sylvia’s indebted long service to football as being ‘valued more than she will ever know’. Along with a letter thanking her for her exceptional commitment and dedication, she was also presented with a commemorative medal and pin badge.

Are you interested in volunteering behind the scenes at a league or club? Contact us to find out more by emailing support@Sheffieldfa.com

Know somebody like Sylvia who deserves recognition for over 50 years of service to football? Then make sure you nominate them for a FA long-service award by clicking here.