The coronavirus has taken the life of Mike Appleby, one of the key figures behind the Football Association’s successful restructuring of the Non-League pyramid.
The former FA Leagues manager passed away in hospital on Tuesday at the age of 65 after contracting COVID-19 in March. Despite still being in intensive care, there had been hope only hours before his passing that he could still recover after he’d come out of a coma in recent days.
The Milton Keynes-based football administrator retired from the FA in November 2015 before joining the Spartan South Midlands League as a director in 2016 and taking up what proved to be his final role as the competition’s general manager.
Tributes to the football man from clubs, fans and officials started to appear online within minutes of the SSML reporting news of Mr Appleby’s passing and only hours after a positive update on his condition.
It’s with great sadness and heavy heart after glimmers of hope Michael Appleby passed away this afternoon, after contracting the virus nearly a month ago. The family thanks all wished him recovery and your prayers.
Now fly high Mike and shine a light, you will be missed RIP pic.twitter.com/IeRvOqQBDZ
— Spartan South Midlands (@SpartanSMFL) April 21, 2020
The SSML said: “It’s with great sadness and heavy heart after glimmers of hope Michael Appleby passed away this afternoon, after contracting the virus nearly a month ago. The family thanks all wished him recovery and your prayers. Now fly high Mike and shine a light, you will be missed RIP.”
As well as being widely credited with much of legwork behind the successful restructuring of the National League System in 2004/05 and the creation of the National league North and South divisions, the FA man went on to oversee the second phase of restructuring at Step 5 and below.
Before leaving the governing body five years ago, he’d also been hailed for keeping the England C side going and fully funded in recent years when the future of one of the FA’s most successful sides was under threat.
Such sad news. I worked at the FA with Mike for 18 years and he was a real top bloke and one of the few who always grafted hard to fly the flag for non-league football. My thoughts are with his family. RIP Mike ?
— Jamie Bradbury (@jamiebradbury) April 21, 2020
Such a pleasure to know him. RIP Mike.
— Alan Allcock ? (@alaninknutsford) April 21, 2020
Absolutely devastating news, condolences to his family and friends from us all. RIP x
— K i n g s L a n g l e y F C (@KLFCofficial) April 21, 2020
On behalf of the UHLSPORT Hellenic League we are very saddened to learn of the passing of Mike Appleby who was a great friend of many people in the NLS especially at the lower steps.
You will be sadly missed – RIP Mike
— Brian King (@HellenicLeagueO) April 21, 2020
Deeply saddened to hear that Mike Appleby has passed away.
Mike was the General Secretary of the Spartan South Midlands League.
He was someone who dedicated so much time to football, he’ll be much missed.
All my thoughts with his family and friends. pic.twitter.com/o7fHl74Fo2
— Ollie Bayliss (@Ollie_Bayliss) April 21, 2020
On behalf of the @leicestersenior can I pass on our condolences to our colleagues at @SpartanSMFL and @FA on the passing of Mike, whose passion and commitment to the Non league family was unsurpassed and he will be missed terribly by many.
— Chris Banks (@Banksy99) April 21, 2020
— ??ThoseWhiteLines?? (@90MinutesMore) April 21, 2020
Condolences to Mike’s loved ones. Mike was a lovely man and incredibly encouraging towards us with our application to join the league last year, always happy to offer advice and his time to help. Very sad news.
— Buckingham United FC (@BuckUnitedFC) April 21, 2020
Make sure you get your copy of The Non-League Paper from this weekend for the latest news on the impact of the coronavirus crisis on football as the National League’s clubs prepare for an historic first poll on how to conclude their ‘indefinitely’ suspended campaigns.
In shops on Sundays and Mondays, The NLP is always available as a pound-busting digital edition and full replica of the printed paper from midnight on Saturdays. Save cash on single issues, even more on longer deals and the pages still rustle!
Images courtesy of The Non-League Paper & Twitter