The Football League's Chief Operating Officer, Andy Williamson, is to retire at the end of the current season after 45 years of unbroken service to league football.
Williamson, 61, is widely acclaimed across the football world for his firm but even-handed management of club issues and his commitment to fair competition between clubs. During his career he has been personally involved in many of league football's defining moments including the introduction of three points for a win (1981), the League's first title sponsorship (1983) and the introduction of the Play-Offs (1986) - the finals of which moved to Wembley in 1990 at his personal instigation. In 2012, he was awarded the OBE in recognition of his outstanding contribution to football.
Williamson has also provided leadership to the League and its member clubs in challenging circumstances, such as the Bradford fire (1985), the Hillsborough disaster (1989), the formation of the Premier League (1992) and the collapse of ITV Digital (2002). The latter saw Williamson devise a comprehensive overhaul of the League's financial governance programme that included the introduction of Sporting Sanctions (points deductions for clubs going into administration), the publication of club spending on agents' fees, football's first 'Fit and Proper Persons' test, the first limits on club expenditure on players' wages relative to income and sanctions for clubs that fail to meet their tax liabilities.
After confirming his retirement at today's meeting of all Football League clubs at Hillsborough, Andy Williamson said: "It has been a real privilege to spend virtually the whole of my working life in professional football and serve the game that is held dear by so many of us. My commitment to The Football League and its member clubs will continue long after I step down".
In paying tribute to Andy Williamson, Football League Chairman, Greg Clarke, said: "Andy has been the wise sage of English professional football for many seasons and is rightly regarded as one of the finest administrators the sport has ever produced. The diligence Andy has shown week-in, week-out over the years has ensured that millions of supporters have been able to watch matches that have been fair, competitive and meaningful. While his contribution to our clubs and their communities, especially in the development of young footballers, both on and off the pitch, will serve as a lasting legacy to an outstanding career."
Andy Williamson also represents the League on a number of different forums including the Professional Football Negotiation and Consultative Committee, the body that agrees football's employment arrangements for players, and The Football League Trust. He is also a Trustee of League Football Education, the organisation that oversees academic arrangements for apprentice footballers.
Additionally, he has also served the grassroots game for 18 years having qualified as a Class One Referee in his twenties, before going on to officiate in local and semi-professional football up to the Northern Premier League. He is also a qualified coach and spent 10 years coaching and managing three local junior football sides at St. Annes Juniors FC.