Eastbourne Borough are heartbroken to announce the passing of former Chairman and Founder Len Smith.

It was back in the mid 1960s, in a whole new east flank of Eastbourne called Langney, where a bunch of lads wanted their football to be more than just a kick about.  So they got organised – and boy, did they organise.

Half a century later, Eastbourne Borough – formerly Langney Sports – had become one of the most successful, stable and respected non-league football clubs in the whole country.  And one man had seen it all, from the park pitches to Priory Lane – Len Smith.

Len stepped down as club chairman in 2015, the club’s fiftieth anniversary year. He continued as President and played a major role in the Acorns Trust, both guiding and fund-raising. Not a man for titles or ceremony – just Len Smith.

He fulfilled so many roles in life: football pioneer, local councillor, a successful career in printing. But family came first…

Now, the man whose leadership was the single most crucial factor in Borough’s success, has sadly passed away on… after a lengthy illness. We at Eastbourne Borough Football Club send all our deepest sympathy and heartfelt love to Karen and to all his family. He fulfilled so many roles in life: football pioneer, local councillor, a successful career in printing. But family came first, and we were honoured and privileged to be a part of his extended football family.

Len’s qualities were a job description in themselves – wise, thorough, painstaking in his judgements, and dedicated, loyal and generous in his love not just of the club but of the club family.

Len Smith took the flak if something didn’t work and – very modestly – the plaudits when it did work.  He took the ribbing when we chuckled about his tight housekeeping, and chuckled back when we had to admit that such prudence was precisely what had kept the club afloat in choppy financial weather.

And now Len has finally handed on the torch.  After a health setback – a stroke in fact – some years ago, he recovered admirably and moved the club massively forward in that time, and he handed over a club for others to take onwards. He enjoyed Borough’s 50th anniversary, and the years since then, in style as club president, and let someone else answer the phone, balance the books and wire up the electrics in the back of the stand.

New owner Simon Leslie had the honour of meeting Len over the summer, and re-assured him that the club would be in safe, dependable hands for the future to come as the club look to build on the well-built foundations Len has put down over the years.

Does history make men, or do men make history?  Len would say he just happened to be there at the time, and there were a few jobs that somebody had to do.  Others will say that Len Smith, and his young mates of way back then, some of them still with the club, made their own bit of local history.

“If you seek his monument, look around you.”  They said it of Sir Christopher Wren, but take a little walk down to that model of a community football club that is Priory Lane, and it might just as well apply to Sir Len Smith.

This club will never forget and will always respect those who paved the way for what we now have, without Len none of us would have this wonderful club to love like he did.

Thanks, Len.