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AS CHAIRMAN, Keith Harding helped turn Newtown Football club into one of the League of Wales' most successful teams, steering it into European competition on two occasions.
Mr Harding was a well-respected teacher at the local high school for many years before moving to the Development Board for Rural Wales to build links between local industry and schools.
Keith was one of Newtown Cricket Club's most active administrators before turning his attention to football.
He was chairman of Newtown Football Club for seven years, during which time the club became one of the Welsh Premier League's most successful clubs, and made UEFA Cup appearances in 1996 and 1998.
Close friend and former Newtown boss Brian Coyne, who managed the Robins on their European adventures to Poland and Latvia, paid tribute to Mr Harding.
Keith helped put Newtown Football Club on the map and, as chairman, built the club up and was the architect behind getting the club into Europe.
A Newtown Football Club spokesman said Mr Harding served the club at all levels for many years and as chairman steered the club through some of its most rewarding years.
He commented: "Keith was also a guiding light in the development of the League Academy structures and his efforts will bear fruit for years to come."
Mr Harding was president of the Spar Mid Wales League, a member of the Central Wales Football Council and vice president and founder member of the Mid Wales Youth League.
"Keith passionately believed that soccer could be a force for good - particularly in people's lives," said the spokesman.
Welsh Premier League Secretary John Deakin spoke very highly of Keith.
“I first met Keith Harding at the Ian Rush Tournament in Aberystwyth in July 1992, not long after I had been appointed Secretary of the new League of Wales. I was immediately struck by his enthusiasm and vision. I was therefore more than happy when he was elected to the Leagues Board of Directors in 1994, on which he continued to serve with distinction until 2003.
“During that time I can hardly remember him missing a single meeting and his contribution is still unsurpassed. He was appointed Chairman of the AFSAD Group, which was responsible for the future strategy of the League, and particularly the development of young players.
It is very much due to the initial work carried out by Keith, that the Welsh Premier League has a strong network of Academies across the clubs, which make such a positive contribution to the training of young players throughout Wales.
He was also employed by the Newtown based Event Company for a number of years, who were responsible for the organisation of youth tournaments and festivals for young players in many parts of the UK and beyond. He was still working for the Company at the time of his sudden and untimely death, having just returned from a tournament in the United States.
“He was totally devoted to Newtown Football Club, serving as Chairman and in other capacities for many years. It was during his time in the Chair that Newtown reached their highest League of Wales position, finishing runners up to Barry Town in the 1995/1996 season.
“As a result of this his club were drawn against Skonto Riga, which boasted several members of the Latvian national team in its ranks. Keith certainly enjoyed the European experience and as always proved an excellent ambassador for his club and the League on his visit to Riga. It was also much due to his efforts that the Latham Park ground saw so many improvements in the nineties, and I am sure that he would be really happy to see the current regime at Newtown continuing the work, making it one of the Leagues best grounds, which regularly hosts high profile matches.
“It was at the ground, that I was asked to speak on behalf of the League and FAW, at the naming of the Keith Harding Stand. This was a great honour for me, and I was happy to be part of an occasion that paid tribute to a man that had done so much for Newtown Football Club, The Welsh Premier League and football throughout the Principality. He is and will continue to be sadly missed.”
I had the pleasure of meeting Keith, and his wife May, at numerous Welsh Premier League AGMs over the years and, despite being busy with Board matters, he always spared time to discuss various questions I wished to raise regarding the AFSAD project, the League in general and Newtown AFC. I’m sure that had the Welsh Football Data Archive been set up during his lifetime he would have been very supportive and even a keen contributor.
Instead he provides the WFDA with the biggest collection of graphic material yet and hopefully an incentive for other clubs to research and make available their football heritage in the same way.
WFDA founder member
Additional sources: Powys County Times