It is with sincere regret that Ebbsfleet United announces the death of our former chairman, Lionel Ball, who passed away last Wednesday.
It is no exaggeration to say that Stonebridge Road and the football club would probably not be as we know it today, if existing at all, were it not for the tireless work of Lionel during the Eighties and early Nineties when he steered the revival of a club that was on its knees.
The longest-serving chairman of the Fleet, Lionel first came on board in 1982 with the club in debt to the tune of £80,000+. A local businessman who had been recently appointed to the board, Lionel steadied the ship in a lean time for the club before departing in 1984. The following four years saw the club lurch from one financial crisis to another, with both manager Eddie Presland and chairman Dave Hockley leaving their positions in 1987.
Lionel once again stepped up to the plate in May 1988 with the club threatened by extinction, arranging a ground deal with Blue Circle and calling a public meeting to ask for new directors to come forward. Nine new volunteers stepped up to serve on the board and Lionel and the new intake helped clear the debts over the next three years. In their first season they were rewarded with promotion back to the Southern Premier Division and the club’s then longest run in the FA Trophy, while the Southern Division championship was won in 1994.
By 1995, Lionel had celebrated the club’s sixth successive year-end profit and in January of 1996 led the club to a money-spinning FA Cup tie at Villa Park. And in amongst all his boardroom duties, Lionel also had time to serve as caretaker manager on several occasions, with Fleet fans still claiming him to be the club’s most successful boss with a 100% record in those fixtures!
Lionel stepped aside in 1997 when Peter Dean took over the club but always retained a keen interest in the Fleet and was a regular presence at Stonebridge Road into the 21st century.
Ebbsfleet United wishes to extend its sympathies to his family, including Lionel Ball Jr who also served on the board of directors, and with all Fleet supporters we are grateful for his immense contribution to the good of this football club.
Vice chairman Peter Varney told FleetOnline, “I had the pleasure of meeting Lionel on a number of occasions. He sat behind me at home matches and was always very supportive of the club. He played his part in sustaining the club in previous years and without people like him, it is not an exaggeration to say the club may not still be here today. All of us at the club send his family and friends our sincere condolences.”