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Page last updated at 14:26 GMT, Monday, 5 July 2010 15:26 UK

West country football stalwart Colin Gardner dies at 69

Colin Gardner
Colin Gardner was a former Football League referee

West country football has lost one of its most enthusiastic supporters with the death of Colin Gardner MBE at the age of 69, after a long illness.

Gardner, who had been suffering from an untreatable brain tumour for two years, was a former chairman of Gloucester City and Forest Green Rovers.

Born in Taunton, he first made his name as a Football League referee.

He then turned his attentions to club management, becoming chairman of Minehead in 2000.

Gardner, a renowned charity fundraiser in the West country, was instrumental in successfully guiding the Somerset club through a financial crisis.

In 2001, he then moved on to perform a similar task at Gloucester City for two years before becoming chairman at Forest Green.

While at Gloucester, Gardner endeared himself to local rivals Bath City following a particularly generous gesture.

Bath supporters were trying to raise £235,000 to buy back control of the club but were £3,000 short with a deadline fast approaching.

On hearing of their plight in a BBC Points West news report in 2003, Gardner stepped in, writing a personal cheque to cover the amount required. "Football is part of my blood," he said at the time.

"I refereed Bath City many times years ago so I felt a little bit of a leaning towards helping them."

Gardner, who leaves a widow, Clare, and three grown-up children, was awarded an MBE in 2006, having raised more than £1m for charity.

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