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We had been warned that his illness was terminal, but this didn’t make his passing much less of a shock. The death of football statistician Tony Kempster, reported this morning, brings to a close the story of a man that arguably has brought more than anyone else to non-league football over the last ten years or so. Born and raised in Harefield, Middlesex he graduated in Mathematics and Statistics from Bradford University and spent most of his adult life in Yorkshire. Awarded the FSF’s annual award for Services to Supporters last year, Tony had been fighting cancer for a year before succumbing to the disease. He kept his followers on his website informed until the very end, and died yesterday evening at 7.45.
What, though, was so special about his site? After all, there was no jazzy design and to the end it was so unassuming that it didn’t even carry a name other than being “Tony’s Non-League Football Site”. The skill was all in the detail. Kempster seemed to revel in the statistics that bring the game alive, as if he could read as much into a team sheet, an attendance figure and list of the result and the goalscorers as you can into any amount of florid description. Moreover, “Tony’s Non-League Football Site” was impartial without being aloof or distant. In an era in which it seems sometimes as if it is almost impossible to just get the facts without the writer telling you what he thinks of them, Tony’s site did nothing more or less than tell you what had happened and what might happen in the future. To say that it was an invaluable resource to fans of the non-league game is no understatement.
His site explains the byzantine structure of the non-league game in a clear and concise fashion. How many people might have drifted away from this dauntingly tangled web of leagues and cups had his site not been there to guide them through it? We’ll probably never know. What we know for sure, however, is borne out – appropriately enough – by the statistics. It has been said that around 200,000 people checked his site every Saturday, and that almost 300,000 checked it on the last day of the non-league season.
In a typically unassuming way, Tony’s illness was communicated through a series of messages so dispassionate that one momentarily might have wondered he was actually ill in the first place. This, however, was the statisticians way of doing things. He sought no legacy (the site that bears his name was suspended at the end of last season and a replacement to be started for the new season seems unlikely to do so), but the outpouring of tributes that has been forthcoming over the last twenty-four hours and the fact that his congregation are so prepared to pick up his baton and carry on his excellent work demonstrates the depth of affection for a man who gave so much to the game for asked so little in return.
Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.
Nothing short of a legend. And unlike some, he actually is irreplaceable. He’ll be hugely missed.
A man most Wimbledon fans had never heard of prior to 2002, and yet within weeks of AFCW starting it was the place where most fans went to for their non league info fix.
A man that will be sorely missed and, a real football legend.
Tony Kempster RIP
Even though we all knew that Tony was close to dying, it still came as a bit of a shock. Tony will be sorely missed and fondly remembered.
The word “legend” is massively overused these days, but in Tony’s case I believe it sums him up perfectly.
A true great. I hope football finds a way of honouring his legacy. He is truly irreplaceable.
Desperately sad. For me, he did more for football than all the millionaires in the game put together.
Very sad – Tony’s commitment to the Non-League cause was absolute.
I can only echo all these comments – especially the fact that he has done more than all these millionaires etc. I am sure that if anyone had the time to carry on Tonys work we would all support it. Geoff HRFB
Devestated. I’ve been following Tony’s site for years. It was the only way for an Aussie to know what was going on at the grass roots level of the game in England. My deepest sympathies to all those close to him.
Truly saddened to have got the news. As you say it’s been expected but that doesn’t lessen the blow or the loss. Tony helped me make sense of the labyrinth that is non-league football (especially for us, as Jertzee says who were less familiar with it all til recent years). Once you were in it, your curiosity could lose you in his wonderful site for hours.
Thank you Tony. And love and thoughts to your family x
Plain and simply a Legend.
Just so sorry he’s gone his impact on the game and service to all fans is incredible and as above so humbly done. My condolences to his family and friends x
Very sad….R.I.P Tony
Very sad…R.I.P Tony from Wealdstone FC
Didn’t know Tony personally but such was his informative efficiency I felt I did.
My condolences to his family.
Sad to hear. The sport everywhere needs more like him.
Bugger, I as an Aussie have been putting my faith in Tonys site for many years to access information about leagues in the pyramid below the very top eschelon. I will now probably give up my dream of fully understanding the structure of football in the UK because Tony’s site could always be relied on to have the very latest info on struxctural changes. Devestated. I’ve been following Tony’s site for years. It was the only way for an Aussie to know what was going on at the grass roots level of the game in England. My deepest sympathies to all those close to him.
sad to read of tony`s death, he kept me up to date with a lot of my pet clubs and inspired me to visit a number of non league teams ( introducing german mates to english and welsh semi pro teams).As a result of his inspiration, i visited a lot of clubs who i didnt know existed til i read their names on his website.great man. nik slater germany
Another Aussie football fan very sorry to about Terry. I grew up in Wimbledon during the 2nd W war and have been following them through Terry’s site, the maps were very helpful. Please can someone keep it going
Mesmo sem conhece-lo fiquei muito triste. Toda semana acompanhava os resultados da non-league como voces falam ai na England. Muita força para a familia e muita paz nesta hora. Apesar do atraso somente agora consegui mandar este e-mail.
R.I.P. Tony, and thanks for the stream of info. A Great of The Game.
A selfless man,dedicated to giving what he had for no fianancial gain.
He is a man that made an impact on my early years of football pools managment.