In an era in which it often feels as if too many people within football get too much praise, it sometimes feels as if there are too few people left that could be described as an “unsung hero”. If there is someone that has given selflessly of his time to produce something that is invaluable to football supporters, however, it is Tony Kempster, whose website of non-league statistics is something akin to a bible for those of us that still worship at the altar of the semi-professional game. For years, and for no personal gain, he has toiled to produce the definitive statistical guide to the non-league game. Now, however, he has finally won something that recognises his dedication to the game with the Annual Football Supporters Federation’s Award For Services To Football. He was presented with his award during this evening’s BSP match between his home town team, York City, and Wrexham. The award was accompanied with the following statement:
Tony Kempster, who for more than a decade has ran an acclaimed football website from his home in York, has won the annual Services to Supporters award from the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF). The award is given each year to people who have performed an outstanding service to the benefit of football supporters. Malcolm Clarke, Chair of the FSF, and Jon Keen, Vice-Chair, will today (Thursday 14 August 2008) present the award to Tony on the pitch at Kit Kat Crescent, where York City play visiting Wrexham FC. Tony Kempster’s website, which can be viewed at www.tonykempster.co.uk, provides unmatched information on results, gates, tables, fixtures and even distances to grounds, from the Premier League right down to step seven of the football pyramid.
Malcolm Clarke, Chair of the FSF, said: “Tony’s website, produced on an entirely voluntary basis, has become an invaluable source of information for thousands of football fans each week. It carries a huge amount of information which no other site can match. The amount of work Tony puts into it is quite extraordinary and he is, at least until now, an unsung hero. This award recognises Tony’s extraordinary contribution to football fans everywhere, and is our way of saying thanks. The only thing missing from his site are the fixtures of the Premier League and the Football League, because those organisations exercise their copyright to prevent Tony publishing them without paying an exorbitant fee. They should be ashamed of themselves.”
What is being referred to in the final paragraph of the FSF press release is the fact that just about the only information that you can’t get from Kempster’s website is the fixture list for the Premier League and the Football League, after they insisted on a payment of £9,000 from him in order to use them. Never mind that Kempster’s site is a non-profit website. Never mind that him putting the fixture list up would effectively be free advertising for the competitions concerned. Never mind, indeed, that it is impossible to think of a way in which this would have a negative effect on either the Premier League or the Football League. There is, on a moral basis, no other way to describe their behaviour over this as shoddy and, as the FSF rightly say, “shameful”.
It’s difficult to understate the importance of Kempster’s site. Non-league football is, of course, always in desperate need of supporters, but it must often seem like an impeneterable mess to the uninitiated. Kempster offers a clear and concise explanation of how it all fits together, along with a mass of information for the more seasoned reader. If his site didn’t do there, this information simply wouldn’t be collated in one place, and the internet would be a slightly worse place for it. Last month, he was diagnosed with bowel and secondary liver cancer, and started his chemotherapy at the start of last week. I’m sure that you will join me in wishing him our best wishes for a speedy recovery.