Obituary: Bill Dickie, football official and architect of Motherwell’s stands – and their return to Europe

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Born: 30 May, 1929, in Carluke. Died: 9 January, 2012, in Motherwell, aged 82

THE sudden death of William Holmes Dickie, invariably known as Bill, has shocked Scottish football because even though he was 82, the man known to many as Mr Motherwell was still playing an active part at the football club until hours before his death.

Renowned throughout Lanarkshire business circles and Scottish football as a gentleman and a genuine footballing enthusiast, Dickie was a lifelong Motherwell FC fan who became a director and chairman of the club he supported. In all he was a Motherwell director for more than 30 years, and his long and committed service with the Scottish Football Association (SFA) included as spell as president.

He was born in Carluke as one of a family of five. His father, also William, was a transport engineer. Educated locally, Dickie did national service with the Royal Engineers then studied architecture at Glasgow School of Art.

In 1965, he achieved his ambition of owning his own architectural practice which latterly was housed in Hamilton Road not far from Fir Park. His life revolved around the business, the club, football in general and the family home in Motherwell.

He had no real interest in playing football in early life, but through taking his son Douglas to matches he developed a keen interest in Motherwell, so much so that he bought shares in the club and was invited to join the board, later becoming chairman.

He was blessed with a natural affinity with the club’s fans, and his happiest hour as a director was Motherwell’s famous Scottish Cup Final victory over Dundee United in 1991.

Having served on the SFA council and on a number of committees, Dickie reached the highest elected office in the game in Scotland, the presidency of the SFA, holding that position from season 1993-94 to 1996-97. That was a period in which Scotland still managed to qualify for major championships, and Dickie affably led the Scottish official party to the European Championships in England in 1996.

Dickie had championed Craig Brown as Scotland manager, and the two men worked well together in Scotland’s cause, the national side also reaching the World Cup finals in France in 1998 – the last time Scotland qualified for major finals.

It was not all plain sailing at the SFA at that time. Dickie presided over the early days of the bitter dispute between chief executive Jim Farry and the then Celtic FC owner Fergus McCann, which ultimately cost Farry his job.

By now he had proven his abilities with the SFA, and football’s European governing body Uefa called on his talents, in common with a number of Scottish administrators such as Farry, David Will, and Ernie Walker, who have all died in the past 28 months.

Dickie served on Uefa’s committee for non-amateur football from 1992 to 1998, and was vice-chairman of that committee for the last two years of his service. He also served on Uefa’s regulatory body for transfers for ten years from 1990 to 2000.

The most trying times of Dickie’s career in football came while he was in his seventies as his beloved Motherwell lurched into administration. Owner John Boyle had put millions into the club but eventually the losses proved insurmountable and from 2002, Motherwell was restructured through a long administration period.

In 2003 Dickie became chairman for the third time, and, as he had done throughout his career in football, he proved a steady hand on the tiller as the club survived and began to thrive again, emerging from administration and eventually qualifying for European football in his final season in the chair. He was also instrumental in securing the services of former Scotland ally Craig Brown as manager in 2009.

Dickie had earlier made his mark on Motherwell FC in a very substantial, physical way as he designed the two-tier South Stand at Fir Park which houses visiting fans and which was opened in April, 1993. Shortly afterwards the Dickie-designed North Stand opened at Fir Park, and was soon named for Davie Cooper, the former Motherwell, Rangers and Scotland player who died of a brain haemorrhage in March, 1995.

Two other deaths of important figures in Scottish football deeply affected Dickie personally. On 10 September, 1985, he was one of a small group of SFA officials in the treatment room at Ninian Park in Cardiff after Jock Stein suffered what proved to be a fatal heart attack. It was Dickie, who was then the SFA treasurer, who held the dying Scotland manager’s arms as he was given emergency treatment by SFA doctor Stewart Hillis, to no avail.

Later, while chairman of Motherwell, Dickie had to announce the death of club captain Phil O’Donnell after he suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch during the club’s match against Dundee United on 29 December, 2007.

As with everyone at the club, he was greatly anguished by the death of O’Donnell, and one of his last acts as club chairman was to preside over the renaming of the main stand after O’Donnell.

Dickie retained his active interest in Motherwell to the end. Indeed, he was at Fir Park, in seeming good health and usual good humour, on Saturday for the Scottish Cup win over Queen’s Park.

His funeral will be on 19 January at noon at St John’s Parish Church in Hamilton. Motherwell FC will pay public tribute to Dickie before the club’s SPL match on Saturday at Fir Park against Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

Bill Dickie was married for many years to Isabel. She survives him, as do his son Douglas, his daughter Pamela and their families. MARTIN HANNAN