It is no exaggeration to say that without David Hando BEM, our club president who has passed away at the age of 84, the name of Newport County would have been consigned to football history.
Without the efforts led by David and others in 1989, the club would not have been reformed as Newport AFC following its predecessor’s liquidation.
David’s influence on everything that has happened since then has been immense and the club will be forever grateful to him.
David was the reformed club’s chairman for nine years from 1989 and remained involved with the club for the rest of his life, following the Exiles home and away in his role as club president and was inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame in 2015.
David helped organise the now-famous meeting of supporters at the Lysaght’s Institute in June 1989 that led to the formation of Newport AFC.
David’s aim was to return to the Football League, and many battles had to be won before that aim was achieved at Wembley Stadium in 2013.
Initially the club was forced to play outside Newport, starting life playing in the Hellenic League based at Moreton-in-Marsh, earning the Exiles nickname that remains to this day, because the council believed it was not a new club and should bear responsibility for the liabilities of the liquidated club and so would not sanction occupancy of Somerton Park, whilst the FAW thought it was and should start as a parks club.
Having won the Hellenic League at the first attempt the club returned to a semi-derelict Somerton Park and David was a driving force behind the efforts needed to restore the stadium to a habitable and compliant state. After this all too brief return to Somerton Park, AFC again moved to play in England – ground-sharing with Gloucester City as the FAW insisted the club had to play in the newly-formed League of Wales if it was to remain playing in Newport.
This would, of course, end the dream of a return to the Football League and David led the club into a High Court battle, claiming restraint of trade against the FAW.
The case was won, and the club eventually returned home to play at the newly-built Newport Stadium (more commonly known as Spytty Park). It quickly became apparent that the club needed a social facility at the stadium to increase match-day revenue and the idea to build a club house was born. David was instrumental in obtaining the funding and managing the planning process to bring what became Bar Amber to fruition, which exceeded all revenue expectations whilst the club was at the stadium. The building is still in use today as the first team training base.
In 1999, the club was renamed Newport County AFC – linking the new club to the old one – and David always insisted on the ‘AFC’ being used.
When County won promotion back to the Football League in 2013 after a 25-year absence, David reacted famously with just two words: ‘Mission accomplished.’
David was awarded the British Empire Medal at the end of 2015 for services to football and the wider Newport community. That wider work included founding the Friends of the Newport Transporter Bridge.
David continued to follow his beloved County home and away until recent weeks, and to run the Subscription Draw – a valuable source of income to the club.
This was launched at a Vice Presidents dinner at the Stonehouse in 1977. The total raised is in excess of £110,000. The draw is still going strong today.
A former deputy head teacher at Radyr Comprehensive School until retirement, David was a Newport councillor for many years representing the Liberal Democrats.
David was also an author in his own right. He wrote two books, one about his uncle Fred J Hando – A Proud Son of Gwent – and the other about his beloved football club – The Exiles: The Remarkable Story of Newport AFC.
The club’s thoughts and prayers are with David’s widow Mary, his sons Steve, Laurence and Julian, and his family and friends.