THE FUTURE of Hucknall darts is under a cloud after the retirement of one of the most popular and durable personalities in local sport.
Les Berridge, who turns 76 at Christmas, has stepped down as secretary of the Hucknall Men’s Darts League because of health problems.
But no-one has been found to take his place, meaning the league could fold after a long and proud 63-year history.
“I had a minor stroke at the end of September, which put me in hospital,” explained Les, who has also had heart scares in the past.
“I am OK now but I can’t cope with the work of being league secretary any more.
“I have been waiting for someone to say they will take over but nobody has come forward.
“It is sad but my family have been on at me for quite a while to finish. I have been involved with the league for 45 years, so I think I have done my stint.”
The league, which dates back to 1948, would normally be starting its new season about now. But there is no prospect of it being saved.
It has deteriorated in status over the years. When Les first became secretary in 1982, it boasted 34 teams, playing in two divisions. But last season’s line-up featured only seven sides.
Nevertheless, the league has always harboured a reputation for high-quality darts and star players, all spearheaded and administered by the tireless Les.
“I have all the paperwork and details of all the major results since 1948,” he explained this week from his home on Hartington Avenue.
“I first became involved as competitions secretary in 1966 and took over as full secretary from Jack Thompson in 1982.
“I also became secretary of Hucknall Mixed Darts League in 1984 and I have been on the committee of the Nottinghamshire county darts organisation for 23 years, including 15 as secretary. I am now an honorary life member.”
Les’s services to darts won him the Dispatch Sports Personality Of The Year award in 1995. We described him as “one of that rare breed of loyal and dedicated sports administrators, without whom players would not have the stage to perform”.
However, since retiring from his job as a coalface machinery fitter at Bestwood Workshops in 1986, he has also been devoted to charity and community work in Hucknall.
For instance, he remains secretary of the Hucknall Retired Pensioners Association, helping to organise outings, and treasurer of the Hucknall Senior Forum.
Les, a father-of-four whose wife Kath died in 2009, is also a long-standing member of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes (RAOB), which raises money for charity and helps members in need.
And two years ago, his community efforts were recognised by Ashfield District Council when he was named Hucknall Citizen Of The Year in the annual Ashfield Civic Awards.
But it is for his association with darts that Les is best known, so his retirement from the sport is the end of an era.
“I think the highlight of my darts career was when I was asked to help organise a five-nations international tournament in Nottinghamshire in the 1990s,” recalls Les, who is a also a former local football referee.
“But I have lots of happy memories from the Hucknall league. At one time, we had ten players in the county squad.
“I’m often asked who I think have been the best players and I always mention three — John Mapp, Eric Hutson and Martyn Savage. I couldn’t split them.”
The mixed league is expected to continue but anyone interested in replacing Les to run the men’s league is asked to ring him on 0115 9528658.