Tributes flood in for Wigan Athletic Community champion Tom Flower

Tributes have flooded in for Wigan Athletic's Head of Community Tom Flower, who tragically died over the weekend.

He led the club's multi award-winning Community Trust for more than a decade, working tirelessly to tackle inequalities across the Wigan borough and beyond.

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"On behalf of everyone at the club, our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Sarah and with both Tom's and Sarah's families at this incredibly sad time," said Latics chief executive Mal Brannigan.

Tom Flower

"Tom had a gift that was special and one which he shared selflessly - he always thought of others before he thought of himself.

"All leaders can only be successful if they build from firm foundations and Tom was not just good at this, he was excellent.

"From such a small base, the Trust today is synonymous with integrity and resolve and these two qualities, among others, reflect Tom's character and personality.

"He built the Trust into an inclusive organisation where everyone's voice was listened to and where opinion counted, as it became one of the best in the country and most recently, the best of all the EFL clubs in the North West - helping to foster and encourage one of the best Trust and club relationships in the country.

"The outstanding contribution he has made to both the Wigan community and to so many lives, the impact of which will be positively felt for many years to come, will never be underestimated.

"I hope I speak for so many colleagues when I say that I feel blessed to have known, worked with and shared stories with Tom. Rest easy, Tom."

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Jonathan Jackson was the club's chief executive when Flower was brought on board.

He said: "Tom was a special person. Kind, funny, and inspiring. A colleague that became a close friend.

"Tom joined us as Head of Community in 2012 when the we needed someone to lead the Trust and improve our engagement in the local area.

"He literally transformed the Community Trust to become one of the leading football club charities in the country, winning multiple awards along the way but more importantly helping thousands of people in the Wigan borough.

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"The Trust is unrecognisable now from the time he joined the club. The growth and success of the charity has been an incredible story – thanks to the hard work, commitment, and talents of everyone at the trust but it would not have been possible without the inspired leadership of Tom.

"He was from Manchester but he was so proud of our town, our people and our football club. He was an important local figure who connected many different stakeholders and was universally popular.

"Tom was also an important member of the football club’s Senior Management Team during my time as Chief Executive.

"He was the driving force behind our ‘Together’ initiative which led us to be the first club outside the Premier League to be awarded the PL Equality Standard.

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"He was passionate about inclusion and diversity and constantly drove us to be a leading light in this area. He was also someone I would seek advice from on many different issues. I trusted his judgement completely.

"Many supporters may not have heard of Tom. That was his style - he preferred to work out of the spotlight of the football club - but he cared about helping young people and building stronger communities through the power of the football club. In the EFL he was recognised as one of the best in the business.

"Over the last few years we became close friends. We chatted regularly about everything from politics to cricket and he always made me laugh every time we spoke.

"He was a character and a fantastic ambassador for the club and the town. I can’t believe he is no longer with us and my heart goes out to his family."

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Ashley Houghton worked closely with Flower during his time as the club’s Head of Communications.

"Absolutely floored by the news,” he said. “Professionally, Tom made such a significant impact on the Wigan community, playing a key part in attracting millions of pounds in funding to the area to give local people better opportunities through the work of the Trust. His commitment to helping others was unrivalled.

"Many people will not be aware of this, but he also worked tirelessly on the project to save the club with the Supporters Club and Jonathan Jackson, should a buyer not have been found during the days of administration.

"He was an inspirational leader loved by his team at the Trust and thoroughly respected by all who worked with him within the club.

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"I’m thinking of all of the staff at the Trust, who I know will be heartbroken by the news.

"On a personal note, Tom was a great friend and mentor and in many ways like an older brother to me.

"I always appreciated his honest feedback - even when we didn’t agree! - and he was the first person I would ask for advice when challenges came my way.

"Often he would respond with the Reservoir Dogs line: ‘It’s the world’s smallest violin’ - symbolic of his unique humour which I am sure will be mentioned in many tributes and will be missed by so many.

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"We spoke on the phone most days since I left the club earlier this year and were booked to go out for some festive drinks next week.

"His passing and it’s sudden nature is just so hard to comprehend.

"My thoughts are completely with Tom’s wife Sarah at this unimaginably difficult time. RIP brother, I will miss you dearly x”

Councillor David Molyneux MBE, Leader of Wigan Council, said: “Everyone at Wigan Council is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Wigan Athletic Community Trust’s Head of Community, Tom Flower.

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“The Trust and the council have worked closely on many projects through the years and Tom was held in high regard by colleagues for his enthusiasm and commitment.

“We would like to express our condolences to his family and friends and encourage everyone to take a moment of reflection to remember Tom’s positive contribution to communities across Wigan borough.”

Gary Speakman, chair of Wigan Youth Zone, said: "Tom has been such a driving force at Wigan Athletic Community Trust who are one of our key partners.

"Tom lived and breathed his community work, and a more likeable, genuine man, would be hard to find.

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"Tom will be sadly missed by all at Wigan Youth Zone, indeed by everyone that had the privilege to know him.

"Our thoughts and love go out to his family."

A tweet from the official Wigan Warriors account read: “Wigan Warriors are saddened to learn of the sudden passing of Wigan Athletic’s Head of Community Tom Flower, this weekend.

"We send our deepest condolences to Tom’s family, friends and colleagues at this sad time."

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Flower was known across the Community Trust, the club and the wider EFL Trust and Premier League Charitable Fund networks for his enthusiasm, energy and unique sense of humour, and was a hugely popular figure among his friends and family.

A club statement read: "When he first arrived, the Community Trust had around 12 members of staff mainly delivering football sessions in Wigan.

"But under his dedicated leadership, today it stands as a thriving and multi-award-winning organisation, addressing issues that go beyond football with the aim of making our town a stronger, safer and more inclusive place.

"While winning awards always brought a great sense of pride to everyone involved, Tom would always say that is all about the life-changing impact the Community Trust’s work has on people rather than accolades.

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"He was truly committed to enhancing the lives of those in our local community, introducing and embedding programmes that include tackling social isolation amongst elderly people, diverting young people away from crime, improving the health opportunities for men and women across the borough, and so much more.

"Tom grew the Community Trust into an organisation at the very heart of Wigan, where all of the staff are incredibly proud to work.

"Tom’s profound impact will always be remembered by everyone at Wigan Athletic and the Community Trust - and his legacy will also impact the many people who did not know him personally but had their world enriched by the work Tom and the Trust were involved in.

"As we reflect on and celebrate Tom’s life, we ask that his family’s privacy is respected during this incredibly difficult time. May he rest in peace."