Tribute paid to former GB Olympic basketball manager who died at his Pitstone home

Bernard Warden was former director of leisure services for Dacorum Borough Council and responsible for building sports dome at Tring School

By Olga Norford
Tuesday, 23rd November 2021, 10:25 am

Tributes have been paid to former GB Olympic basketball manager, Bernard Warden, who has died at his home in Pitstone, aged 91.

Bernard, one of the original pioneering forces behind the UK’s sports and recreation industry, and director of leisure services for Dacorum Borough Council in the 70s, died on October 29.

He was involved in sport all his life having completed his National Service as a young man serving as a physical training instructor.

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Bernard Warden, who died at his Pitstone home, aged 91

Bernard, who lived in Tring before his retirement to Pitstone, was the director of leisure services for Dacorum Borough Council from 1974-1986.

He was responsible for the direction of arts, entertainment, community services recreation, marketing and tourism across the region.

During this time, he pioneered sports injury clinics by housing sports physiotherapy services at sports centres, so alleviating the pressure on local GPs and creating highly effective support for all levels of sports people.

He also drove the innovative collaboration between local schools and community sports by creating co-invested facilities built on school grounds but accessible to all.

He was also responsible for the building of the sports dome at Tring School around 40 years ago.

Bernard's daughter, Sandra Warden, said: "Bernard was fanatical about his community and was a long standing a member of the Round Table and Rotary clubs with involvement in local community events as well as serving on parish councils.

"As a keen sailor and former national dinghy racing champion, Bernard supported Royal National Lifeboat Institute where he was a volunteer and “Sea Safe” safety advisor. Bernard loved to sail and completed many Isle of White, “Round the Island” races.

"Bernard was very much a family man, married for over 60 years with four children and six grandchildren.

"He will be sadly missed not only by his family, but by the many people he worked with over his illustrious career."

Bernard began his career in sports and recreation management in 1959 as recreational facilities manager at the University College of Swansea.

During that time, not only did he qualify as a Football Association coach, but he began his lifelong association with basketball and Elite Sports Development by first becoming national team manager of Wales, then serving 10 years as the England manager before being selected to lead the GB Olympic basketball team for the 1964, 1968 and 1972 Olympic Games.

As well as England basketball manager, Bernard was the national treasurer and member of the executive committee of the English Basketball Association helping to pioneer basketball as a popular television experience to British audiences and reaching its climax with the Phillips national finals televised on Channel 4.

In his aim to promote and popularise public sports facilities, Bernard originated and organised a national, inter-town Sports TV Competition, called “Sports Town” which aired on prime-time BBC television for four series during the early 1970s.

Bernard also became a Sports organiser for a series of TV sport coaching programmes called “Play Sport” with the objective of encouraging young people to take up sport.

He also worked closely with sports centre managers and sports governing bodies, which led to Bernard's 14 year involvement with the Sports Aid Foundation.

The foundation was created to provide appropriate funding, in the absence of Government support, to allow the country's top athletes to compete against usually better-resourced overseas rivals.

In 1981 Bernard was commissioned by General Presidency of Youth Welfare, Saudi Arabia to assess the Kingdom’s needs for the training of sports centre managers, sports coaches and officials in preparation for the opening and operation of their sports centres and training centre. The recommendations were accepted and are still being implemented today.

As a result of his involvement with the Saudi Government he was contracted by the British Council to organise cultural exchange tours of the UK for groups of Saudi students within the “Memorandum of Understanding” between the two countries.

Bernard was also appointed as technical adviser on Sports Centre Management to the then Minister for Sport, Sir Ian McFarlane. During the period 1983 – 1985. He accompanied the Minister on numerous ministerial visits to various Gulf States.