Leeds football club pays powerful tribute to much-missed player and friend

The Headingley AFC squad with Charles and Liz Ritchie.
The Headingley AFC squad with Charles and Liz Ritchie.

It was a game of football where, just for once, the result came second in people’s list of priorities.

Headingley AFC’s match yesterday was their first outing in a new kit which has been sponsored by the Gambling With Lives charity.

Lewis Keogh.

Lewis Keogh.

The link-up has special significance for Headingley, with their hugely-popular player and reserve team manager Lewis Keogh having taken his own life aged 34 in 2013 after becoming addicted to gambling.

And although yesterday’s game against Whitkirk Wanderers ended in a 2-1 defeat, the day was still one of huge pride for the club.

Headingley chairman Callum Butcher told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “Everyone here looked up to Lewis in their own personal way.

“I know the lads will relish the opportunity to pay tribute to him every time they step out onto the pitch.”

Action from Saturday's game.

Action from Saturday's game.

Sheffield-based Gambling With Lives was founded by Liz and Charles Ritchie, whose 24-year-old son Jack took his own life after suffering problems with gambling addiction.

Charles, who attended yesterday’s West Yorkshire Premier Division match with Liz, said: “The link with Headingley AFC is a fantastic step in the journey of bringing the gambling industry under control.

“In a world where football sponsorship is dominated by gambling companies, where it is impossible to escape from gambling adverts around any match, where the pressure to gamble on any game is actually ruining young people’s enjoyment of the very game that they love, the guys at Headingley have shown that people are shocked by the catastrophic harms that gambling can have and they want to do something positive to change that.”

Originally from County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland, Lewis did a degree in sports science at Teesside University and, after a short spell back at home, moved to Leeds.

He spent nine years in the city and, at the time of his death, was working as a facilities manager and living in Burley.

Lewis never told his friends or family about his problems with gambling and it was not until after his death that it emerged he had run up debts of £50,000 while feeding his habit.