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Tributes paid to former ASA President and ‘true gentleman’ Phil Jones

Tributes have been paid to former ASA President and water polo international player and coach Phil Jones, who has died at the age of 90.

A member of Cheltenham Swimming and Water Polo Club for more than 80 years, Phil held the role of ASA President in 1996-97.

He has been described as a ‘true gentleman’ who was ‘well respected’ and a ‘formidable force in the development of water polo nationally’.

Phil was a sprint freestyler when he first joined Cheltenham but soon turned his attention to water polo.

He achieved national honours in 1949 when he was picked to play for England against Norway at the age of 16 and was selected for Great Britain for the European Games in Budapest in 1958.

Following a successful playing career, he became coach of the English and British teams before turning his full attention to Cheltenham Swimming and Water Polo Club, the ASA Water Polo Committee, Great Britain Water Polo Committee and the National Water Polo League.

Phil was also a referee at district and national levels and served as President of the Gloucester County ASA and President of the Western Counties ASA before being honoured by taking on the same role for the national governing body.

Jane Nickerson, Swim England chief executive, said: “Phil devoted his life to Cheltenham Swimming and Water Polo Club and the development of water polo at both club, national and international level.

“His unwavering commitment to the sport will never be forgotten.

“We are extremely saddened to hear of his passing and send our deepest and sincerest condolences to his wife, Shoena, his immediate family, friends and everyone connected with Cheltenham Swimming and Water Polo Club.”

A tribute to Phil on the Cheltenham Swimming and Water Polo Club’s Facebook page said: “Phil held every role from timekeeper to club Chair. He helped establish our mini artistic swimming squads and our after school clubs. 

“He was secretary of the District and County Water Polo Committees, and was the driving force behind the very successful centenary year celebrations in 1987. 

“In 1996, Phil was made President of the ASA, which coincided with Atlanta Olympics, which allowed him to witness the Games live in Atlanta. 

‘Many will miss him’

“A few weeks after his 90th birthday, Phil ‘retired’ from the club’s General Committee but was still an active member. 

“He was meticulous in club rules, policies and procedures – and was passionate about the club and its future. He was well respected by everyone, whether they agreed or disagreed. His legacy will live on.

“Many days have been spent with him over the last few months clearing his garage and summerhouse of boxes and boxes of ‘stuff’. Lots of treasures and tales of 82 years of CSWPC have been shared, which we will be forever grateful for and will be kept in our archives.

“His wife, Shoena, has been a silent supporter of the club for all their married life and his eldest daughter, Fiona, has followed Phil on to the General Committee. His granddaughters, Kate and Meg Read, have been successful water polo players in their own rights and we know how proud he was of them.

“He will be sorely missed by us all and our condolences go to his family.”

Katy Ross was one of dozens to post a message in memory of Phil on the Cheltenham Swimming and Water Polo Club tribute post.

She wrote: “He was a formidable force in the development of water polo nationally, as well as dedicating his life to CSWPC.

“We all owe a huge debt to Phil and many will miss him as a clubman and friend.”

Vicki Hawkins said: “Very sad news and a great loss to Cheltenham Swimming and Water Polo Club as well as the wider water polo community.

“He will be very much missed.”

James Baker also commented, saying: “I doubt there has ever been a single individual in the South West who has directly benefitted so many water polo players across so many generations.

“He did so quietly and passionately that many of the current players will never fully realise the debt they owe Phil. 

“A true gentleman.”

Main picture: Cheltenham Swimming and Water Polo Club