Derbyshire football club to fundraise for charity in honour of much-loved player who died from throat cancer

Richard Billam passed away in March this year, aged 44.
Richard Billam passed away in March this year, aged 44.

A Derbyshire football club has chosen Throat Cancer Foundation as their charity of the year in honour of a player who died from the illness.

Richard Billam, who played for Rowsley 86, passed away from throat cancer in March this year, aged 44.

Ryan Gackowski, 25, who has been involved with the team for 10 years, said: “We want to have Throat Cancer Foundation as our charity of the year and we want to have a big fundraising event next year as well as a charity football match.

“Our season starts in the middle of August so we want to build up as much awareness for TFC as possible with a matchday programme.

“We also want to have TFC’s logo on our football strips and have charity buckets for the whole year at home games."

The club, which plays in the Central Midlands Football League South Division, were left 'completely shocked' at Mr Billam's death as they had 'no idea' he had been battling throat cancer.

The married holiday rep had been living and working in Spain during the time of his illness.

“I had no idea he’d been battling throat cancer until the day he died," Ryan said.

“He kept it fairly private because when he was diagnosed, he wasn’t playing with the club any more.

“I think he wanted to try and protect us in a way.”

Kevin Wagstaff, club secretary, said Mr Billam had been with the football club from 1995 to 2006.

He made over 200 appearances for both the first team and the reserves.

“He was a big part of the team,” Kevin said. “The biggest part that was reflected from people when he passed away was of how much of a positive influence he was on everyone before he passed away.

“He was always cheering and laughing with people and he was a really big part of the club.”

Jamie Rae, a throat cancer survivor and founder and chief executive of the Throat Cancer Foundation, said: "We're delighted that Rowsley 86 has chosen us as their charity of the year.

"Over the next season, we are looking forward to this partnership and getting to know the supporters involved with the club who will be helping us to raise more awareness about the impact of individuals and their loved ones from such a devastating disease.

"Every year in the UK, 4,500 people die from throat cancer and one of our main aims as a foundation to is reduce that figure and get better survival rates for patients. We do this as part of our work by investing in ground-breaking scientific research aimed at improving treatment procedures and methods to eradicate throat cancers.

"We are keen to spread the word about our work at the TCF and to continue support patients and loved ones with the most up to date information and resources available."

Anyone who is interested in donating to the charity can visit www.throatcancerfoudnation.co.uk.