Community Football in Scotland has lost one of its leading lights. Eric Bennett, the driving force behind the creation, growth and success of Cumnock Juniors Community Enterprise (CJCE) has passed away at the age of 67 after suffering a stroke last week.

Eric believed in the power of sport to unite communities and bring people together. He was a passionate and kind man who used his years of experience in business to drive forward CJCE to become the envy of community organisations across Ayrshire and beyond.

In 2013, Eric’s vision to create a community enterprise for the town of Cumnock, based around the junior football club, took shape. One of his greatest qualities was his ability to bring people together, his enthusiasm was infectious, and he always made any tough decisions for the right reasons. The respect that everyone had for Eric meant that he broke down barriers and achieved results that others would find impossible. The wonderful facility at Townhead and the scale and scope of the community activities and partnerships established are fitting legacies to a true gentlemen. Many, many people have benefitted from his tireless efforts.

The selfless work undertaken by Eric and his team at CJCE has been widely recognised and award winning, claiming, most notably, the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in 2018 and the Scottish FA Quality Mark at Platinum (Legacy) Level.

Eric worked closely with the Scottish FA South West team and became a friend and advisor to many of us. Cammy Watt and David Sheldon worked with him on facility development and wider club development initiatives. David subsequently invited Eric to share his vision and working methods with other groups from across Scotland which he did willingly, giving his time and advice freely to mentor similar groups.

David remembering Eric, said: “Countless Community Clubs learned from the best and that was Eric. Any time clubs wanted help he was there to lend a hand and give advice. He was a humble man, a great man."

Football and the town of Cumnock have lost a real visionary and a true gentleman. Eric Bennett will be very sorely missed.