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Ken Harris Obituary

Ken Harris Obituary

Ken Harris, “one of the most decisive administrators in the history of the Welsh Rugby Union “, has died at the age of 93.
The architect of the national ground, Cardiff Arms Park, which has now been converted into the Millennium Stadium, he was honorary treasurer of the Welsh Rugby Union for more than 30 years. Harris not only made a dramatic impact on the WRU finances by increasing the seated capacity at the Arms Park, but worked the oracle with the then Cardiff Rugby Club chairmen Hubert Johnson in securing the title to the Arms Park for the WRU.
“Ken was an amazing man, the modern architect of Cardiff Arms Park,” said the WRU president, Sir Tasker Watkins.
“He had a fine brain and was an outstanding banker. He became internationally well known in rugby for his expertise as a treasurer, in conjunction with the late Hermas Evans earning great respect for the WRU at the “International Rugby Board.
“He was a man of stature, whose achievement in initially securing the title to the Arms Park for the Union and then masterminding the highly successful rebuilding of the National Ground insured he left a rich legacy for the game he loved so much.
“Ken also helped to found the WRU Charitable Trust which does such good work for injured players. He is a man who will be sorely missed by everyone connected with Welsh rugby and the game at large around the world.”
Kenneth Morgan Harris was born Velindre Road, Whitchurch and died in the early hours of Saturday 11 January, Born in 1909 he was five days short of his 94th birthday.
Educated at Penarth Grammar School he followed his father’s instructions and went into banking as a 17 year old, starting his white collar career as a junior clerk in Pontypridd.
He rose through the ranks to become a senior director of Barclays Bank in Wales, retiring some 30 years ago.
It was through his connection with Barclays that Harris became involved with the WRU.
“When my father moved to become a district manager in Cardiff in the early 50s he was told that he had to carry on the company’s tradition of providing the WRU with a honorary treasurer,” said Tim Harris, one of Ken’s four children.
“He succeeded Mr. P.O.Evans, who had been the third manager of Barclay’s Cardiff Docks Branch to hold the position, and took over in 1952.
“He was still the treasurer some 30 years later and always cherished his time with the WRU.”
As well as acting as the Union’s treasurer from 1952-1982, he combined his role with the WRU with those of honorary treasurer of the University College of South Wales and of the Welsh National School of Medicine in Cardiff.
Within a year of his appointment the Union’s general committee were altering their by laws to allow him to act as a full and proper member of the committee with voting powers. He went on to serve on the IRB for 16 years between 1965-79, became President of the WRU in the Grand Slam season of 1970-71 and became a Life Member of the Union in 1977.
As chairman of the WRU Centenary Committee he was responsible for generating £500,000 in the centenary year 1980-81 for the Charitable Fund.
In the WRU official history ‘Fields of Praise’ Harris is described as having “brought considerable financial acumen and a tough-minded realism to the councils of the WRU.” The history books also heap praise on to him for his work in redeveloping the Arms Park.
His greatest contribution would be in the development of the Cardiff Arms Park as a truly National Ground.
“Ken Harris had been among the first determined to raise the prestige of Welsh Rugby by providing a physical theatre worthy of the players,” claimed the Union’s official history.
“His main determination, and he devised the means by which this would be realised, was to oversee the building of a National Ground for Wales. In bringing this scheme to fruition he would emerge as one of their most decisive of administrators in the history of the Union.”
Harris’s financial acumen also enabled him to successfully battle with the Inland Revenue to have ticket income classed as mutual income on which, since tickets are dispersed to member clubs, no tax is payable. This saved not only the WRU, but their fellow home Unions, considerable sums of money.
Married to his late wife Margaret for 65 years – she died in June last year – Harris is survived by his four children Christopher, Anna, Timothy and Sian and his 10 grandchildren.

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