Fran Cotton 1947 – 2018

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We are extremely sad to report the recent death of Fran Cotton at the age of 71.

Fran had corticobasal degeneration, a rare neurological condition. He died on the morning of Wednesday 24th October at St Joseph’s hospice where he had been only briefly as he was able to stay and be cared for at home.

Fran learned his rugby at East Ham G.S, progressing into senior rugby at Wasps and Blackheath and coming to the latter in the late 60s when he rocked up with a distinctive look of long hair and an Afghan coat. A tenacious scrum half he played regularly for the Heathens with the occasional first team call up. He loved touring and did so regularly with the Club and Berlin in 1969 was his first trip.

Some of his co-players relate: On the tour to NZ the opposition waited with baited breath with a couple of their ex All Black front rowers eager to greet the great man. The press were there plus the All Black prop the other Cotton had actually played against…the look on their faces when our Fran was introduced!

Fran was a great “doer” and was initially involved with East London RFC developing their clubhouse and ground. Moving north he took up a role as European sales director of an international sports brand before returning “home” to London and in the 2002/2003 season became the club’s Operations Manager. This allowed Fran to deploy his abilities across a wide range of organisational and administrative functions at Rectory Field including masterminding the arrangements for England v Italy, England Counties v France and the sesquicentennial match v the Barbarians.

Our Patron, Barry Nealon adds “Fran looked at all the option sites for a new ground and it was he that found Greenwich University and worked so closely with us to bring about the deal. Fran made the relationship with Millwall Football Club that is now such a key partner in our future. He did it with dedication and commitment and was always a pleasure to work with.”


With the club’s initial occupation of Well Hall in 2010 to provide space for the growing Youth section the club’s administrative hub, led by Fran, also moved to Well Hall. Here Fran continued to manage an increasing workload until retiring in 2014. Fran carried on being a regular visitor to home matches even when his condition worsened he was, ably supported by his wife Clare, still keen to get along to games.

As Clare said, “It goes without saying that he loved the Club, he loved rugby so much he would have watched 15 rugby shirts hanging on a washing line.”

The funeral will be held at Eltham Crematorium on Thursday 15th November at 2:45pm, followed by a reception at Well Hall.


Tim Brindle

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