Mystery death of rugby league campaigner

Ray Gent who was found dead near Carr Mill Dam
Ray Gent who was found dead near Carr Mill Dam
  • Rugby league campaigner found dead near Carr Mill Dam
  • Ray Gent was reported missing before his body was discovered
  • No cause of death has yet been ascertained
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Mystery surrounds the sudden death of a Saints fan who spent years campaigning to raise the profile of rugby league.

Ray Gent, of Up Holland Road, Billinge, was found at Carr Mill Dam by emergency teams shortly after he had been reported missing.

In an era when most are about the self, celebrity and impression, Ray acted on the principles of fairness and justice

Online tributes

He was pronounced dead at the scene and an inquest into the underlying cause of his death has been opened and adjourned.

No medical cause of death has yet been returned.

A devoted Saints fan the 66-year-old hit the headlines in the early 2000s when his campaign for better coverage of rugby league in the national press received widespread support.

Then Saints coach Ian Millward and most of his players added their support to his petition.

Skipper Chris Joynt, vice-captain Paul Sculthorpe, Keiron Cunningham, Anthony Sullivan and Aussies Peter Shiels and Dave Fairleigh all signed the petition.

Mr Gent, a former financial advisor, said at the time: “For more than 100 years rugby league has had to endure sporting apartheid and discrimination beyond what is acceptable in a so-called free society. Its survival is testimony to those who love and play the game.”

He also penned book inspired by the 30,000-signature petition - which demanded a better deal for the sport - and later handed the petition in at Westminster to MP David Hinchliffe, who was secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Rugby League Group.

Also a football fan, his recent books included one entitled Football In Its Own Words.

Among the tributes posted on an online forum was one which read: “Extremely sad to hear about Ray. He was such a gentle, sociable soul with a lifelong passion for rugby league.

“In an era when most are about the self, celebrity and impression, Ray acted on the principles of fairness and justice.”

Others described Mr Gent, who used to post comments on the Total RL website under the pseudonym Saint Billinge, as “a charming and lovely man”.

His funeral is set to be held at St Aidan’s in Billinge at 9am on Thursday (March 12).

Ray’s family have asked for any donations to be made to the Derian House hospice.