Referee dies after match collapse

A WELL-KNOWN and respected football referee has died after collapsing on the pitch during a match in Essex. Gary Cook was in charge of a match between Great Bentley and Coggeshall Town on Saturday afternoon when tragedy struck.

A WELL-KNOWN and respected football referee has died after collapsing on the pitch during a match in Essex.

Gary Cook was in charge of a match between Great Bentley and Coggeshall Town on Saturday afternoon when tragedy struck.

Less than 20 minutes had been played when Coggeshall scored to make it 1-1 and the 53-year-old was jogging towards the halfway line when he fell to the floor unconscious.

Players and trainers from both sides rushed to his aid and after a short period he came round and was helped to the side of the pitch.


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An ambulance was called and the game, in the Essex and Suffolk Border League, was abandoned.

Witnesses said Mr Cook had been talking after the incident, saying he felt okay, but then collapsed again as he left the pitch just as paramedics arrived.

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He was treated at the scene before being taken to Colchester General Hospital where he later died.

It has not been confirmed what caused Mr Cook to collapse, but yesterday those who knew him said he had good fitness levels.

The 53-year-old from Halstead had refereed hundreds of games in the Essex and Suffolk Border League and it emerged last night he had been chosen to officiate this year's league cup final next month.

A minute's silence in tribute to him will be held at games on Wednesday and next Saturday and there are also plans to create an annual match in his memory.

Tim Tricker , a committee member at Great Bentley Football Club, said he had joked with Mr Cook just before the game began.

He said: “It was the third time that he had been to us this season and we were laughing, saying that it was like his home ground.

“He was a lovely chap and a good referee too. If you don't notice a referee during the game, then he is a good referee.

“It is an absolute tragedy - referees always have a good degree of fitness, they have to these days.”

Last night Alan Gould, the referees appointment secretary for the league said Mr Cook had been refereeing in the league since 1991 and was a level-five official.

Mr Gould added: “This is the first time it has happened in the 17 years I have been with the league. He was an absolute stalwart and it is very sad.

“He was very well-known, over the past 10 years he has been the most consistent referee and was down to be in charge of the league cup final at AFC Sudbury on April 18.

“He has probably done more than 400 games and was always available and was very good at short notice.”

A spokeswoman for the East of England Ambulance Service said they had been called at 3.21pm and an ambulance arrived within seven minutes.

No-one from the Football Association was available for comment last night.

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