Suffolk referees’ long service recognised
LITTLE did Kelvin Morton realise his career path in football would take when he turned up to watch a Sunday morning match half-a-century ago.
When the appointed referee failed to show, the 15-year-old was asked if he would take over as the man-in-the-middle.
Last Thursday the former Football League official was one of two recipients of a 50 years’ service award from Suffolk FA.
“I took to it like a duck to water, and have never looked back,” said Morton after he was presented with the award at the ‘Night of a 1,000 Years’ of refereeing in Suffolk, reflecting the service of those involved which totalled more than 1,000 years.
The evening was organised by Suffolk FA in partnership with the Football Association and the Referees’ Association.
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Morton, who lives near Bury St Edmunds, became the youngest Class One referee in the country just six years after officiating in that first match.
He refereed for 34 years and officiated in finals of the FA Cup, FA Trophy and FA Vase, serving on the Barclays Premier League until his retirement in 1995.
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He is currently a Premier League Assessor and still involved with the Bury St Edmunds branch he has served for 46 years.
Lowestoft-based John Harris, who took up the whistle in 1961, was also presented with his 50 years’ service award at the invitation-only dinner held at the Holiday Inn in Ipswich.
The highlight of his career came in 1985 when he was appointed fourth official at the FA Cup final between Manchester United and Everton.
Off the pitch he has served the Eastern Counties League, the Anglian Combination and the Lowestoft & District League, and is an active assessor and branch secretary of the Lowestoft & District Branch of the Referees’ Association.
The guest list at the ‘Night of a 1,000 Years’ was like a who’s who in national refereeing circles.
The 50-year awards were made by Ken Ridden, who in addition to being head of the Professional Game Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL) is also a FIFA observer.
He also made the 40-year awards to Lowestoft duo Keith Howlett and Mick Leeds and Stowmarket’s David West.
Neale Barry, head of senior referee development at the FA, and Ian Blanchard, head of national referee development at the FA, jointly presented the 25-year awards to 20 referees.
Guest speaker for the evening was Paul Taylor, the former Football League referee from Cheshunt in Hertfordshire, who took charge of around 750 games in his career.
Also present were Dean Mohareb, national referee manager at the FA, Ray Olivier, a former Football League referee and Premier League assistant referee, Arthur Smith, the retiring general secretary of the Referees’ Association and John Tythcott, referees’ secretary of the Ridgeons League.
Phil Knight, chief executive of Suffolk FA, said: “To referee for 50, 40 or 25 years is a remarkable achievement which should rightly deserve a lot of recognition.
“I would like to congratulate all those who received awards and the guests and our friends at the FA and RA who made this event a huge success.”
Roll of Honour
50 Years’ Service: John Harris and Kelvin Morton
40 Years’ Service: Keith Howlett, Mick Leeds and David West
25 Years’ Service: Philip Bultitude, Melvin Compton, John Dedman, Ian Friend, Robert Gooch, Michael Griffiths, Steven Hammersley, Mark Hyde, Mike Moir, Stephen O’Sullivan, Trevor Pollard, David Sale, Andrew Sheldrick, Ian Smillie, Robert Symonds, Dave Theobald, Kevin Theobald, Robert Wakeling, Nigel Woodhouse, Nigel Woodward