Wembley date for Ipswich official

FOOTBALL: From a Woodbridge Recreation ground to Wembley Stadium this is the meteoric rise of 24-year-old Ipswich-based referee Carl Fitch.

Promoted last month to run the line in the Football League next season, the former St Albans School pupil has been appointed assistant referee for the Blue Square Premier play-off final between Oxford and York next Sunday.

The game is expected to attract a crowd of around 40,000 and is being shown live on television with a 5pm start.

He will be the first Suffolk referee to officiate at the new Wembley although the recently retired Mick Thorpe from Martlesham was fourth official for an FA Vase final a few years back.

It was just nine years ago that Fitch took charge of his first game when he officiated at an Under-12 match at Woodbridge.

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He was 14 at the time having begun his ‘career’ refereeing school games at St Albans.

“My ambition from the start was to reach the Football League, which I have,” said Fitch.

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“Subject to passing a fitness test I will be running the line in the Football League next season.

“Anything else is a bonus, and having come through the Suffolk refereeing system I’m proud to be representing my county at Wembley.

“I’ve been to Wembley just once when I watched Lowestoft Town lose to Whitley Bar in the FA Vase in 2008.

“I will treat the game like every other one, and am confident I can keep any nerves at bay.

“The game is about the clubs their players and their fans, and I’ll be looking to do a professional job.”

Fitch finished in the top 10 nationally of referees at his level, and this led to his advancement into the Football League – and to this coveted appointment.

He will have his proud parents David and Teresa watching from the stands along with granddad John.

It is a long way from a rather rustic recreation ground to the splendour of the multi million pound Wembley via a route that took the Farlingaye School psychology teacher via the Felixstowe and District League the SIL and the Ridgeons League to the Ryman and Southern Leagues to Blue Square South and Premier.

And in these days when a referee’s lot is not always a happy one, a shining example to anyone thinking of taking up the whistle what the rewards can be.

Michael Naylor from Sheffield is the referee next Sunday with Michael Salisbury the other assistant.

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