On Tuesday evening I was one of a number of people who picked up an award at an event organised by the Essex County Football Association. The venue was Chelmsford City F.C. and it was pleasing to see so many friends have their prodigious efforts acknowledged.
I am not going to name-check everyone who I knew there, if for no other reason than I am bound to forget someone. However, I will mention Nick Janes who I sat with. Nick, a thorough gentleman, is someone I have known for many years. His career in football is a testament to the referee’s motto of ‘service before self’. Anyway, my mere twenty-nine years in football administration pale in comparison.
It all began with a conversation with a work colleague, Mark Ward (Marcus). Marcus, a member of a non-playing band the Kippars (with the anarchist circle around the ‘a’) was a reasonable footballer, whilst I was just this side of hopeless. Anyway, Marcus and I had tried a number of other enterprises – we had written a fanzine (Confidential Waste, which only lasted one issue) and had sold some of Nasty’s clothes at work (Nasty was a punk clothes shop in Clifftown Road). We began thinking about sport, and football in particular, and decided to try to see whether we could get enough friends interested. With alarming speed we had gone from conversation to impromptu gathering at Priory Park, to deciding we could and would form a team.
Marcus had gone to Southchurch boys high school and we both were working in Victoria Avenue, and so we settled upon Southchurch Victoria F.C. as our name We had to go for cheap kit, and so we opted for green shirts, black shorts and socks, in the hope that this was least likely to clash with other teams. My memory fails me when it comes to our change colours, but I do recall that the cheapness of our first kit meant that it was very itchy. We eventually acquired a new set of shirts, cast offs from Ekco Sports Club. (When the club became Methane F.C. the club colours changed to something similar to what Blackburn Rovers wear – blue and white halves.)
I was made Secretary, this would have been in Spring 1984, and we applied successfully to join the South East Essex Sunday League. After a season I decided to look into becoming a referee, and in October 1985 I qualified as a Class Three referee, By 1989 I was promoted to Class One.
Fast-forward to 2013 and I find myself awarded an Exemplary Service Award, and my footballing widow (and now politics widow) was there to see Lawrence Segal present it to me. This is awarded for twenty years service to the beautiful game. I will soon be eligible for the Outstanding Service Award, for although I quit refereeing in November I am still on the Executive Committee for the Southend and District Borough Football Combination and have the role of I.T. Officer. One becomes outstanding after thirty years, although I may have to wait because my refereeing career was interrupted twice.
I hope I have not allowed my ego to make nonsense of the referee’s motto, for aside from this award it has been a story of turning up and enabling many young people to enjoy their sport.