SUFFOLK referee George Byrne said he was ‘absolutely delighted and honoured’ to win the Match Official of the Year category in The FA and McDonald’s Grassroots Football Awards.
The 26-year-old from Mildenhall was put forward as a county winner and has now scooped the national award.
George and ten other winners will be recognised and celebrated at Sunday’s 2018 FA Community Shield between Manchester City and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium.
He said he found out that he had won in a phone call from National Respect Project Manager Nathan French.
“The whole thing has come completely out of the blue, but I'm absolutely delighted and honoured to win the award.
“I can't wait! It will certainly be a day to remember for me and my family,” said George, who will be accompanied by wife Abi and his parents.
George is entering his 10th year as an official on the Bury & District Sunday League, after starting as a 17-year-old in 2009-10.
During that time he has officiated in more than 150 Sunday League & County Cup matches, including 15 cup finals.
He is now a member of the management committee for the Bury & District Sunday League as treasurer and mentors young referees and helps them take their first steps into adult football via the league.
George (centre) is pictured above with (left to right) the Humberside CSFA captain, Ben Greenbank, Stephen Clarke and the Essex CSFA captain prior to officiating last season’s English Schools’ U18 County Final at the Bet365 Stadium, home of Stoke City FC. Ben and Stephen are two Suffolk officials George has mentored.
The Grassroots Football Awards, which are in their first year, recognise and celebrate the work of individuals and groups to instill The FA’s PRIDE values – Progressive, Respectful, Inclusive, Determined and Excellent – whilst making a positive difference in their club, league or local community.
Following receipt of over 2,900 nominations, The FA worked alongside respective County FAs to select winners in the local area. The list of regional recipients was then deliberated upon by a panel at Wembley Stadium connected by EE.
National Respect Project Manager Nathan French said: “The response we have received has been overwhelming. The awards capture the essence of all that is good about grassroots football, and give national profile to excellent work that might otherwise go under the radar.”
Stephanie Moore MBE, Founder of The Bobby Moore Fund for Cancer Research UK, said: “It was an absolute pleasure to join the judging panel of the Grassroots Football Awards to preside over the Bobby Moore, Charter Standard League, Grounds Team and Young Volunteer awards.
“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate each and every one of the winners, whilst thanking them for their fantastic and inspirational work across the game.”
The full list of winners is as follows:
- Coach of the Year – John McGuinness, Russell Foster, Durham
- Community Project of the Year – Benjamin Rosser, The Pythian Club, Nottinghamshire
- Charter Standard Club of the Year – Leigh Willis, Anchorians Football Club, Kent
- Charter Standard League of the Year – Helen Brain, Gloucestershire County Women’s Football League, Gloucestershire
- Grounds Team of the Year – Scott Walters & Mark Sherriff, Washington AFC, Durham
- Match Official of the Year – George Byrne, Bury & District Sunday League, Suffolk
- The Bobby Moore Award – Fatima Hussein, Capital City Academy, Middlesex
- The Respect Award – Stourbridge & District Youth Football League, Birmingham
- Supporter of the Year – Will & James Bather, Neston Nomads U12 Girls, Cheshire
- Volunteer of the Year – Susan Carmichael, Liverpool Feds Women’s Football Club, Liverpool
- Youth Volunteer of the Year – Nahimul Islam, Wapping Youth FC, London
In addition, McDonald’s Derby and Helen Atkinson, Crossfield Ladies, will also be recognised as Restaurant of the Year and Mum of the Year respectively at the season’s traditional curtain-raiser.
To learn more about the Grassroots Football Awards, please visit TheFA.com and follow @FA