FORMER Suffolk referee and administrator George Whight is the latest recipient of The FA 50-Year Service medal.
The 81-year-old, who lives in Sproughton, received his award from Ipswich Referees’ Association Chairman Mike Moir (above left) at the branch’s monthly meeting on Monday.
His involvement in football started in 1960 playing for Sketchleys Works FC in the Woodbridge & District League and continued from 1961-69 with first Whitehouse Athletic and then Bramford Road Old Boys in the Ipswich & District League.
George, who was secretary of BROB from 1968-70, passed his Referee exam in July 1970 and officiated on the Ipswich & District League from 1970-95 and the Ipswich Sunday Morning League from 1970-92.
He officiated a total of 2,206 matches across the two leagues – 1,748 as a referee and 458 as a linesman.
George, who was born in Ipswich and educated at Copleston School, joined Ipswich Referees Society in 1970 and has been a member ever since, holding a variety of posts including chairman from 1982-93.
He was chairman of Suffolk County Referees Association from 1981-83, becoming a life member in 2010, and chairman of the Ipswich & District League from 1994-95, becoming a Vice-President in 1998.
George, who worked for Sketchleys and then Smiths for 32 years as a regional training officer, has also held various posts with Suffolk FA, including as chairman and a director.
He said of his life in football: “I was fortunate to be able to combine an active role of refereeing and also administration.
“I had two great mentors throughout my career in George Scopes and Bill Snook.
“George was chairman and secretary of the old Ipswich & District League for a number of years, and Bill was chairman when the league became the Suffolk & Ipswich League in 1974 as well as county chairman and Ipswich Referees’ appointments secretary.
“I don’t think we will see their like again, to be honest, as they were volunteers, whereas now you have paid officials.”
George’s highlights from his career as an official were refereeing an England versus Scotland Under-18 international at Leicester City’s old Filbert Street ground and being a linesman for former Ipswich Town skipper Mick Mills’ Testimonial match against Twente Enschede at Portman Road.
He said his main memory as an administrator was while county chairman from 2001-04 and the building of the Suffolk FA offices in Stowmarket as well as the appointment of the first three full-time members of staff.