A SUFFOLK referee has spoken of his ‘humbling and proud’ experience at Saturday’s Emirates FA Cup Final.
Captain Steve Finch, who is an Administration Officer with 3rd Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment based in Bury St Edmunds, was selected to represent the Army at the final at Wembley Stadium.
His role was to deliver the FA Cup to the Royal Box and place the trophy down in front of and give the salute to HRH the Prince of Wales before the cup was presented to Manchester City following their 2-1 victory over Manchester United.
Steve, who moved to Ipswich in 2015, is a National Group Assistant Referee operating on League 1 and 2 and a member of Bury St Edmunds Referees’ Association.
He joined the Army FA referee executive committee in 2013 and took on the role of the referee promotion officer.
Steve said: “I received a phone call from Graham Brookland who is the Army FA Secretary (Chief Executive), asking me if I would represent the Army FA for its ceremonial requirement at the FA Cup Final.
“I asked why I was the chosen one and was told it was for my hard work and dedication in the Army FA referee department over the past decade.”
Steve, who travelled to Wembley with his wife Tahnee and a couple of friends, continued: “I was extremely fortunate that this year it was the Army's turn to deliver the FA Cup to the Royal Box.
“The Navy and RAF had a representative, who took the runners-up and winners’ medals respectively.”
Steve has attended various sporting events at Wembley Stadium in previous years, but this was his first FA Cup Final.
“Placing the trophy down in front of and giving salute to HRH the Prince of Wales. and being able to do this on behalf of the Army was an extremely proud and humbling moment and one that will live with me for my lifetime,” he said.
Steve, who is pictured above alongside the FA Cup on the hallowed turf at Wembley, said the day itself was a ‘fantastic experience’ overall.
He added: “Having the opportunity to be shown around the tunnel and players area and go out onto the pitch for some photos with the trophy and to take in the surrounds of a fantastic stadium from the pitch-side was awesome.
“There was then a few hours' free time where we had the opportunity to soak up the atmosphere outside of the ground, which we did by visiting the fans zones. I had a couple of drinks but did have to remember that I had to perform a duty.
“Then on to the game. Twenty minutes into the second half it was time to go and get my uniform on and prepare to carry the trophy from the tunnel area to the Royal Box.
“It was at the foot of the steps to the Royal Box that my wife had the opportunity to join me for a few photos which really made it special for us both; she isn't a fan of football and only came with me on the proviso she got a photo with the FA Cup, so I am glad I didn't fail!
“Going down pitch-side during the celebrations was another great experience.”