April 24 2014 Latest news:
Robin Cottle, Reporter
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Football refereeing has been a real labour of love for Rush Green man George Marsh.
But 32 years loyal service in Havering has been rewarded as he won the volunteer of the year prize at the Havering Sports Council awards earlier this month.
The 63-year-old thinks the amount of service he has given to his chosen sport was the swaying factor in the judges minds ahead of the other nominees in the category, Jordan Sargeant and Dean Smith.
Mr Marsh said: “The amount of time I’ve been refereeing might have helped my cause. “I’ve put in the time and it’s paid off.
“I was surprised when I was put forward for the award and I was even more surprised when I found out I’d won.”
The Rush Green Road resident took his first refereeing course in 1982 and has been taking charge of matches in the borough ever since.
Mr Marsh first got involved when his son Andrew started playing football, and a referee was needed to keep order in the games.
FA rules stipulate that referees have to give up their level five status when they reach 47 years old.
This had seen Mr Marsh officiating on games involving the likes of Romford and Thurrock at current Ryman League level, but he still has no plans to put away his cards and whistle just yet.
“A friend of mine, Peter Cramp, said I should take the course and I’ve never looked back,” he said.
“I’m 63 but I’m still regularly taking games in the Essex Olympian League. It keeps me in great shape for someone of my age.
“There are still referees older than me who are doing it so I think I’ve got a few years left.
“I still love it so I’ll carry on as long as I can keep up with the game.”
One area of concern for the man in the middle is the lack of youngsters interested in becoming football referees today.
He attributes this to the “disgraceful and disgusting” abuse they receive from the touchlines, especially from parents when taking charge of youth matches.
There have been scores of stories in the media about referees quitting the game due to constant heckling from the sidelines.
Mr Marsh said: “You can’t blame youngsters for not coming through the system anymore.
“The abuse they get from parents is frankly disgusting, the constant shouting and moaning.
“So many people take the course, ref for a year then pack it in because it all gets too much.
“It’s always the referee’s fault, never the players, when teams lose.”
Mr Marsh, who worked for Ford Motors in Dagenham before taking early retirement, has lived in Havering almost all of his life.
He was heavily involved with Ford United - now Redbridge FC - and says his early retirment has enabled him to take on more refereeing responsibility.
“It’s given me the chance to take on midweek college football matches. The more the better,” he said.
“It definitely keeps me busy and it helps me put something back into the community which has given me so much - which is definitely a good thing.”