Hornchurch referee celebrates milestone

PUBLISHED: 13:00 17 January 2015

Barry Tolhurst (third from right) pictured  before the Essex Andrews under-14s Cup Final at Harlow Town FC in 2007, Pic: Essex FA

Barry Tolhurst (third from right) pictured before the Essex Andrews under-14s Cup Final at Harlow Town FC in 2007, Pic: Essex FA


Tolhurst hoping to be an example to youngsters setting out on the road to becoming a fully-fledged referee.

Hornchurch referee Barry Tolhurst celebrated taking charge of his 1,000th football fixture in 2014 by convincing two local youngsters to complete their own Basic Referee Course, insisting: “It’s vital that we bring through the next generation of match officials.”

Tolhurst is in his 19th season as a referee and admits he’s found the whole experience both rewarding and enjoyable, so he wants more fresh faces to come forward and develop themselves too.

Following recent news that the Essex County FA have altered the way the Basic Referee Courses is structured to greatly enhance the number of quality candidates successfully qualifying, he’s urged newcomers to try blowing the whistle.

“It seems like only yesterday that I started but, in fact, it was in 1995 when tutors Stan Jacobson and John Pitt said those magic words “you have passed” to me,” said Tolhurst.

“Now, well beyond my 1,000th game, I’ve had the opportunity to look back. That’s a lot of games where I have met some interesting and nice people. No two games are the same, and you never stop learning!”

Essex County FA Referee Development Officer James Lisher is confident a change in the sign-up process for courses will result in a more efficient means of introducing officials who are keen to cover local grassroots games.

“We’re being revolutionary and making a positive change so anyone with an active interest in refereeing can attend more local sessions and receive specific information on the leagues and Referee Societies nearest them which, in turn, means we can be even more supportive to Essex’s leagues,” said Lisher.

“We’ll be producing more confident, experienced and skilled referees, hopefully reaching 1,000 games like Barry!”

There can be no doubting the experience of Tolhurst, who has officiated at various cup finals from the youth to the veterans age groups, including the Essex Andrews under-14 Cup Final at Harlow Town FC in 2007. During that time he’s able to reminisce about numerous times when things haven’t gone according to plan!

“One thing I was taught by Stan and John was to always turn-up early for a game,” he added. “This has stood me in good stead over the years. One example was a youth game where I showed-up an hour early as it had been raining heavily the day before.”

“The field was unplayable, so the home manager said he had use of another ground down the road. I said OK, thinking it was just a walk away. But we all followed the manager in his car in a convoy of around 10 cars going through Epping. 15 minutes later we arrived, only to find we had been beaten to it by another team!

There are over 1,600 registered referees in Essex, ranging from those just setting out in the game to individuals who have progressed to the Premier or Football Leagues. The Essex County FA support their development, from running courses, gaining promotion and mentoring and assessing them throughout their career. Referees can start from the age of just 14, with specific pathways in place to move through the levels.

If you’d like to complete the Candidate Interest Form, visit For enquiries about staging a Get Into Refereeing Evening, call James Lisher on (01245) 393097 or E-Mail Further details on refereeing are also shared on Twitter @EssexCountyFA and by searching for ‘EssexFootball’ on Facebook.

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