Referees not ready to call time on careers

Five members of the Leamington & District Referees Association were honoured for their long service at a awards ceremony organised by the Birmingham County FA last week.

Duncan Macaulay, Dave Hartshorn, Pakher Bahi, Mick Lucey and John Sharp received their certificates at a dinner attended by more than 200 at the Hawthorns, home of Premier League side West Bromwich Albion. Between them, the five boast more than 180 years of refereeing experience, with Macaulay and Sharp leading the way with 45 years apiece.

Also in attendance was Kenilworth-based referee Gino Bonarrigo, who referees in the Coventry Alliance League.

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Bonarrigo, who has been officiating for close to 30 years, received his 25-year award to follow on from the silver plate he received from the Coventry and Central Warwickshire League last year.

The grandfather of five says the game has changed a lot since he first took stepped out into the middle, but his refereeing philosophy remains the same.

“Each referee has their own technique on the pitch,” said Bonarrigo.

“I believe I am well respected because I don’t hassle the players and I make them my friends.

“If you talk nicely to the players they respond.”

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The Italian, who refuses to reveal how old he is for fear of age discrimination, has no plans to hang up his whistle yet, despite admitting to a few aches before a game.

“I’m diabetic, but I’m very fit and still do two games a week.

“The only problem is a slight pain in my knee before the start but everything loosens up once you get going.

“I sometimes wonder if I’m a freak of nature.”

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