Michael Blackburn: Top Norfolk referee and tax specialist

A prize-winning accountant and leading Norfolk football referee, Michael Blackburn, has died suddenly at his Broadland home, aged 73.

An authority on international tax affairs, he was in demand on the national lecture circuit and was held in the highest regard by his professional colleagues.

He was treasurer of Norfolk County Football Association for 14 years until 1999 and also chairman of the Norwich Referees' Society for 15 years until standing down in 2005.

Born in Salhouse, near Norwich, he went to Paston Grammar School, North Walsham, where he also played 1st XI football. He left school before taking 'A' level exams because he was offered articles (a training contract) by a chartered accountant. When subsequently he had to wait a further year before starting his professional training as an articled clerk, it made him all the more determined.

He studied at home and in the Institute of Chartered Accountants' intermediate national examination, he finished eighth out of about 3,000 candidates. And in the finals in May 1960, he finished seventh overall and won a national merit prize for his taxation paper.

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After qualifying, he joined the international firm, Arthur Andersen, which was then one of the country's leading firms of accountants, and became a tax manager. He specialised in the affairs of foreign nationals living in Britain or UK nationals living abroad.

His business interests had included ownership of Coltishall Island service station for some years.

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Later, he set up his own extensive practice with clients around the world and in 2003, it was acquired by Rackheath-based Hornbeam Accountancy Services, where he remained a tax consultant. He was a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Tax Advisers.

After playing for Salhouse, where his father had also turned out, he qualified as a referee. Later, he became treasurer of the Norwich Referee Society, which was responsible for the training of about 350 officials.

He was the referee of a Norfolk Senior Cup final in the later 1980s and was also the first 'fourth' official to be appointed at Carrow Road. In later years, he enjoyed travelling the county as an assessor but finally retired about five years ago.

A keen sportsman, he ran five marathons, including four in Norfolk and one in Bedfordshire. And he was secretary of Horstead Bowls Club, where he also played for the past three or four years. He became a season ticket holder at Carrow Road. He had started writing a history of his life and had reached the year 1971 describing the move to their home in Coltishall, which was his last entry.

Married to Jill, they celebrated their golden wedding in August with a family party on the remote Channel Island, Herm, which is the smallest, for their children and grandchildren.

He leaves a widow, Jill, three children and 10 grandchildren. At his specific request, there will be no funeral but a farewell gathering to be held at a later date.

Michael Pollitt

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