Neville Chamberlain: Norfolk’s top referee gave decades of service to football

Obit Neville Chamberlin.jpg

Obit Neville Chamberlin.jpg - Credit: Archant

One of the country's premier football referees, Neville Chamberlain, who has died peacefully in hospital aged 85, was a former chairman of Norfolk Football Association.

Appointed to the Football League's list, he was widely praised for controlling a 1972 World Cup match between Portugal and Belgium in front of 130,000 fans. He was often sent to Carrow Road to inspect the pitch in winter but made many official appearances in matches too.

He ran the line in the FA Cup replay at White Hart Lane on January 31, 1968 and raised the offside flag which led to Joe Kinnear, of Spurs, and Brian Kidd, of Manchester United, being sent off for fighting.

He was given one of the sport's highest honours in 1988 when he became president of the National Association of Football League Referees and Linesmen.

The Canaries fan, who lived at Old Costessey, near Norwich, told the EDP when elected to the three-year post as Norfolk FA's chairman in 1995 that he was determined to bring players and referees together for seminars to discuss things instead of blaming each other.'

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His unrivalled experience and love of the professional and grass-roots game stood him in good stead. 'I still get as much enjoyment from both and this is a great honour to be chairman of my county,' he said.

In May 2008, he was given a 50-year service award from the National Referees' Association in recognition of his contribution with the whistle and as an administrator. A few weeks later at the North East Norfolk League's annual meeting, he retired as secretary after 55 years but continued as treasurer.

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Born in Mundesley, he left school at 14 and worked as a clerical officer for what became British Railways and did National Service in the Royal Marines. He started playing for Mundesley in 1947 but first took the whistle, aged 25, for a match against Stalham in 1952. He officially took up refereeing in March 1953 when he joined the North Walsham branch of the Norfolk Referees' Society, becoming chairman four years later.

He established a national record by chairing the county committee for more than 31 years and was given life membership at Carrow Road in November 1988. His rise through the ranks of the provincial and Eastern League to Football Combination level by 1961 and finally to the full football league by 1971 was rapid.

After retiring, he became an assessor of referees from 1972 for the Football League and the Football Combination and was founder chairman of the Referees and Linesmen's Association. He was secretary to the Combination for many years.

He reached the linesmen's list of the Football League and was selected to officiate in Italy and at a European Nations Cup Match in Portugal.

He organised charity tournaments including the Rodney Bell Memorial to raise funds for good causes and was social secretary of his local Royal British Legion branch.

He was married to Margaret for 41 years, who survives him, and stepfather of Graham and Janine. He had grandchildren Sam and Emma.

A funeral service will be held at St Edmund's Church, Old Costessey, on Thursday, April 18 at noon.

Michael Pollitt

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