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Brief History of Soccer Referees 

The early players didn't need a referee!  They were gentlemen, and any dispute could be settled by the two captains.

Of course, this idyllic state of affairs couldn't last, especially when competitive soccer in the form of the Football Association's Cup came along in 1872.  By this time, it had become the practice for each team to appoint an umpire.  These two gentleman then ran about the pitch, keeping an eye on matters.  They had no right to interfere with the game, but could be "appealed to" by the players, just as in the game of cricket today.  They were given the power to award a free kick for handball in 1873, and for other offences in 1874.  Also in 1874, umpires could send a player off for "persistent infringement of the rules".

Of course, it is not surprising that occasionally the two umpires could not agree on a decision, and so the need arose for a neutral observer, the "referee".  The first mention of the referee occurs in 1880. He was appointed by mutual agreement of the two clubs.  He was required to "keep a record of the game" and act as timekeeper.  He had the power to caution players who were guilty of ungentlemanly conduct, without consulting the umpires (though any such caution was made with the umpires present).  If a player continued to transgress, or was guilty of violent conduct, the referee could send him off and report him, even if the player them offered an apology.

The referee was given greater powers in 1889/90, when was allowed to award a free kick for foul play without waiting for an appeal.  It was only at this point that I suspect he needed a whistle!  The well known story that the referee's whistle was first used at a Nottingham Forest v. Sheffield Norfolk game in 1878 seems not to stand up to scrutiny!  Forest didn't play Norfolk in 1878, and the referee had no need for a whistle anyway!

Not until the 1891/92 season was he finally given the powers he has today, and allowed onto the field of play. The two umpires now assumed the role of linesmen, or "assistant referees" as we have to call them from 1996 onwards!

Brief History of Granville District Football Referees Association


The history of soccer in Granville commenced in 1882.  The Granville Football Association was formed in 1902 and  celebrated it's 100 years of operation in 2002.  The Referees’ Association was formed 1908 and celebrated his 100 years of operations and service to Football in 2008.


Football and Referees used to meet in the mess hall of the railway workshops near the Clyde football field, which was called Clyde stadium.  This was east of Garside Park, where Mitsubishi now are.  The stadium and field was built on railway land, and had a magnificent grandstand and was fully fenced, a better ground than Parramatta stadium.  This complex was bulldozed in 1939 when the Second World War broke out to enlarge the railway workshops.  Granville Association and the referees then moved to Lidcombe Oval during the war.

The mayor of Granville, who was the coach of Granville Magpies, asked the association and referees to move to Garside Park.  This field was called Macarthur Park.  We used to meet in the tin shed changing rooms before the clubhouse was built.  Granville Council existed until sometime in the 1950’s.  We then moved to the Merrylands Bowling Club in about 1994.

 In the early years the Granville Association used to cover 35% of the metropolitan area, extending from Gladesville to the Nepean River, and Hornsby to Bankstown.  The NSWSAF (now called Football NSW) formed a number of new associations in the 50,s to cater for the growing number of teams in the local areas.

We used to wear a white uniform, but this was changed in the late 60’s to the black uniform.  Our socks were black with white tops until about 1995 when we went to all black socks.

In the late 70’s, the NSW body, the AA, brought all association under the one banner and told us not to wear the Granville badge.  We objected, as we are the oldest referee’s association in Australia.  So we did not join the new body.  Eventually we were asked to join again and we were allowed to wear our Granville badge at our own association matches.

We have always supplied referees up to 4 fields on the one-day to the Inter-District and Youth League games.  We also supply referees to the school competitions, and to the Federation.

30 years ago we refereed from under 7 to all age.  Now we do from under 9 to Premier League, and 35’s.  At one time North Rocks had enough teams to run there own under 6 competition just as Pendle Hill and Winston Hills do now.

We had a referee’s team participate in a knock out competition one-year, but did not venture into this again.

We also supply referees to do club gala days.  Some of these are recognised Statewide.

During the mid 70’s Blacktown Association was formed and we lost a lot of grounds.  Ashley Brown at Seven Hills, and Lynwood Park to mention a couple.

The girls’ competition started in the late 80’s and we supplied referees to these games.

Holroyd George Cross was our first ethnic team.  Hellas and Colo Colo were other ethnic teams.  Granville does not now allow ethnic names for clubs.  We had teams from places of work, one was Firestone, and another was the Police.

We did the Seven-Day Adventist competition for a while.

We had a big wet that cancelled Granville competition in 1989.  We offered our services to Southern Districts, Blacktown, and Gladesville.  Gladesville was the only association to take up our offer, and we started doing AA Division 12, but it was not long before we were doing their Premier League.  Such was the quality of Granville Referees.  We obtained some good ideas on an evaluation from, and made many friends.

About 30 years ago, one of our referees was called 10 yard Sid. Another used to caution known naughty players before the game started.  Another was called the hatchet man.  Another was the one arm bandit, who always dropped his coin and lost it during junior games. This gentleman lost his arm in a work incident, but he was an excellent referee.

We used to use two referees in the Banks' competition, during the 70’s.  A system that FIFA is now investigating.

The Treasurer used to put the cash for the match fees in little envelopes and pay the referees at the meetings.

We needed an incentive for our junior referees, and the Harry Berle, Bill Mare, Jack Newhouse, trophy was introduced for the most improved referee.  Game control, attendance at meetings, availability, personality were all used to assess the receiver of the award.

One of our referees was accidentally hit with a ball in the back of the head after a game and suffered serious injury.  He fully recovered with help from our association members, and went back to refereeing.  A good lesson in perseverance, and stamina.

Only a small number of our referees have been assaulted on the field, and these have been dealt with swiftly by Granville.  Sadly this item is occurring more often.

One of our junior referees caught a train to the Blue Mountains one-year to fulfill his appointment.  He used to catch multiple buses to his games.  This was only a few years ago.

Lynwood Park had a set of twins, and we had trouble on the second caution.  Fred’s system was to mark one of the twin’s arms with his pen at the start of the game; this worked well.

Last year a dinner was held for all existing life members and their wives. This was a first. They came from up to 250 km’s to attend this meeting.

We have a lot of dual registered members in our association who referee with the Federation. We also used to have a number of Amateur Association referees dual registered.

We have had some outstanding referees go through our ranks. Simon Micallef’s father Dennis, used to referee, and Simon used to run his lines from age 12.  He then obtained his badge, and then went to federation, and is now a retired FIFA referee.  He was also on the Olympic panel.

Greg Leverton started with Granville, and also became a top national referee, with selection on the paraplegic Olympic panel.  Greg unfortunately had to retire early due to an injury.

Brian Seymour started with Granville and was a top national assistant referee.

Heidi Calder was our top lady referee, doing Federation and State League ladies games.

Some of our other achievements are: -

Fred Batts is now north of Newcastle and is the branch coach there.  He was our secretary for many years. 

We are currently represented by many members on the Women's Premier League and Premier Youth League Panels.  We have, in recent years, also had members honoured with selection on various National Referees Panels.  These are Nicolas Backo, who has been selected on the National Youth League Panels as an Assistant Referee and Kris Giffiths-Jones was selected on The Hyundai A-League panel as a Referee. 

We have done many champion of champion games, ladies state titles, sent referees to the representative games, and participated in the state titles each year, with referees and inspectors.

Granville has supplied a lot of inspectors to the Federation; three of the top people are Geoff Leverton, Alan Townsend and Paul Micalleff.  George Alexander, Geoff Leverton, Joe Rovella and Richard Baker are current NSW State League Football Referees Assessors

The Cottom Cup is the oldest trophy for knock out competition in Australia.  The challenge shield is the oldest soccer trophy in Australia.

We have run referees courses in bowling clubs, RSL clubs, football clubs, and backyard garages. Our buddy system is a great innovation to help new referees.  We also have three Ordinary Members on the Management Committee who represents members with no questions asked.  This is an avenue for members to ask questions that may embarrass them, or where they wish to be anonymous.

Training courses and fitness tests are approximately 20 years old now.  Before that we used to train with clubs where possible.  The new system is a much better way of getting fit and preparing for the season.

Referees must attend a seminar before the season starts to be brought up to speed with any new rule changes.

We have always supplied referees to assist at judiciary meetings.  We attend the Granville general and executive meetings.  We attend the AA meetings (now called Football NSW State Referees Technical Committee).

Referees fees were fixed by discussion with Granville and us, they are now set by Football NSW.

Did you know that FIFA referees are not paid for world cup games, they are only paid expenses?

In line with current terminology and policy Granville District Soccer Referees Association (GDSRA) changed there name to Granville District Football Referees Association (GDFRA) at the 2010 AGM.

This history was put together by our Branch Coach, Mr. Charles Yendle and the kind assistance of his friends, Geoff Leverton, John Kemp, and Fred Batts.


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