Legendary Derbyshire football referee, the oldest in the UK, passes away, aged 91

Harry Hardy.
Harry Hardy.

Legendary Derbyshire football referee, Harry Hardy, who was still officiating matches at the age of 89, has sadly passed away.

Mr Hardy, who was the oldest referee in the country, joined Erewash Valley Referee Society in 1959 and was in charge of more than 3,000 matches.

The great-grandfather of six had to stop refereeing two years ago when he had a fall at home.

He passed away yesterday, aged 91.

Chairman of Erewash Valley Referee Society, Pete Carter, said: “He was a gentleman and a wonderful guy.”

After joining Erewash Valley Referee Society in 1959 he was appointed secretary three years later.

Mr Hardy was also a member of The Derbyshire County Football Association and passed on his refereeing knowledge to trainees.

He was recognised for his services to football and was awarded a British Empire Medal in 2013 and received a special award from Prince William on behalf of The Football Association at Buckingham Palace.

Away from football, he did a lot of charity work for various good causes in Ilkeston, where he lived all his life.

During World War Two he initially joined the RAF but was transferred to the army where he served in India and Burma with the Sherwood Foresters and the Fourth Border Regiment.

Mr Hardy was married to his late wife Margaret and they had two sons, six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Mr Carter, chairman of Erewash Referee Society for 20 years, said that when Mr Hardy had to step down from his role after his fall it was 'like having your right arm missing'.

Mr Carter also said that one of his fondest memories of his close friend was when he gave a player a 'full salute' and marched him off the pitch for bad behaviour.

"I will miss him getting on his bike and riding to my house to tell me the latest news from the head office," Mr Carter said. "It would not be via email, it would be push bike."

He added: “Harry’s passing has hit us to the core. He would go out of his way to help anyone.”

The Erewash Valley Referee Society plan to name an award in his honour.

On Twitter, Derbyshire FA said: "We would like to pass on our condolences to Harry's family and friends during this difficult time. To recognise Harry's dedication to the game, all teams playing in our County Cups this weekend will hold a minutes silence before kick-off. Thank you and Rest in Peace Harry."