Forget VAR....Chesterfield veteran Ralph, 78, is what real refereeing is all about
There’s no need for VAR when veteran Chesterfield referee Ralph Morton is around.
Which possibly explains why he’s so popular and highly respected – and why he’s still officiating at the grand age of 78.
Grandad Ralph prefers to deploy his wisdom and experience, rather than rely on technology, and local football, particularly in the Chesterfield Sunday League, where he now referees most of his matches, is all the more enjoyable for it.
Stockley Park was not even a twinkle in the father of the Video Assistant Referee’s eye when Ralph started reffing way back in 1975.
Last Saturday was his 78th birthday as he completed 45 years out in the middle, and tributes flowed from players, officials and supporters who have encountered him over the years.
They were led by top-ranking former Premier League referee Bobby Madley, who said: “Ralph is a true football hero. What an inspiration to us all. People like him make the grassroots game what it is. Long may he continue.”
Birthday messages on Facebook abounded. They ranged from ‘excellent ref and all-round top man’ to ‘a true legend and a gentleman’.
A supporter of his home town club, Leeds United, Ralph took up refereeing after finishing playing. He moved to Chesterfield in 1977 when gaining promotion in his job as a births. marriages and deaths registrar.
One of his career highlights was running the line in front of 58,000 fans at Wembley for an England schoolboy international against Brazil in 1988.
He reckons he has officiated in almost 3,000 local-league games, and not even a mild stroke in 2001 could stop him for long. He was named referee of the year in the Chesterfield Sunday League as recently as 2017/18.
A league spokesman said: “He is as enthusiastic now as ever, and is always immaculately turned out.
“He turns up for all his games early to catch up on the latest banter, and to check if he refereed the dads or even grandads of the current crop of players!
“He starts every game with a declaration of ‘Gentleman, enjoy!’, and is a footballing friend to hundreds.”
Modestly, Ralph himself says: “I thoroughly enjoy it and always give the best I can. I just love the game.”