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My 10 favourite referees of all-time in North Wales football

Kevin Parry – one of Wales’ finest referees over the years. Picture: Clint Hughes, Getty Images

I’ve chosen hundreds of players for various Best XI’s in North Wales football over the years, but have never listed my favourite referees.

As is the case with footballers, selecting the finest officials can often be very subjective.

You may like a particular referee’s style of controlling a match. He or she could be very strict, constantly applying the letter of the law, letting the players know who’s boss.

At the same time an over-fussy man/woman in the middle can disrupt the flow of play, become the centre of attention for all the wrong reasons.

Regardless, that type of official may appeal to you.

Or you may prefer a ref who lets the players get on with it more, doesn’t blow their whistle every 30 seconds, has a more light-hearted manner rather than dishing out commands and decisions like a sergeant major.

Sometimes with the more laid-back approach comes too much leniency, though.

Me? I prefer a referee who doesn’t enforce too many stoppages, makes allowances for certain conditions underfoot when tackles fly in and lets a few feisty challenges go (within reason) until there is no option other than to brandish a card.

I certainly rate any referee who talks to the players, not at them. Also a ref who has the guts to make a tough call, even if it means upsetting rowdy home fans.

Over the last 30 plus years of reporting, I’ve covered hundreds of games and seen some what I consider excellent refereeing displays, as well as quite a few pretty awful ones.

Here are 10 of the officials I rate the highest.

My 10 top North Wales referees

Howie Farrall

Never saw him have a bad game.
Most of his appointments I witnessed were at tier 2 Cymru Alliance level.
His decision-making was generally always spot-on and if any nonsense started he was not afraid to dish out punishment.
As a player Howie is best remembered for his performances in a Prestatyn Town shirt, where he was also assistant-manager to Eddie Garratt in the 1990’s.

Cheryl Foster

A true inspiration for referees – especially female ones – in Wales.
With her 63 Wales caps and club successes with Liverpool and Bangor City, striker Cheryl achieved enough as a player to secure legendary status in the women’s game.
However, since taking up refereeing in 2013, she has made an equally massive impact encompassing both genres.
In December 2015, she was appointed to FIFA’s international list. Since then, she has led the first all-women officials team in a men’s final and taken the whistle in several internationals.
She also regularly referees in the men’s tier 1 Cymru Premier League.
Last month Cheryl was promoted to Uefa’s group of Women Elite referees.

Kevin Parry

Anglesey-based Parry blew the final whistle on a long and illustrious refereeing career this summer.
He started refereeing aged 18 and officiated for 35 years.
A paramedic, Parry rose up the refereeing ladder very quickly. He became a Welsh Premier League referee in 1993, and being on the FIFA list meant he also received many European appointments over the years.
In 2012 came one of his career highlights when he refereed the Welsh Cup Final between The New Saints and Cefn Druids at Nantporth.
He is now a referee’s observer helping guide the next generation of match officials.
Kevin was always one of the best around. Consistent, approachable, firm but fair.

Brian Lawlor

I remember Brian being a few years ahead of me in primary school and standing out in all sports.
He went on to become one of Wales’ finest and most respected referees.
The Holyhead man was on the Welsh Premier League Referee’s List from the inaugural season in 1992 until his retirement at the end of 2006/07.
He was promoted onto the FIFA International List in 1995 and stepped down in 2006
Lawlor refereed both international matches and European ties during his long career with the whistle.
He now helps develop the referees of tomorrow by leading courses and is a top assessor in Welsh football.

Emrys Williams

Denbigh man Emrys was in his 51st season as a football referee when he passed away in 2008, aged 76.
Always extremely fit, he officiated at most levels of football in Wales and also ran the line in a couple of European ties.
He was a good referee. Very keen, always up with the ever-changing rules and respected by fellow officials, players and managers alike.
In 2003, he received a special award from the Football Association of Wales to mark 47 years as a referee.
Also a very well-known figure in local government, Emrys served as Mayor of Denbigh four times.
He worked for Denbighshire and Clwyd education departments for 52 years.

Gwyn Pierce Owen

The Godfather of Welsh referees officiated regularly in the English Football League in the 1970s and 80s, including many games in the old Division One.
Former FIFA referee Pierce Owen, from Tynygongl, Benllech, also had a stint in the North American Soccer League in the 1970s.
He refereed five internationals – including England v Northern Ireland – and 19 European cup games in 17 different countries. His autobiography, C’mon Ref, was published in 1999.
Gwyn sadly passed away on July 31, 2019, aged 85.
As well as being a top-class referee, he also became well-known as the long-serving president of Bangor City FC. A legend of a man and a superb referee, always on the ball.

Harry Guest

I only ever saw him referee at Clwyd League level – but what a character.
Harry’s chats with offending players were legendary. He let everyone know he was in charge, but was also not averse to having a laugh now and again.
One of Harry’s biggest and certainly best-publicised calls was to postpone a game due to sheep droppings.
In 2007, Harry cancelled a Clwyd League President’s Cup match between Caerwys Reserves and Rhuddlan Town.
After a pre-match pitch inspection discovered what he considered too much sheep poo on the surface, Harry refused to let the game go ahead on health and safety grounds.

Ffrangcon Roberts

Another in the Gwyn Pierce Owen mould.
Ffrangcon refereed games involving all the top clubs in the old Football League Division One and was a regular face on Match of the Day and The Big Match.
The Prestatyn man and ex-Fifa referee received a Special Merit award for his services to Welsh football in 2012 alongside former Wales international Peter Rodrigues, who won 40 caps and captained Southampton when they won the FA Cup in 1976.
Ffrangcon is now a Cymru Leagues observer.

Heinz Broering

Picture: Wynne Evans

German-born Heinz moved to Anglesey in 1999 due to having found work there.
He was soon involved in refereeing, having taken a course in his homeland, and earned himself a reputation as one of the most respected officials around.
You will rarely hear a bad word about Heinz in relation to his refereeing – an approachable, very fair match official who could also be firm when needed.
He has enjoyed many prestigious engagements over the years but says his most memorable was being appointed for his first ever cup final – the NWCFA Junior Cup final at Porthmadog in the 2000/2001 season (won by Nantlle Vale).

Terry Atkinson

Just one game of seeing this man with the whistle convinced me he was refereeing royalty.
The 2014-15 NWCFA Junior Cup final between Llandudno Albion and Trearddur Bay Reserves was a classic, and much of that was down to how Atkinson let the match flow.
Upon investigation after the game, I discovered Terry had refereed at a much higher level, which didn’t surprise me at all.
When you watch a storming game but remember the referee’s performance as much as the players, it says it all.

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