An 88-year-old referee has told talkSPORT now is the time to become an official as he hangs up his whistle after a glorious 70-year career refereeing the likes of Diego Maradona.
Terry Farley’s venture into refereeing began back in 1952 and is still going to this day, with his final game coming at the end of January.
Talking to Hawksbee and Jacobs, the officiating legend spoke about a career that has spanned seven decades and countries across Europe.
The veteran also explained why now is as good a time as any to become a referee, and how he still maintains peak fitness to this day.
“On January 4, 1952 was when I first passed my referees’ examination at the headquarters of the Durham Football Association,” Farley explained.
“So on January 4, 2022 I had completed 70 years as a Durham county referee, so I thought, ‘Well, at 88 it’s time to hang up the whistle after 70 years of a career which has given me an awful lot of pleasure.’
“[The game has] changed immensely, I started off in the grassroots and made my way up the progress ladder and in 1965 I received an invitation from the Football League, in those days, to become a linesman.
“Again I progressed until I got on the referees list in the Football League which saw me refereeing Manchester, Liverpool, et cetera.
“I ran the line twice at Hampden Park when Scotland played Peru and Scotland played Argentina and that’s when the name Maradona first hit the headlines and we realised what a wonderful player he was.
“I ran the line at Wembley in the Charity Shield, I ran the line at Barcelona and Juventus.”
After a frankly incredible career in the game, Farley is as well positioned as anyone to judge the current state of affairs in the game.
The video assistant referee (VAR) had changed refereeing irreversibly, with the International Football Association Board writing the change into the rules of the game in 2018, before the Premier League signed up for the 2019/20 season.
Farley remembers back in his day when highlights were televised, there was far less scrutiny.
“In those days when I was refereeing in the Football League we had Match of the Day and ITV did a spot as well, but of course now every game in the Premier League is analysed, VAR takes over on occasions so it’s evolved over the years.”
Farley also believes that abuse directed at referees has only got worse since he started.
“It’s a big issue,” he said. “Again going back to when I refereed in junior football which was quite strong in those days, generally speaking respect from the touchlines and respect from the players was good.
“But the amount of abuse referees get these days really is unacceptable, both on and off the field I’m afraid, that’s at grassroots level as well.”
Many will wonder how the octogenarian is still going, and he’s revealed he tries to maintain his fitness just as much as when he started out.
“I’ve always been fit, I played football for the school, I was a fairly good cross country runner, I played squash, cricket, et cetera,” he said. “I’m in the gym four times a week now, I’m pretty fit, I really am.
“I wasn’t one for standing in the centre circle, I took pride in my fitness, obviously at 88 years of age you’re not as fit as you were.
“I’ve got a game coming up a week on Sunday at Durham University which will be the final one, and Tyne Tees Television are coming out too to cover me and will be the last game.”
Many are put off by the abuse and scrutiny that referees are put under in the modern game, but Farley has a clear message for anyone looking to start a career.
“In my view there’s never been a better time to be a referee because in my day you were pretty much on your own,” he said.
“Now you’ve got coaches and mentors and observers so if you want to be a referee then now’s the time.”
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