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Hanging from crossbars and VAR: Suffolk group put to gruelling referee test

PUBLISHED: 19:00 04 December 2019

Members of the Ipswich County Library Sporting Memories group were put to their paces in a heated Football Association exam  Picture: OLIVER SULLIVAN

Members of the Ipswich County Library Sporting Memories group were put to their paces in a heated Football Association exam Picture: OLIVER SULLIVAN

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Members of a local Sporting Memories group were put to the test in a heated head-to-head refereeing exam by two former Suffolk FA officials.

The Ipswich County Library group, who meet every Tuesday, were challenged by former referees Martin Stiff and David Cook, in the 50-question test - which included some quirky additions by Mr Stiff.

Questions in the test ranged from simple penalty decisions to the bizarre notion of what happens if a goalkeeper saves a shot while hanging from the crossbar.

Clearly arriving with their thinking caps on, all of the more than 15 involved scored at least 75% in the test - including a current Suffolk FA referee left baffled by some of Mr Stiff's funny questions.

Mr Stiff, 75, said: "I thoroughly enjoyed it.

"After working as a referee for 40 years, I feel there is always something we can learn - and let me tell you, our normal Tuesday sessions include some heated debates after a questionable performance at Ipswich Town.

"It was amazing to see so many fantastic results in the test."

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The game has changed greatly since picking up his refereeing book in 1968, with the addition of VAR splitting heads.

Mr Stiff said: "I'm absolutely flabbergasted with it in honesty - and I'm sure the others here are too. Some of it is crazy.

"But a big change has to be the level of respect towards the referee."

Former class one referee Mr Cook, who gave a speech on his varied career before the exam, said footballers these days "could take a leaf" out of a rugby player's book.

He added: "My only wish is spectators, players and all involved in the game learn to respect their officials."

The weekly group, part of the national Sporting Memories CIC, aims to improve the mental and physical wellbeing of the older community by engaging people in stimulating conversation and reminiscence.

Previous guest speakers at groups in Suffolk include former Ipswich and England captain Terry Butcher and Ipswich Witches legend Chris Louis.

Mr Stiff added: "We would love to see more people getting involved in the group.

"It is a great opportunity to get outside, meet new people and discuss your favourite sports."

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