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Ref dies on pitch

PUBLISHED: 18:00 06 February 2002 | UPDATED: 11:18 03 March 2010

PHIL Blurton was a man who lived for his family and his football.

But today the much-loved referee who collapsed and died on the pitch during a match on Sunday as a result of a hidden heart condition is being mourned across Suffolk.

PHIL Blurton was a man who lived for his family and his football.

But today the much-loved referee who collapsed and died on the pitch during a match on Sunday as a result of a hidden heart condition is being mourned across Suffolk.

Football was always his second love in life after his wife of 35 years Janet, and their three children Sian, 31, Sarah 28 and Dave 22.

The former Port of Felixstowe employee took up refereeing in 1988 when Dave started playing the game.

Today at his Boydlands home in Capel St.Mary his family paid tribute to a dearly loved father, husband and granddad of eight-year-old Luke, and five-year-old Sam and Megan.

Janet said: "He was absolutely wonderful.

"It is just such an honour and a privilege to have been part of his life. I loved him to bits. He was a gentle giant."

Mr Blurton suffered his fatal illness while in the process of refereeing a match between Hadleigh Goldstars and the Ferry Boat team from Felixstowe on Sunday morning.

The game at East Bergholt High School was brought to an abrupt end during the second half when Mr Blurton collapsed on the pitch and could not be revived, despite the frantic efforts of footballers and paramedics.

A former Southend apprentice and a huge Ipswich Town fan, Mr Blurton's family are planning to scatter some of his ashes at the Portman Road ground in memory of him.

His death strikes a double tragedy for the neighbourhood that is still reeling from the brutal stabbing of Joan Albert in December.

Janet said that her husband had died from a condition called Ischaemic heart disease which no-one in the family knew that he had.

The couple met at a dance in Basildon and were engaged after two weeks of knowing one another.

Mr Blurton took early retirement after working at Anzani at the Port of Felixstowe and then at BT in Martlesham Heath as an internet systems engineer.

He was in the process of completing a biology degree at the University of Essex and was due to finish this year.

Barry Felgate, Suffolk County competitions and referees appointments secretary, was with Mr Blurton at the match on Sunday.

He said: "When I spoke to him just before the match he was very, very perky.

"Then I saw him at half time and he said how he was really enjoying the match and said which team he thought should be winning.

"He said that he would see me after the game but that was the last I saw of him."

Mr Blurton is said to have collapsed without warning at around 11.30am.

Mr Felgate said: "I had turned to watch another match playing side by side with that one when I heard lots of people shouting.

"I saw people crowding around and I thought that one of the players had broken their leg.

"Then I noticed it was Phil. Apparently he had been fine one minute and had just collapsed to the floor the next.

His family said they wanted to thank everyone who had tried so hard to save him.

Sarah said: "They tried for nearly an hour to save him but they did not know there was nothing they could do.

"We do appreciate that and all their help -people have been amazing since."

The funeral will be held at Capel St Mary Parish Church at 11.30am on Thursday February 14 followed by a committal at Colchester Crematorium.

Family flowers only have been requested but donations should go to the NSPCC, a charity that he particularly supported, and should be forwarded to the Co-operative Funeral Directors, 10 Upper Orwell Street, Ipswich.

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