A well-known referee and amateur football stalwart Ray Ryland has died aged 68.
Father-of-three Ray chalked up 50 years as a referee and was a linesman in the Football League in the 1980s.
Only people involved with grassroots football know how many untold hours are spent organising and arranging football along with the problems that occur on a daily basisJohn Pilling
“He was a real character,” said son John. “He was a lovely man and loved his family, his work and his football.
“He officiated at a high level, in what is now the Conference and the League Two, and was also, before the time of fourth officials, a reserve at Burnley games.”
Ray was highly influential in amateur football in the area.
As well as refereeing in local leagues on Saturdays and Sundays, Ray was a founder member of the Burnley Miners’ Sunday League which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
He also helped to set up the Warburton’s Youth League in 1990 where he was secretary and then chairman for more than 20 years.
Ray worked as a purchaser at Lucas Electricals for 32 years and was also a parts delivery driver for Chorley Nissan in Burnley for around 10 years.
“Ray was a real character and as a referee he was harsh but fair,” said Burnley Miners’ Chairman John Pilling.
“A few of us started the youth league in 1990 and it had just nine teams in it. Three years later there were 126 teams in it.
“Only people involved with grassroots football know how many untold hours are spent organising and arranging football along with the problems that occur on a daily basis. Thousands of players must have been involved over the years.”
Ray, who lived on Hall Park Avenue, was born at Bank Hall in Burnley but went to Dagenham when he was six months old with his family before returning to East Lancashire in 1965.
“He never lost his Cockney accent,” added son John. “It was distinctive.”
Ray, who died in the Royal Blackburn Hospital, leaves wife Valerie along with children John, Susan and Carol and five grandchildren.