HE may have refereed some of the best names that the game of football has to offer – but County Durham’s own Terry Farley has hung up his whistle after over 70 years of officiating the sport that he holds dear to him.

After beginning his chosen profession in 1952 as a grassroots referee, the Newton Aycliffe lad never realised that all these years later, he’d be looking back on a career that spanned seven decades and saw him climb the ladder right to the top – refereeing some of the finest club and international sides and some of the best global superstars.

Now, at the age of 88, Mr Farley has looked back at his time as an official, which has seen him be the linesman at Hampden Park twice to officiate Scotland vs Peru and Scotland vs Argentina. However, it was the latter fixture at the Scottish stadium that has true significance for the referee.

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The year was 1979 and on June 2, it was the day that the County Durham referee met Diego Maradona, who scored that day and helped his team to a 3-1 win against the Scottish national side.

Despite sharing the pitch with Maradona, Terry always keeps his feet on the ground, especially after refereeing all over the world, which has seen him take charge at Barcelona and Juventus respectively, Manchester United, Liverpool, Wembley, refereed the Charlton brothers – you name them, he’s completed it and got the t-shirt.

Looking back on his career, the 88-year-old has revealed how he first became a referee after his early years of playing football.

The Northern Echo: Terry has gained accolades over the years, including an MBE and FA-related awards. Terry has gained accolades over the years, including an MBE and FA-related awards.

He said: “I played for West Cornforth Juniors since I was 15 but realised, I wouldn’t be good enough for the seniors.

“My friend, who was a referee, suggested I give it a go so I could stay in the game and have something to do on Saturdays.”

In the years that have followed since he became a referee, Mr Farley has always stuck to his roots – becoming the secretary and then the president of the Bishop Auckland Referees’ Association, juggling a career as a driving instructor in Newton Aycliffe and has been involved in the FA’s initiative to recruit, retain, and develop the referees of the future.

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At the age of 88, the referee, who has an MBE to his name, realises that he’s not “quite as fit as I once was,” but admits that he’s still in the gym four times a week.

He said: “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.

“On January 4, 1952, was when I first passed my referees’ examination at the headquarters of the Durham Football Association.

The Northern Echo: From Maradona to the Charlton Brothers and from Barcelona to Wembley, Terry has officiated them all.From Maradona to the Charlton Brothers and from Barcelona to Wembley, Terry has officiated them all.

“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.

"It's the right time to bow out of football gracefully."

Terry admits that referees “these days” get more criticism and scrutiny than they ever have but has encouraged the next generation to get involved in refereeing and follow in his footsteps.

Mr Farley was supposed to be bowing out of the refereeing circuit on Sunday, where he was supposed to be taking charge of a match at Durham University, but he has since announced that it won;t be going ahead and he will instead bid farewell regardless. 

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