TRIBUTES have been paid to a Darlington referee and father-of-two who died while playing in a five-a-side football match last week.

Paul Adamson, 43, of Statham Place, collapsed during the final of the Durham County Referees' annual competition in Carrville, Durham.

Fellow players and an ambulance crew tried to resuscitate him without success.

Mr Adamson, a van driver, leaves behind wife Anne, son Craig and daughter Kimberley.

A former Northern League and Wearside League footballer, he took up refereeing several years ago and was a referee in The Northern Echo Sunday Invitation League.

He also used to run Darlington RA reserves and worked for many years at The Northern Echo.

Dave Tucker, referees' representative in The Northern Echo league, said the whole refereeing fraternity was 'torn apart' by Mr Adamson's death.

"Everybody is just devastated because he was such a popular lad," he said. "I knew Paul very well. He was a smashing bloke, a family man, a great centre forward and a superb referee.

"He was the sort of lad who was the first to volunteer for anything. He was so young, but he actually had a heart problem a couple of years ago."

George Cornforth, secretary of Darlington Referees' Society, said: "I've known him for 20 years and he was very respected.

"He played football at a fairly high level and he had a lot of time for people. He supported the younger referees and did a lot for school football.

"He would do anything for anybody and will be sadly missed."

Ken Moore, secretary of The Northern Echo league, said: "He was just a genuine, smashing, nice guy. I have spoken to grown men in tears several times today."

The Northern Echo league postponed all its games on Sunday as a mark of respect. Mr Adamson's funeral is being held at 2.15pm today (Thursday) at St Mark's Church. The family asks that any donations, in lieue of flowers, be sent to The British Heart Foundation