ONE of County Durham’s longest serving football referees will receive an MBE in the New Year for nearly six decades of dedication to the profession.

Terry Farley, from Newton Aycliffe, enjoyed 15 years as a top-flight official. He has refereed at some of Europe’s top stadiums, including Old Trafford, Anfield, Barcelona, Milan and Wembley, and officiated matches involving stars including Diego Maradona and the Charlton Brothers.

The 77-year-old now has a new honour to add to his list, which he plans to collect from Buckingham Palace with his wife, Marina, and sons, Nigel and Gary.

Mr Farley, who first became a referee in 1952, 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 1962, he was appointed secretary of the Bishop Auckland Referees Society, a position he still holds today, and has been a coach for up-andcoming referees since retiring from the Football League circuit in 1981. He is involved in the FA’s initiative to recruit, retain and develop the referees of the future and was appointed a member of the coaching team of this national venture.

In 1980, he received a long service award from the National Referees Association and in 1999 was made a life member of the group.

In 2002 he celebrated his 50th year as part of the FA and in 2006 he received the Unsung Hero Award in The Northern Echo’s annual Local Heroes ceremony.

Mr Farley, also well-known as a driving instructor in Newton Aycliffe, said: “When I opened the letter I was in shock. When I came down to earth, I couldn’t believe it.

“I realise what an honour and a privilege this is not just for me but also for all referees, especially in County Durham.”