Popular former rugby league referee John Holdsworth sadly dies

POPULAR rugby league referee John Holdsworth has passed away aged 76.

John was one of the sport’s leading officials through the 1980s and ‘90s, taking charge of numerous major matches including two Challenge Cup Finals at Wembley, a record six Premiership Finals between 1981-93, and the first World Club Challenge between Wigan and Manly at Central Park in 1987 – when he dismissed the Manly forward Ronnie Gibbs for a late hit on Joe Lydon.

He retired in 1995 after 17 seasons on the Grade 1 list, but remained closely involved with Rugby League in a number of roles including match commissioner and especially coaching future generations of officials – standing down as the head coach of Yorkshire referees only last year, at the age of 75, after more than a decade in the role.

Dave Elliott, the RFL’s acting Head of Match Officials, said: “John Holdsworth made a significant contribution to Rugby League, both as a leading referee and then in a number of other roles after his retirement.

“The long list of major matches for which he was appointed underlines the respect in which he was held, by colleagues, coaches and players – and he became a familiar figure for supporters and television viewers for well over a decade.

“On behalf of the RFL and the wider sport of Rugby League, we send condolences to his wife Marlene, their family and friends.

“We have lost a number of distinguished former officials in recent weeks, and Match Officials at the remainder of this weekend’s fixtures, including the televised matches at Leigh and Hull KR, will wear black armbands in tribute to John, Fred Lindop, Billy Blunden and Mick Beaumont.”