By Martin Clark, Mark Doyle, Calum Murray and Paul Reid
George Smith has intimated his retirement as a Referee Observer. This brings to an end 58 years of active involvement in refereeing. In due course, the Management Committee will discuss the most appropriate way to mark Mr Smith’s unprecedented contribution to our Association and to Scottish refereeing more generally.
Many members will know Mr Smith only as a Referee Observer. It was, however, as a referee that he first made his mark and assembled a refereeing CV that, for an Edinburgh referee, is unlikely to be surpassed. Largely due to his own modesty, it is little talked of these days. But it seems appropriate to set out some of the highlights to place his career, and news of his retirement, in its proper context. Having passed his entrance examination in August 1961, Mr Smith was promoted to Category 1 in 1971. He was first nominated as a FIFA referee in 1974 (at the then remarkably early age of 31) and served continuously between 1978 and 1991. He was regularly appointed to European club matches, including the 1989 quarter final, second leg between AC Milan and Werder Bremen (a match featuring the likes of Maldini, Van Basten, Gullit and Carlo Ancelotti). On the international stage, he was appointed to the Finals of the FIFA World Student Games (1987) and the FIFA World Youth Tournament (1989). But the pinnacle of his career arrived in 1990 with his appointment to referee at the World Cup Finals in Italy. He remains the only Edinburgh official to have been appointed to referee at a World Cup Finals.
Domestically, his achievements are similarly without rival. He was, in 1980, the first Edinburgh referee to take change of the Scottish Cup Final (an Old Firm Final, no less; he ran the line on the final 12 years earlier). He went on to referee the finals of 1988 and 1990 (the latter was the first to be decided by penalties; the only other final decided that way being the 2006 final, which was the next to be referee by an Edinburgh referee, his prodigy D G McDonald). That tally of refereeing three Cup Finals is the same as the rest of the Association put together! In 1988 and 1989, Mr Smith also refereed the Scottish League Cup Final. It almost goes without saying, that throughout his time at Category 1, he was a regular feature of the biggest games in the country.
In August 1992, Mr Smith retired from active refereeing and in November 1992 was appointed to what is now known as the Referee Committee. He served on the Referee Committee for 15 years. Removal of the mandatory retirement age of 70 extended his time in the stand, which concluded earlier this week with his retirement. During that time, referees throughout Scotland, but most particularly within our Association, have benefitted greatly from his advice, experience, support and friendship.
That is only a summary of an unprecedented career. Fuller tributes will be paid at the November meeting. But it hopefully gives some context to a career that this Association is unlikely to see matched. And after 58 years, we all wish Mr Smith a very well earned, much deserved and happy retirement.