Tributes pour in for former Football League referee Billy Burns

Billy Burns
Billy Burns

Tributes have poured in for former Football League referee Billy Burns, who passed away on Friday at the age of 66.

He refereed in the Football League from 1988 until his retirement in 2001, having been an assistant referee in the Football League for three years before this.

He officiated in the 1996 Division Three Play-off final between Plymouth and Darlington, Argyle winning 1-0 in the game at Wembley.Stadium, and he also refereed the 2001 Football League Trophy final at the Millennium Stadium Cardiff, Port Vale beating Brentford 2-1. This was his final game refereeing in the Football League.

The North Riding FA Tweeted: "Sad to learn of the passing of local referee Billy Burns. Billy reached the very top level and was a great supporter of local football in the Scarborough & wider North Yorkshire area. Our thoughts are with Billy’s family & friends at this very sad time. RIP Billy."

Former ref Steve Rowntree, who is now a referee's coach and observer, also paid tribute to his friend on Facebook.

"Well don’t normally put anything on here but yesterday Scarborough lost a true legend. The one and only Billy Burns sadly passed away. Bill guided several of us referees in our early years and helped us along in our careers. If only we could bring back the hours we spent talking football of all levels at games or especially when he was our milkman On a Friday evening collection day.
"I’m sat here now having a fisherman’s friend just for you Bill. You will never be forgotten big man always in our thoughts.
"Love and our thoughts are with all the family. Anything we can do we are here for you.

"RIP Bill Love you."

Top local referee George Roberts paid tribute to Billy on Facebook.

"The football community is a wonderful environment and you meet some amazing people. On Friday it lost one of its very best in Bill Burns. A kind hearted gentleman who would offer some invaluable advise to me as a up and coming referee.

"Bill who refereed at the very top of the English game for decades took change of the Football League Third Division Final, FA Vase Final and The Football League Trophy Final in what was a remarkable and inspiring career.

"I am so very fortunate to have spend numerous enjoyable times with Bill and his loving family over the past years. It has been extremely hard over the past weeks and months to see Bill in pain on many visits to him in Hospital and at Home but he is now at peace from all the suffering.

"Bill Burns such an inspirational gentleman on many fronts, will be sadly missed."

West Pier Football Club also posted a tribute on Facebook.

"More sad news within the footballing family as we heard that Billy Burns passed away yesterday. Billy was a true gentleman of the game and a great person away from football.

"As a referee Billy reached the very top and reffed a handful of Premier League games in its early days along with countless Football League games over many years. His career highlight actually probably wasn’t reffing a WPFC match but a Play Off Final at Wembley Stadium!!

"Billy always reffed with a smile on his face engaging in banter with the players who duly respected the man in the middle. Billy reffed a number of our games and we recall him officiating at Hutton Buscel (Theatre of Sheep) and up Oliver’s Mount. It didn’t matter to Billy if he was reffing West Pier Res the week after he was reffing in the Football League... he always demonstrated the same enthusiasm for the job.

"All at West Pier FC pass our condolences to Jenny, Norm, Stu, Katrina, Kelly and all the family.

"RIP Billy a true legend of local football."

A minute’s applause was held in memory of Billy before Scarborough Athletic’s home match against South Shields on Bank Holiday Monday.

Billy’s funeral will be held on Friday September 6, 1pm at St Mark’s Church, followed by burial in Woodlands Cemetery.