Tales from 55 years a Liverpool Sunday League ref

No blog for a couple of weeks as I have actually been researching a proper blog !! Back in the day I used to play a bit of Sunday league footy myself before hanging my boots up due a combination of grabbing overtime and also not being arsed with the occasional bit of aggro on a Sunday morning. Back then in my 20’s you don’t realise that with no referees there will be no game. Earlier on towards the very end of last season I went down to watch a local team called Fullwood managed by a mate and I ended up running the line for the referee. This was no normal referee but one that had been doing the rounds in Liverpool for many years. This got me thinking how it would be interesting to do a blog about this referee and write a little bit of local history. So this week I got Mr William Collinson’s number and arranged to meet him for a chat about his time as a referee. He soon put me straight on the phone “call me Billy, Mr Collinson makes me sound like an old man” So here is a bit of the story of 78 year old Billy Collinson from Aigburth.

Billy refereed his first match in 1959 in The Bridgnorth League after playing a bit for A.T & E. Bridgnorth FC who were division 3 challenge cup runners up in the Wellington & District Amateur League in 1961-62 and winners in 1962-63 you can see the club badges and shields won below along with an article about his team. Billy then returned from Shropshire to Liverpool to referee in The Shipping League, The Liverpool Sunday League, The Business Houses league and a couple of years doing junior football as well just to name a few of the leagues Billy has refereed in. So as I made Billy a cup of tea I settled down and asked him a few questions. I did try and record the interview on my iPhone but me clearly not being a reporter it didn’t work !

Club badges

Billy trophies


Billy article




Q: What was the best match or matches you have refereed in ?

A: I have refereed so many matches and go back so far that none stand out. Most matches I referee are good ones and ones I enjoy.

Q: Who have been the best teams you have seen over the years ?

A: The Railway, The Pineapple and teams that played out of the old Peel Hall off Park Road.

Q: Can you name any players who went on to pro footy over the years you have been a ref ?

A: I can’t recall any. I don’t really do individuals but prefer to referee the teams playing the match.

Q: What things have changed over the 55 years being a ref ?

A: The whole concept of being a referee has changed. Now there are academies teaching refs and they are more machine like with not as much personality and flexibility.

Q: How do you see the future of local football ?

A : It’s struggling due to crippling costs. The Sunday league had 12 leagues on the go at it’s peak. It is now down to a few.

Q: Who do you support ?

A: Liverpool though I stopped going the match regularly in the 70’s.

Q: What do you make of modern football ?

A: The money men have taken over what was the working mans game. The latest saga RE Raheem Sterling sums up the madness of the money involved and he isn’t even that good !

Q: What are you looking forward to in the new season

A: Just to referee more games and see some of the friendly faces new and old again and the most important thing will be to just enjoy it.

So  Billy enters his 55th year as referee (Below are awards for long service, 24 years and 50 Years )

Billy Apreciation


Billy 24 years


Billy 50 years

Me and Billy then got into a discussion over how to referee a match and what he finds has served him well over the years. First up is the toss. He said to the captains you are not just here for the toss you will be part of my team helping the match go along as easy as it can. He talks about handling a game properly and having a laugh and if necessary giving some which is all part and parcel of the whole package. He says he doesn’t like to be card happy but when needed he will have no hesitation giving a red card and if needs be just calling a game off. Most of all I got the impression that his experience gains him respect on the field and there will be not much he hasn’t seen that has taken place on the pitch and knows how to deal with situations wether it be with kid gloves or a simple “fucking behave yourself” that will do the trick. The going rate for games this season will be £30 for a Sunday match and £25 for a Saturday.

Away from football Billy is a keen chess player and he was telling me he was involved with womens fashion for a few years and was also part of a choir. Not sure if he was pulling my leg or not on the last two ! Billy was also a keen runner. I remember my late dad telling me about him and how he only ever managed to beat him in one race over the years of the mid 1980’s Billy was president of The Penny Lane Striders and wrote many interesting articles in their newsletter “Stride Out” On his last count he had done 51 marathons including ones in L.A, Amsterdam, Las Vegas and Benidorm not to mention Snowdonia 13 times !!! With a best time of 3 hours 34 and here was me all made up with my one Liverpool marathon in 2014 in a time of 5 hours 10 !!! Below is some memorabilia from penny Lane.

Billy Penny Lane

So as you can see both in the football and athletics local scene Billy has given a lot over the years. I thought his tale was an interesting one and I have only just scratched the surface and I reckon with a few pints and a recording device that I could manage to press the on button his tales could last for hours. As you can see below Billy has won the meritorious service to league award for a record three times in 1984/85 2001/2002 and 2011/2012. I wish Billy the best of luck in his 55th season and can’t even imagine me doing anything like it when I am an 78 years young.

Billy Merit

So many thanks from me to Billy for letting me have some of his time and I think Liverpool should give him thanks for what he has done for the local sporting scene. Click on any of the images for a larger version. Below is picture from about 10 years ago of Liverpool referees. I recognise a few from playing myself.

Liverpool referees


Fay x x x x x x x




One thought on “Tales from 55 years a Liverpool Sunday League ref

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  1. My Dad, Brian Dunne, was a referee in Liverpool for many years. He refereed in the Central Amateur on a Saturday and the Liverpool Sunday league – he also did the odd game for the Zingari League. When I was young I used to go with him and run the line. I remember The Farmer’s Arms in Huyton when Stan Boardman used to play for them. He told me once that he refereed a team called Farnworth at the Mystery and they had Jimmy Tarbuck playing centre forward. He refereed his last match – a friendly in Widnes, where he had moved to, when he was about 72. His claim to fame was that he never sent anyone off, although one player once offered him 7shillings & 6d so his parents could get married.

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