Match of the Day Leicester-born ref Roger Kirkpatrick dies, aged 81
A "larger-than-life" character who refereed some of the biggest names in British football in the 1960s and 70s has died, aged 81.
Roger Kirkpatrick was known by players as Mr Pickwick, after the Charles Dickens character, because of his stout appearance and bushy sideburns.
He refereed top-class football from 1966 to 1979, officiating at games featuring players such as Manchester United stars Denis Law and George Best.
Law asked the Leicester-born ref to officiate at his testimonial against Dutch club Ajax.
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Roger once sent off fiery Manchester City forward Mike Summerbee – and said the striker sought him out in the referee's room after the match to apologise.
Mr Kirkpatrick, of Narborough Road South, Leicester, featured in the 1978-79 season opening titles for BBC's Match of the Day programme and it was said he could run backwards faster than he could forwards.
His son Mark said: "If there is such a thing, Dad was a well-liked referee.
"I'm not saying he got all his decisions right, but the big thing was he was respected by the players.
"He didn't swear. He used to say 'if I swear, how can I pull up the players for swearing?'
"Dad was a showman, he was aware of his nickname.
"He could have cut off his sideburns, but he chose to keep them.
"Me and my brother got to go to all the games. I remember once asking Alan Ball if he was a footballer and sitting two seats away from George Best.
"We always had footballers around and Brian Clough and Peter Taylor were big friends of the family.
"He was paid 21 guineas a game, plus expenses every weekend.You had to do it for the love of the sport. He enjoyed it and made the most of it."
Mr Kirkpatrick became a referee at 17 before joining the Fleet Air Arm where he continued refereeing for the Royal Navy. He also played cricket and rugby for the service.
He met his wife Elizabeth, a Wren, and the couple celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary last year.
Mark said: "He was known as something of a disciplinarian. He wouldn't take back chat – he would come down on you like a ton of bricks.
"He had an air of authority and a big, booming voice.
"I think he had something missing in the refereeing world today. I don't think there is the same respect from the players these days."
Leicester City ambassador Alan Birchenall has fond memories of Mr Kirkpatrick.
He said: "I was playing for Chelsea and the pitch was a bit of a quagmire. Whenever Roger had made a decision, he ran off backwards at 100mph.
"I 'accidentally' put out my right foot and he fell over. He called me over and asked me if I had done it on purpose. I said 'no' and he told me if he'd thought I had I would have been off.
"The story always brought a smile to his face. He was a lovely bloke and a top referee."
Mr Kirkpatrick was also a successful businessman, as a director of companies making knitwear and in the motor trade.
In later years, he achieved considerable success in another sport, serving as Leicester Bowls Club president, Leicestershire county president and Midlands Counties president.
He and his wife played bowls for England and he was an England Bowling Association assessor for 10 years.
He died at home last week, following a long illness.
As well as his wife and son Mark, he also leaves another son, Paul, and grandchildren Leon, Alex, Holly and Rosie.
See Roger in action on the 1978-79 Match of the Day titles. (22 second into the clip)