AFTER an incredible nine months in which he refereed the World Cup final, the UEFA Champions League final and picked up an MBE, Yorkshire’s Howard Webb today accepted an honour which topped them all.
The policeman-turned-referee was made an Honorary Freeman of his home town of Rotherham, in recognition of his contributions both to sport and to charity. It is the highest honour the borough can bestow on one of its sons.
Mr Webb, 39, said: “It’s fantastic for a proud Rotherham lad like myself - born and bred in the town, still living here and with no intention of leaving.
“I’m delighted this honour is being bestowed on me.
“It’s something that’s a little bit different. It’s quite a select few people who have been given the freedom of the borough. Not a lot of people have had it. It’s nice to be recognised by your own people in that way.
“I’m proud of where I come from, for sure. I’m proud to carry the flag of Rotherham wherever I go around the world and it’s nice that recognition has been given.”
Mr Webb is keeping his future career options open. He could still return to his day job as a South Yorkshire Police sergeant, with two years of a five-year career break left to run.
But in the meantime he is inspiring future sport stars with school visits, and he’s heavily involved in charity work.
As a Freeman, Howard will receive an illuminated address bearing the Rotherham Coat of Arms, and will sign the Roll of Honorary Freemen in front of civic guests.
Council leader Coun Roger Stone, who proposed the motion to bestow the honour on Howard, said: “I have known him for many years and he is an absolutely fantastic ambassador for both Rotherham and sport in general.
“He is also the sort of man who, despite busy work and family commitments, has made a massive contribution to charity.”