Peter Rhodes

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PETER Rhodes, a leading Football League referee in the 1950s and 60s and an often colourful, outspoken and controversial character, has died in York after a long illness. He was 90.

Mr Rhodes remained on the League referees’ list for 22 years and hit the headlines in 1964 when he sent off Manchester United and Scottish International forward Denis Law at Bloomfield Road in the First Division match against Blackpool.

The dismissal came following alleged foul and abusive language directed by Law against the official, although Law denied this and said it had been aimed at his team mate and fellow international Paddy Crerand, who had criticised Law for giving away a silly foul.

Manchester United decided to appeal and an FA hearing was called at which United manager Matt Busby was present along with Cliff Lloyd, the Players’ Union secretary. The sending off stood and Law was suspended for 28 days and fined £50, a big sum in those days.

Law was one of seven players sent off by Mr Rhodes, the others being Ian St John (Liverpool), Billy Bingham (Everton), Peter Thompson (Hartlepool), Joe Livingstone (Carlisle), Des Anderson (Millwall) and Tony Singleton (Preston).

Mr Rhodes was born in Leeds, but lived most of his life in York. He was educated at Dringhouses School and was a goalkeeper in the school football team before playing in the York Minor League.

His playing career ended when he said that a fellow player, Ken Cooper, later to become Lord Mayor of York, was a better goalkeeper than he was.

This led to Mr Rhodes taking up refereeing and he quickly rose through the various grades before being appointed a Football League referee.

He had charge of many top First Division (now Barclays Premier League) matches on all the most famous grounds. He also refereed what was then an annual match in the early 1950s between Arsenal and Racing Club de Paris in the Parc des Princes stadium.

He was known as a firm but fair official and this later led him to being headhunted by the newly formed American Pro Soccer League.

He resigned from the Football League referees list in 1967 and sold his memoirs to the Sunday Mirror, saying: “I resigned because it is the only way I can speak up for the most abused person in football, the referee.”

Mr Rhodes turned his attention to helping York and district football and eventually became president of the York Football Association in the late 1960s.

He was also instrumental in helping to start the York Sunday Football League in 1962 and was chairman for some years before being appointed president.

He led a Sunday League campaign to get grazing cows and exercising racehorses off Knavesmire so that footballers didn’t have to negotiate cow pats and hoof marks and after a long battle persuaded the council to remove the animals.

At the time he said that this was his best achievement and that he would prefer to be remembered for that rather than the man who sent off Denis Law.

Mr Rhodes was president of Dringhouses Football Club until last year, when he retired because of ill health and was made the first honorary life member in the 100 years history of the club. He was also a former director of York Rugby League Football Club.

A keen York City FC season ticket supporter for many years, he became unhappy about the way the club was being run and led a small group of men with the intention of trying to gain control, only for the attempt to fail.

When he left school he did an apprenticeship at Cooke, Troughton and Sims instrument makers before joining the RAF in the Second World War.

He qualified as a pilot, but when a passenger was in a crash in a Tiger Moth and was seriously injured, breaking his spine and skull and being temporarily blinded. He was sent to an estate in Perthshire to recuperate and became a gamekeeper.

When he returned to civilian life he rented a grocery shop in Wains Grove, Dringhouses, staying there for 35 years before retiring, aged 55, in 1976.

On the day he retired he was asked if he would like to leave a shopping tip for the public and he said: “Don’t buy bacon in a plastic bag. You are paying for the wrapping and it is better to have it fresh, cut off a side of bacon in the shop.”

A freemason, Mr Rhodes, who had Parkinson’s Disease, was married to his wife Sheila for 54 years. She died in 2007 and he leaves two daughters, Jane and Sally and three grandchildren.

The funeral service is at the St Edward the Confessor Church, Dringhouses, York, on Tuesday, November 1, at 1.45pm.