Ray Tinkler

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Raymond Tinkler (born c. 1929), who comes from Boston, Lincolnshire, is an English former football referee who served on the Football League list from 1961 to 1976, most notable for making a controversial decision in the 1970-71 season. Outside football he was a company secretary (The Observer, 18 April 1971).

Leeds controversy[edit]

During a game between Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion at Elland Road on 17 April 1971, with the score already at 1-0 to West Brom, Tinkler allowed play to continue when a linesman flagged for offside. Albion player Tony Brown had intercepted a ball and carried on running. However, Colin Suggett was in an offside position[1] and the Leeds players stopped when they saw the flag was raised. As Tinkler did not stop play, Brown, who had momentarily slowed as well, was free to resume his run towards goal and pass to Jeff Astle, who scored to make it 2-0. Moments before Astle's controversial goal, Tinkler dissalowed a Leeds goal by Mick Jones, a decision which also caused controversy.

At the time of the match in 1971, Law XI, the offside law, had not been changed since the 1937-38 season,[2] and read, in part, "[a] player in an off-side position shall not be penalised unless, in the opinion of the referee, he is interfering with the play or with an opponent, or is seeking to gain an advantage by being in an off-side position ."[3][4] Interpretations of these rules varied, with one view summed up by the quote, attributed to either Bill Shankly or Brian Clough, that "[i]f a player is not interfering with play or seeking to gain an advantage, then he should be."

In 1956, the International Football Association Board had attempted to clarify the rules,[5] stating "[a] player does not necessarily infringe this Law if he is in an off-side position and moves a little way beyond the boundary of the field of play to show clearly to the referee that he is not interfering with play, but if the referee considers that such a movement has a tactical aim, or is, in any way, a feint and the player takes part in the game immediately after, then the referee should blow his whistle for 'off-side.'"

Under those rules, Suggett's change of direction towards the Leeds goal could have been interpreted as "interfering with play", but in Tinkler's opinion[citation needed], he wasn't. More simply however, a player is not and was not then considered offside until the ball is actually passed forward anyway, and the rules regarding interfering with play are irrelevant.

The decision caused outrage at the time; he was surrounded by Leeds players, several Leeds fans invaded the pitch and were escorted off by police, and even Leeds manager Don Revie approached the linesman to plead with him to discuss it with Tinkler. Leeds pulled a goal back but lost the game 1-2. Despite winning their final three matches of the season they missed out on the title to Arsenal by one point with Tinkler's decision perceived to be critical.[6]

Later career[edit]

Tinkler's final match was a game between Oldham and West Bromwich Albion at Boundary Park on 24 April 1976 where the away team won 1-0 to clinch promotion to Division 1 (The Guardian, 26 April 1976, p14). He later became Chairman of the Football Association Referees’ Committee and The Referees' Association.[7]

In 2005, Tinkler became chairman of Lincolnshire FA.[8] He retired from this role in the summer of 2010.[9]


The Guardian, 26 April 1976, p14 (final match) The Observer, 18 April 1971, p1 (confirmation of age and profession)

  1. ^ 1970-71 Leeds v West Bromwich Albion, full highlights on YouTube
  2. ^ Offside History
  3. ^ Some Offside History
  4. ^ IFAB Meeting Minutes, 1974
  5. ^ Offside History
  6. ^ Ref justice!, article recalling the 1971 Leeds v. WBA match: BBC.co.uk website.
  7. ^ Confirmation of former 'Chair' positions: TheFA.com website.
  8. ^ Current 'Chair' position with Lincolnshire FA: Guardian Unlimited website.
  9. ^ Current Grahame Lyner quits Trinity job to stand as Chairman of Lincolnshire FA: 'This is Lincolnshire' website.