Gordon Hill (referee)
|Full name||Gordon W Hill|
8 July 1928 |
Bolton, Lancashire, England
In his early years he attended St. Simon and St Jude’s C of E School, Great Lever in Bolton. He later moved to Waterfoot, Rossendale in Lancashire and attended Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar School from 1936. Upon leaving school in 1946, he moved to London to train as a teacher for two years. He returned to Lancashire to take up his teaching career, briefly, in Bacup. After an 18-month spell of compulsory National Service, he taught in Bury from 1950 to 1955, then returned to teach in Bacup until 1960, and subsequently moved to a post in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, until his re-location to Leicester in 1966. Here he became the first headteacher of the new Stafford Leys Country Primary School in Leicester Forest East before taking up a similar post at Mount Grace High School in the nearby town of Hinckley. He remaining at Mount Grace until he relocated to take up a teaching post in Plymouth, Michigan in the USA in 1975. His liberal approach to refereeing was also evident in his approach to teaching where he was happy to be called progressive in his approach.
Hill played amateur football and trained as a coach, but injury caused him to give up playing. In 1952 he started refereeing on local parks around Bacup and over the next few years made good progress. Whilst teaching in Scunthorpe in 1960, he became a Football League linesman.
He spent six years on the line before progressing to the list of Football League referees. Shortly after, he moved to Leicester, and remained there for the rest of his refereeing career. He quickly established himself and on 14 March 1970 took charge of the FA Cup semi-final between Chelsea (the eventual Cup winners) and Watford at White Hart Lane. He became a regular face in top division football and was renowned for his "player-centred" approach. Hill aimed to build closer relationships with players, and wanted to distance himself from the traditional image of the referee as an aloof disciplinarian. This approach appears to have been well regarded by players, managers and fans but did not always find favour with the authorities. Particular tensions arose early in the 1971–72 season, when the League was instigating a disciplinary crackdown, and this made the lenient and individualistic Hill uneasy.
Hill was generally unhappy with the expectation that referees be low-profile, conformist figures. This even extended to him challenging the dress code of the time which stipulated that referees should have four inches of white turnover on their black socks. He did so by having a small extra band of black over the white turnover. More controversially, he admitted swearing on the pitch. Although players were known to swear, many figures, including other officials such as Pat Partridge,‡ considered this unwise for a referee, but Hill felt it was natural behaviour for him and helped him communicate more effectively on the pitch.
Despite his strong profile of games, Hill never made the FIFA List, and he remarked in his 1975 autobiography, "Give a little Whistle: The Recollections of a Remarkable Referee", that this may have been due to his non-conformist approach. However, he continued to handle key games. In 1973, he controlled the Charity Shield match between Manchester City and Burnley. Late that season, in April 1974, he was in charge of Burnley again during the FA Cup semi-final in which Newcastle defeated them 2–0.
1974–75 was Hill's final season and was marked by his most senior match - the League Cup Final between Aston Villa and Norwich City at Wembley on 1 March 1975. Villa won when Ray Graydon scored from the rebound after Kevin Keelan had saved his penalty.
Shortly after, he reached the retirement age (then forty-seven) for referees. He decided at this time to give up his post as headteacher at a school in Leicester and leave the UK to take up another teaching post in the United States. While there, he served as a North American Soccer League referee in 1975 and 1976. Following the 1976 NASL season he worked for many years as the Tampa Bay Rowdies' Director of Youth and Community Development. He also provided local radio and television commentary during Rowdies broadcasts for several seasons.
In his nine years in the middle in the Football League he never sent off a player in that competition or the two main Cups, a remarkable record even for those more lenient times. When he had his autobiography published – at that time, one of the few referees to do so – it reflected his high-profile. In the book, he expressed support for various ideas now adopted, such as a select group of officials handling all the top games, use of filmed match footage to train referees, greater liaison between referees and assessors, extensions beyond retirement age for exceptional referees, and an end to League referees being employed as linesmen in Cup Finals.
- Football League Handbooks, 1960–1970
- The Guardian, 15 April 1975, p21 (details of teaching career and philosophy)
- Rothmans Football Yearbooks, 1971–1975
- †Give a little Whistle: The Recollections of a Remarkable Referee, by Gordon Hill & Jason Thomas, (Souvenir Press Ltd 1975), ISBN 0-285-62187-4
- ‡Oh, Ref!, by Pat Partridge & John Gibson, (Souvenir Press Ltd 1979), ISBN 0-285-62423-7
- The Guardian, 15 April 1975, p. 21
- Chelsea v. Watford, FA Cup semi-final, 1970: soccerbase.com website.
- Charity Shield, 1973: TheFA.com website.
- Burnley v. Newcastle, FA Cup semi-final, 1974: recalled on the Toonarama.co.uk website.
- 1975 League Cup Final: statistics from the RSSSF.com website.