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Referee dies at Thornhill United match

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A football referee, who had officiated local league matches for more than 35 years, collapsed and died half an hour into a game.

Players and onlookers had rushed to the aid of 78-year-old Colin Heeley, who fell ill after refereeing just 30 minutes of Thornhill United’s game against Almondbury Woolpack at Thornhill Community Academy, in Dewsbury, on Saturday.

The match was abandoned when Mr Heeley’s condition worsened and his pulse stopped, prompting players and spectators to give CPR and mouth-to-mouth as they awaited the emergency services.

Players from both teams lined up beside the ambulance and applauded as Mr Heeley was driven away by the emergency services. He later died.

Thornhill manager Chris Kennedy hailed players and spectators from both sides, singling out nephew Adam, 19, for coming to the referee’s aid.

He said: “Adam and another lad from Almondbury were fabulous – the pair of them deserve a medal. There was no pulse but by the time the ambulance got there, there was a faint one. They gave him a chance.”

Mr Heeley had walked off the field feeling unwell, and the game carried on until he collapsed near the changing rooms during the second half and the game was abandoned.

“We were acting the goat with him one minute and then 20 minutes later he’s gone,” Mr Kennedy said. “It just brings it home how vulnerable you are on a sports field.”

Mr Heeley was known to attend every game by the bus, and was the oldest referee active in the Huddersfield and District Association Football League.

Brian Hamilton, vice president of the Heavy Woollen Referees Association, described Mr Heeley as “a firm but very fair referee” who had officiated locally for more than 35 years.

 

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