Howzzat? Sheffield umpires sporting heroes

The Umpire is unmoved by the appeal from Whitley Hall's Scott Cunningham
The Umpire is unmoved by the appeal from Whitley Hall's Scott Cunningham
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Cricket'York v Lancs - 4th August 1965

Cricket'York v Lancs - 4th August 1965

Some people like to play sport in their spare time, some people like to watch it, and some people - a heroic few - like to referee.

These selfless souls dedicate their Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings to ensuring others stick to the rules. They brave abuse, vilification and occasional questions about their eyesight and parentage - all to ensure the people on the pitch can enjoy a fair game.

And they do it for nothing more than a love of the game and possibly a free cup of tea during half time or a cucumber sandwich served at tea.

Today, Tuesday Retro salutes the cricketing version of these humble heroes. Our A-Z of hobbies enjoyed in South Yorkshire continues with U is for umpiring.

England’s most traditional summer sport - the sound of leather on willow, the smell of linseed oil - just wouldn’t be the same without these men (and women) raising their finger (or shaking their head) for all to see.

“Why do we do it?” ponders Alan Farnell, secretary of the Association Of Cricket Officials, South Yorkshire branch. “Mainly for a love of cricket. It’s nice to think you’re enabling a game you enjoy to go ahead. It feels like you’re making a difference somehow, and personally that gives me a lot of pleasure.

“It’s nice to be able to see youngsters coming through too. And let’s just say, it’s a better way to spend your Saturday afternoon than being dragged round Meadowhall.”

There are some 250 such umpires in South Yorkshire. An increasing number of young people are being trained up. For them, it could one day, of course, become a profession.

“It would be nice to think we have the new Dickie Birds coming through,” says Alan, 69, a retired solicitor of Fullwood. “But this is enjoyable as a hobby anyway.

“Sometimes you can start to feel the pressure when a game gets heated but that’s very rare. Mostly games are played with a good deal of sportsmanship.”