Former FIFA grade football referee

Born: October 14, 1943;

Died: May 13, 2019

GEORGE Brian Smith, who has died aged 75, was one of Scotland's leading referees for many years, devoting over 50 years to officiating, then organising refereeing.

Like all Scottish referees, he had a day job - he was a personnel officer in the civil service, working in several different government departments. But at the weekends he was one of that dedicated band who suffer massive abuse as they ensure fair play and good order across Scottish football.

He was active in refereeing circles for 58 years, having qualified as a match official in 1961, when only 17 years old. Within a decade, he had graduated to the SFA's category one list, which qualified him to officiate in top domestic games, gaining further promotion to the elite FIFA list three years later. This was very rapid promotion and, at 31, he was one of the youngest officials to reach this top grade in world refereeing. He was on the FIFA list until 1991, when he had to retire, having reached the maximum age for that level.

His promise as a referee was first recognised in 1968 when he was one of Willie Anderson's assistants as Dunfermline Athletic beat Hearts in the Scottish Cup Final; 12 years later, he made history as the first Edinburgh-based referee to take charge of the final.

This match, an Old Firm final, is notorious for the post-match riot with fans fighting on the pitch and the famous charge of the police horses to break it up. It should be noted, George Smith's decisions played no part in the bother.

He refereed two other Scottish Cup finals -1988, in which Celtic beat Dundee United to complete their centenary league and cup double, and the 1990 final between Aberdeen and Rangers, the first to be decided by penalty kicks.

Smith also refereed the 1988 and 1989 League Cup finals, both involving Aberdeen and Rangers. In fact, he has refereed more national cup finals than all the other Edinburgh referees' combined total

In Europe, he was given, among many other appointments, control of the 1989 European Cup quarter-final, between AC Milan and Werder Bremen, while he officiated at the World Student Games of 1987 and the FIFA World Youth Championships in 1989.

He was Scotland's referee representative at Italia '90, where he famously dished out no fewer than seven yellow cards in the rough-house match between Austria and Czechoslovakia.

He retired from on-field officiating in 1992, moving seamlessly to the committee room, where he spent 15 years as a member of the SFA referees committee. He was also a referee supervisor, the man in the stand assessing the on-field officials' performances. Indeed, he only stepped down from this role in October, when he became ill.

His standing among his colleagues in Edinburgh was marked when the Edinburgh & District Referees Association named him as their honorary president, a role he still held at his death.

Refereeing was an all-consuming passion to George Smith, whose role in encouraging and mentoring young officials is perhaps his legacy. He was always ready to lend a sympathetic ear to up-and-coming referees who had encountered a problem, and this side of his character made him loved in the refereeing community.

He was also very strong on what was termed unparliamentary language - woe betide the player who cursed within his earshot.

He is survived by wife Pamela, son Euan, daughter Lynsey and his grand-children.