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Tribute to long-serving referee John Fenning, chairman and president of the Kent Referees’ Association and also the Ashford Referees' Association branch

The Ashford & Weald Referees' Association have paid tribute to President, John Fenning.

John, who passed away earlier this month, has been described as "a dedicated and loyal servant to football and refereeing in Kent for a period of over 50 years."

John Fenning, chairman and president of the Kent Referees’ Association has passed away
John Fenning, chairman and president of the Kent Referees’ Association has passed away

He was chairman and president of the Kent Referees’ Association and also the Ashford Referees Association branch.

The Ashford branch said: “John devoted many hours to helping and providing support to younger referees and will be remembered for his outstanding loyal service to the refereeing community.”

In 2018 he donated a new cup for the branch, named The John Fenning Cup, for the Branch Top Promotion Candidate of the year.

Mr Fenning replaced one of the association’s founding members Bill Manklow as president in 2003.

He had previously held the position of chairman for the association for seven years, from 1970 to 1977, before becoming chair of the Kent Referees’ association.

Geoff Stanborough, current chairman of the Ashford Referees branch said John was “a very sound and dedicated football referee and good friend to us all.”

John Fenning (second from left) pictured at the East Kent Referees' Association Dinner at Littlebourne Village Hall in 2015
John Fenning (second from left) pictured at the East Kent Referees' Association Dinner at Littlebourne Village Hall in 2015

He first qualified as a referee in 1960 whilst living in Colchester and immediately joined the Colchester Referees Society.He continued his membership when he moved to Kent in January 1968 when he then joined the Ashford & Weald Referees’ Branch.

He refereed in the Southern League until having to retire after reaching the age limit of 44. However, he continued in the Kent League, Kent County League and Ashford Saturday League before retiring from 11-a-side football in 2001.

John continued to referee on the Ashford 5-a-side league as well as being chairman and the referee appointment secretary of that league.

He became chairman of the Kent Referees’ Association in 1975 as well as also remaining as chairman of the Ashford branch.

In 2007 he was elected as the Kent Referees’ Association president until its demise in 2018, receiving a 50-year membership award by the Referees’ Association in 2010.

John and Jean Fenning (top) at a dinner and dance event for Maidstone referees at Oakwood House, Maidstone. Picture: John Westhrop
John and Jean Fenning (top) at a dinner and dance event for Maidstone referees at Oakwood House, Maidstone. Picture: John Westhrop

The life membership award is the highest award which the RA can confer on a member and is awarded to recognise those members who have rendered exceptional service. John and Jock Campbell are the only two members in Kent to have received this prestigious award.

He was also a referee assessor and mentor.

Geoff added: “Naturally it would have been impossible for John to have achieved and carried out all of his refereeing and footballing commitments on his own, without the strong help and support from his wife, Jean.

“Her important team work support and positive enthusiasm was an essential part of John’s overall success.”

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