Tribute on pitch for ref who died at just 26

Minute’s applause from devastated youth league players for colleague held in high esteem

Friday, 11th February — By Anna Lamche

James Charlton image00010

James Charlton

A DEVASTATED youth football league paid tribute to one of their loyal referees with a round of applause after his sudden death last month.

Players for Camden and Islington Youth Football League (CIYFL) held a minute’s applause before their recent matches at the Market Road pitches in memory of James Charlton, who passed away aged just 26.

Mr Charlton had served the league for five years, first as a referee, before becoming referee secretary and fixtures secretary.

“That’s a big responsibility – we have over 200 teams in the league, and James did all the fixtures for every team,” said the league’s chair Joanna Sargent.

“He also was the referee secretary, which meant he had to assign a referee to every game.”

Originally from Darlington in County Durham – where he was a superfan of his hometown team – Mr Charlton arrived in London to study biochemistry at King’s College London.

Despite living in south London, he was a loyal member of CIYFL from the moment he joined up.

“The league was devastated to learn of his passing,” Ms Sargent said.

Applause for James at the Market Road pitches

“He was such a massive part of the league and he will be much missed by everyone who knew him. He was a great colleague and a friend.”

She added: “We are surprised, shocked, saddened. People had seen him relatively recently – he was always there [at the Market Road pitches] on Fridays and Saturdays.

“He was such a friendly, intelligent, approachable young man – we’re all very much missing him.”

The club is planning to celebrate his life with an event in the next few months.

“We’re hoping to hold a tournament or a cup in his name to celebrate everything he’s done for the league,” Ms Sargent said.

“He was a very good referee, very young and very decisive – he was an excellent referee to have on the pitch,” she added.

“People sang his praises, he was held in very high esteem by coaches and players alike.”

Denis Pinnegar, a former chairman of Darlington FC, said: “I first met James when Darlington FC went into administration in 2012 and the interim board were appointed by the fans.

“He was one of the army of loyal DFC fans who made fan ownership of the club possible. James was so enthusiastic and no task was too much for him if Darlington FC were involved.”

Mr Pinnegar added: “He personified the energy in and around the club and his enthusiasm was infectious.”

Mr Charlton had watched his first match at Darlington as a “babe in arms” in 1995.

As a young man, he worked at the club’s ground doing stewarding and social media.

The cause of his death has not been released.

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