A football volunteer who once played against England legends Terry Venables and Bobby Moore has been recognised for decades of selfless dedication to grassroots football by receiving a special FA 50-Year Award.
Colchester Sunday League Vice-President, Ernie Osborne, was presented with his memento by Essex County FA Life Member Michael Game on Thursday 12th December at a meeting of the Colchester Referees Association at the Jobserve Community Stadium.
To be eligible for The FA’s ‘Order of Merit’ Award, a nominated individual must have completed 50 years as a volunteer, inclusive of their playing career but excluding any football played at school. Ernie has been involved in playing and administering football from the age of ten, when he started his career by playing for his primary school, The Richard Alibon, in Dagenham.
He recalls playing against Terry Venables a couple of times and once against Bobby Moore in a Schools Cup Competition, which they unfortunately lost. The first adult team Ernie played for was Dagenham Village, a Sunday league side, at the age of 16 in 1957.
Then he moved on to Southend Municipal in the Southend Saturday League aged 19, where he also joined their committee. After marrying in 1965 he moved to Alresford, near Colchester, playing for Parkside Rangers and again volunteering for their committee.
Similarly, he was involved both on and off the pitch for Alresford Colne Rangers two years later, taking on the role of Honorary Secretary after a couple of years and serving in that position for between 12-15 years, eventually becoming Club President.
He additionally played for Alresford Athletic in the Colchester Sunday League and, during that time, Ernie helped to form the Great Bentley Minor League, managing and running a side in that competition for Alresford’s Under 16s. As if that wasn’t enough, he also started refereeing and had the additional idea of starting a brand new men’s cup competition.
He noted, in the 1970s, there was just one cup to satisfy the eight divisions of the Colchester Sunday League, and only one County Cup, the Essex Sunday Junior Cup. Just First Teams could enter this, which Ernie thought was very unfair as reserve and lower-division teams had very little chance of ever winning, and didn’t even bother entering.
Ernie created a cup to cater for Colchester Sunday League teams below Division Three, plus reserve sides. The Ernie Osborne Challenge Cup was introduced, and was first played for in the 1976/77 season. It is still going today, and over a thousand players have had the chance to play in this prestige final, gaining a medal when they may never have won anything else from football.
Before Ernie finished playing, he passed the Referees Course in March 1976, joining the Colchester Referees Society the same year. That May he became a member of Referees Society Committee and has now been their President for over 20 years. He quickly progressed to become a ‘Class 1’ County Senior Referee, and he’s still a Level 5.
Ernie is still very active and has served on the Colchester Sunday League Committee for over ten years. He is also a Referee Observer, training and advising match officials who are seeking to move to the higher levels of the game. His dedication has been of benefit to a great number of other individuals who will all appreciate his devoted efforts.
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