BARRY Harwood, one of WA’s most decorated referees, is celebrating a double anniversary this year.
It’s 50 years since Barry left behind a chance to cheer on England’s World Cup triumph in 1966 to chase a new life – and a new career – in Australia.
And it’s 25 years since he put away his whistle for the last time after a remarkable stint that saw him become only the third WA referee to be awarded a full FIFA Badge and win the Golden Whistle award as WA’s top official four times.
He was also twice awarded the Best Referee award in an Asian tournament – and beat some of the world’s best referees in a fitness test in the FIFA World Youth Championship.
Barry was born in Rotherham in England and nearly became a full-time professional footballer, having been offered apprenticeships with Rotherham and Doncaster.
But, aged 24 and in the year that English football was the centre-piece of the world with victory in the 1966 World Cup, he decided to emigrate Down Under.
“I remember it well,” he said. “I left England on a Thursday and saw my first football match in Perth three days later.
“It was a game at the Esplanade and Roy Stedman was the referee. I spoke to him afterwards and he told me who to contact regarding getting involved in refereeing in WA.”
Barry had started officiating with the Sheffield and Hallamshire Football Association in 1963 and had gone from Class 3 to Class 1 within three years. “I was delighted with that progress, as it was quite unusual to advance so quickly,” he said.
He was initially awarded a Class 111 certificate by the WA Soccer Referees, replacing the Class 1 from England.
The following year he was promoted to First Division action. His first game was Cottesloe v Swan Valley – and he was the man in the middle when the WA State team hosted South Australia in 1968 and when Greece visited Perth in 1969.
He was elevated to FIFA’s list in 1972 and by 1974 he was a familiar figure in representative games, taking charge when Aberdeen and Chelsea came to Perth to take on WA.
In 1975 he was awarded the Best Referee honour when officiating at the Marah Halim Cup tournament in Indonesia. He could not, however, referee the Grand Final as WA were involved, beating South Korea in the showdown.
He scooped the same award the following year in Indonesia, and again was denied the Grand Final accolade with WA again making trophy-deciding game and again beating South Korea.
“It would have been satisfying to be involved in those finals, but the organisers ruled that because WA were one of the finalists it just wasn’t possible,” he said. “But I did the final of an Asian event when I refereed the Kings Cup final in Thailand a few years later.”
Barry was the referee at full international level when Australia played Israel in Melbourne in 1977 and when the Socceroos took on Czechoslovakia, again in Melbourne, in 1980.
When the FIFA World Youth Championship was played in Australia in 1981, Barry outshone some of the world’s best whistlers when he showed them a clean pair of heels in the Fitness Test. He was declared FIFA’s Fittest Referee when he covered 3,400m in the 12 minute run.
When Australia celebrated the Bi-Centennial Gold Cup tournament in Adelaide in 1988, Barry refereed the opening game between Argentina and Saudi Arabia, and he was the linesman when the Socceroos played Brazil.
He also took charge of multiple National Soccer League matches.
His final major game was the D’Orsogna Cup final in 1991, when he also won the Golden Whistle award, a fitting tribute before his retirement.
He was appropriately inducted into the Hall of Recognition at the Football Hall of Fame WA’s initial ceremony in 1996.
Barry still keeps a close eye on local football matters and is still active in business with his own Study Centre and Massage Therapy organisation in Wembley.