Glasgow-born Eddie Lennie is one of Australia’s most decorated match officials with referee appointments at both Olympic Games and World Cup Finals tournaments. Born on 5 October 1959, Eddie figures amongst the nations all-time greats with three Australian Referee of the Year accolades from a 195-game national league career spanning eleven years.
On the international stage, Eddie refereed 27 FIFA ‘A’ internationals plus an additional 22 FIFA recognised games, with appearances at the 1996 Olympic Games and the 1998 World Cup. Locally, he collected four Golden Whistle awards as Western Australia’s top referee and oversaw numerous Cup and Grand Finals between 1992 and 2004.
It was a junior goalkeeper in his hometown that Eddie’s football journey began, however, a serious knee injury provided the catalyst for him to take up the whistle as a teenager. At 21 he was the youngest referee to be registered with the Scottish Football Association; two years later he became the youngest referee to officiate a major cup final when put in charge of the 1983 Scottish Junior Cup Final.
Eddie got his first taste of international football in September 1985 when he ran the line for a World Cup qualifying game between Poland and Belgium in Katowicz. With over 200 senior games under his belt in Scotland, in November 1991 he emigrated to Australia where his skills and knowledge would take him to the top of the football world
Despite his vast experience, Eddie had to start all over in down under. Possessing a calm demeanor and a willingness to interact with players on the field, he quickly rose up through the State League ranks to officiate the 1993 and 1994 D’Orsogna Cup Finals, collecting the Golden Whistle in both seasons.
Eddie stepped into the Singapore Premier League in 1994 along with Dave Mortimer and Andy Gorton, the trio sharing duties on Perth Kangaroos’ home games. A National Soccer League assistant referee since 1992, he was promoted to the referee’s panel with his first appointment being the mid-October meeting of Adelaide City and South Melbourne.
International honours followed with Eddie refereeing the February 1995 friendly between Australia and Sweden in Sydney. Three months later he took charge of the 1994/95 National Soccer League Grand Final – becoming the first West Australian to achieve that honour – before rounding out the summer with the Australian Referee of the Year award.
Eddie returned to his adopted hometown to oversee June’s friendly between Australia and Ghana at the WACA Ground. His first State League Grand Final appointment followed, Stirling Macedonia claiming the silverware that day over Inglewood Falcons, after which he completed a hat-trick of Golden Whistle awards.
1996 opened with Eddie awarded his FIFA Badge, confirming his position as one of the world’s best referees and following in the footsteps of Ted Bude (1968-1970), Roy Stedman (1970-1972) and Barry Harwood (1972-1991) as Western Australia’s FIFA listed match officials. A few days later he officiated the Olympic Games qualifier between Fiji and Vanuatu in Adelaide.
Eddie was amongst 16 referees selected for the mid-year Atlanta Olympics, where he took charge of three games – Korea Republic vs Ghana and the United States of America vs Portugal in the men’s tournament plus the women’s encounter between Norway and Germany. It was while in Atlanta that Eddie met Italian referee Pierluigi Collina, the pair remaining good friends to this day.
Prior to heading to the United States had Eddie run the rule over the 1995/96 NSL Grand Final and collected a second Australian Referee of the Year award. And there was a strong sense of deja vu on his return from the Olympics with the likeable Scot adjudicating Stirling’s State League Grand Final defeat of Inglewood.
Following the 1996/97 NSL season Eddie officiated World Cup qualifiers in Port Moresby and Kuwait City while his efforts in the State League were rewarded with the 1997 Golden Whistle. In January 1998 he left a fiery NSL clash between Melbourne Knights and South Melbourne in the back of a police car after sending off two Knights players plus coach Ken Worden.
Years of hard work paid dividends the following month when FIFA selected Eddie as the only whistler from Australia for the World Cup tournament in France. And although on-field events understandably captured the world’s attention, for Eddie it was the comraderie that developed amongst match officials that had the greatest impact.
“It was the best experience as it was the pinnacle of many years of refereeing around the world,” he told dutchreferee.com in 2015. “To be involved and work with 32 referees from around the world was fantastic. It was the first time that at a World Cup finals FIFA had all the referees live, work, eat, sleep in the one hotel which bonded many friendships which have still lasted today.”
Eddie was the man in the middle when a highly-rated Italian side defeated Cameroon 3-0 in front of 29,800 spectators in Montpellier, and nine days later he was back at it as Romania and Tunisia played out a 1-1 draw at the Stade De France with 77,000 watching on. He was also the fourth official for Morocco’s 2-2 draw with Norway.
Across the 1998/99 and 1999/2000 NSL seasons Eddie refereed a staggering 50 games, including the memorable June 2000 Grand Final where Wollongong Wolves upset Perth Glory in front of a league record crowd of 43,242 at Subiaco Oval. Soon after being named Australian Referee of the Year for a third time, he travelled to Tahiti to officiate four games at the Oceania Nations Cup.
Twelve months later Eddie made history once again when appointed referee of a then-record fourth NSL Grand Final, Wollongong retaining their crown that afternoon by defeating South Melbourne. He then travelled east to New Zealand where he oversaw Oceania qualifiers for the 2002 World Cup.
Unable to continue at FIFA level beyond the age of 45, Eddie opted to hang up his whistle in late 2004. His last NSL game the March Preliminary Final between Perth Glory and Adelaide United; in July he officiated Japan vs Serbia and Montenegro at the Kirin Cup; and in his final senior appointment Swan IC defeated Fremantle City to claim the State Cup.
In retirement, Eddie has maintained an active role in the game. Since April 2008 he has been FIFA’s Referee Instructor/Assessor for the Asian Football Confederation, and in 2019 was appointed Elite Referees Coach with Football Australia. At the local level he was the State Director of Referees and Football Wests’ Referee Development Manager, the latter for a 13-year period.
And the accolades have continued to flow with Eddie inducted into the Football Hall of Fame WA (Hall of Recognition, 2005) and Football Federation Australia’s Hall of Fame (Hall of Honour, 2007). The Australian Government presented him the Centenary Medal in 2006 in recognition of his “contribution to Australian society” and, two years later, he was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia. In late 2019 the Football Hall of Fame WA presented Eddie with a Special Merit Award.