Welsh Premier League referees Mark Whitby and Brian James both blew their final whistles on Sunday as the duo called time on their illustrious refereeing careers.
Whitby's final match was at Port Talbot Town who lost 2-1 to Aberystwyth and his wife Donna and their children Madison, Aston and Logan were all in attendance for his final game. As he took the field, the players of both teams and his colleagues for the afternoon Phil Thomas, Dan Beckett and Dean John, all formed a guard of honour as the whistler from Swansea took to the field, to a standing ovation. The 41 year old was quick to thank the Port Talbot Town supporters in the Gerald McCreesh stand, in what was a fitting tribute to a sterling career.
Having started his career in the Swansea Junior League for 4 years followed by two season's in the Swansea Senior League for 2 years, Whitby quickly impressed and worked his way into the Welsh Premier League twenty years ago. In 2003, he became a FIFA referee and served on the Int
ernational list for an outstanding twelve years. He refereed 10 full international matches, including Republic of Ireland v Scotland in the Carling Nations Cup and domestically, he refereed the Welsh Cup Final in 2005 between Bangor City and Rhyl at the Racecourse. He also took charge of the FAW Premier Cup Final in 2006 between Newport County and The New Saints.
Whitby will continue to be instrumental in refereeing as he aims to become a referee assessor and he has recently been announced as the FAW's new referee fitness coach.
Brian James called time on his career yesterday afternoon in Airbus' 6-1 win over Welsh Cup finalists Newtown at the Airfield. The self-employed UPVC installer started officiating in 1997. The father of 2 was promoted to a Welsh Premier Assistant in 2003 and was also fortunate to experience two years as a FIFA assistant referee, before deciding on a pathway of refereeing. He was subsequently promoted to the Welsh Premier League referee list in 2008. Internationally, he has worked on the Europa League, the Referee Exchange Programme and also took charge of Victory Shield and Schoolboy Internationals.
Domestic success has also followed James and he has refereed the Loosemores Cup Final, the FAW Women’s Cup Final, before attaining the highest accolade in his FAW career in May 2014, when he was the referee in the 127th FAW Welsh Cup Final, when TNS beat Aberystwyth Town 3-2.
James, 45, will now concentrate on coaching the Rhydyfelin junior team and last season he was awarded the South Wales Coach of the Year for his efforts.
The Welsh Premier League wishes both Mark and Brian success in their new roles within the game and thanks them both for their dedication and expertise over a combined 32 years service.