Dermot Gallagher

Dermot Gallagher

3 stars

  • One Of The Football League’s Most Experienced & Well-Respected Referees

Dermot Gallagher is one of the Football League’s most experienced and well-respected referees, and the 48-year-old is currently coming to terms with the fact that this will be his last season in the professional game. Gallagher has refereed around 2,500 fixtures at all levels in his long career and only recently he officiated at his 1,000th league match in the Lancashire derby clash between Preston and Burnley at Deepdale. 

Gallagher is philosophical about his looming retirement on May 7. “When I retired from the FIFA list in 2002, when I walked off the pitch in Cyprus and got off the plane at Heathrow, I never looked back. Whatever stadium I leave behind in May, it won’t bother me. That will be it. 

“There’s no point in crying. When someone was 48 all those years ago and I took their place, I didn’t shed a tear. And when a 27-year-old waves goodbye to me because he wants my place, good luck to him.”

Reflecting on his 1,000th league match last month, after which he was presented with a souvenir Preston shirt with his name on the back with the number 1,000 underneath, he said: “My priority was to referee the game. But I was happy and when I got home at 1.45am, instead of watching the television for half an hour, I kept reading the match programme and looking at the shirt.”

Gallagher is a deeply religious man but insists he has never allowed his faith to affect his judgement whilst refereeing.

“I recognise that a football match is not like going to church. If a player swears directly at me, or one of my officials, then he is sent off. If he curses himself for making a mistake, then I use common sense. I’ve noticed that there has been a marked drop in abuse aimed at referees and that has to be applauded. It was becoming intolerable.”

Despite the giant strides made in player-referee relations in recent seasons, Gallagher fears for some of the younger refs coming up through the ranks.

“Seventy per cent pack it up within one season of starting. Eighty five per cent go within two years. Go to Chelsea with 42,000 people there and you won’t hear anything. It’s just a wall of sound. But the parks are the hardest places to referee. If you’re 19, there are seven people watching and you are the local ref and one of them takes a dislike to you, you hear every remark. It becomes one-to-one, personal.”

He added: “I defy anyone to go to work for an hour, sit there and have criticised every decision you make. If I did that to you, you’d punch me in the face long before the hour was up. And yet these young lads have to go through it.”

Looking ahead to his final game at the end of the season, Gallagher said: “I haven’t thought about it in any great depth because I might lose sight of where I am. I’m still a referee and I won’t look to far ahead. I live for today and tomorrow.”

As a youngster, Dermots ambition was to be a professional footballer, he missed out and has done the next best thing, to be a top referee. 

Dermot has many highlights from his career at the top of refereeing many big games, including Internationals, Cup Finals, European games etc. One memorable occasion he refers to is an International between Germany and South Africa, where he met the great Nelson Mandela. 

Dermot has many a story to tell about life “on and off the field” with some of the biggest footballing names from the past 10 years or so.