Go to any terrace in English Football and you would bet a few quid that at some point during the game there will be a disagreement between fans and officials.
Shouts of “You don’t know what you’re doing” echo around most stadiums on a Saturday afternoon as football fans rejoice in anger at certain refereeing decisions.
It’s one of the most difficult jobs in the world at the best of times, let alone given the nature of the situation that was presented at the Mayfield Stadium.
Croydon only formed in 2012 after the old team folded due to financial difficulties. The fans then came together and started the new side, who reached the first round of the FA Vase in their first season in existence – but that isn’t the strangest thing to have happened to the part-timers.
If you were present at AFC Croydon Athletic’s game against Sevenoaks Town last weekend, you would never have seen so much applause for a decision that involved an official.
The rain was sheeting down on the hallowed turf of the Londoners Southern Counties East League pitch and an injury was looking increasingly likely as the conditions worsened every second the game continued.
No one could have predicted what was to come and early in the first half one of the assistant referees went down after sustaining an injury to his knee. With no replacement readily available, the ref took the unorthodox decision to immediately look to the stands to see if there were any qualified helpers in the crowd.
There were only 83 people in the small crowd and the situation looked bleak as the rain continued to poor.
Luckily enough, there was someone that offered to assist and the willing volunteer proceeded to head towards the pitch to ‘run-the-line’. But there was a little bit of a damning difference between Alan Halfacre and most run-of-the-mill linesmen.
Mr Halfacre is 83-years-old and a retired AFC Croydon Athletic supporter. He had experience officiating at games in the Morden and District League over 20 years earlier and effortlessly slotted back into the role, impeccably observing the second half which was won 1-0 by the visitors Sevenoaks Town.
A club statement which was published after the game read: “It was thanks to Mr Alan Halfacre stepping in which allowed the two teams to finish the match.”
Croydon fans have branded Alan as ‘the world’s oldest referee’ and he has been widely praised on social media for his professionalism and willingness to help.
It was an impressive act from Mr Halfacre, but who are the oldest outfield players to play football?
Teddy Sheringham is one of the oldest to have played in the Premier League at 40 years and 272 days old, whilst Dave Beasant made a substitute appearance for Stevenage in 2014 aged 55.
But big credit to the retired official who saved the game, and picked up quite a bit of support along the way.
Go on Alan!