A MUCH-loved referee who was the man in the middle at countless games during four decades died last week aged 88.

Joe, or “Papa Joe” McGill, as he was affectionately known, passed away last Thursday morning.

The Prestwick man began refereeing aged 17 and only hung up his whistle nine years ago.

Ayrshire Referee Association secretary Derrick Park announced the news last Thursday morning.

Last year Joe was awarded Life Membership of the group.

Derrick said: “He stopped refereeing at the age of 79, and latterly was involved in supporting newer members at the Preston, Land of Burns and Ayr Youth tournaments, as well as offering support and guidance to any members officiating at grassroots


“Whilst some of our newer members may perhaps not know Joe, the vast majority of our membership will, and undoubtedly will have their own refereeing and other tales about him.

“Indeed, you only have to look at the various posts on social media and other media, to see how well Joe, the ‘King of Prestwick’ was revered. The West of Scotland Youth Football League had a minute’s silence at all matches last weekend.”

Troon boss Jim Kirkwood hopes to run a campaign for Papa Joe to receive a posthumous OBE.

He said: “The service the man did for our community here in Ayrshire should be recognised.”

Ayr United Media paid tribute to him on a post.

They said: “Sad news reaching us that a legend of footballing referees in Ayrshire (and much more than that) Joe McGill has passed away.

“A fantastic man who gave more back than he took and will be fondly remembered.”

John Crawford Director of Football at Ayr United Football Academy said: “Joe was one of the most sincere people I have had the pleasure to call a friend.

“Fantastic with kids and for generations of us all who knew him through football.”

Richard Merry, aka Somerset Boab added: “Absolute legend of a guy....gone but not forgotten and loved by so many including me.”

Former Ayr manager and player Robert Reilly said: “Lovely man RIP Joe.”

Fellow ex-United player Kenny Wilson added: “Sorry to hear this sad news of Joe, small in stature but a giant in Ayrshire Football for decades, RIP my friend

Joe is survived by his wife of 58 years, Jan, and his three children, Robin, Wendy and Janice.

He also has three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

His funeral will be on Wednesday, March 13, at 1.15pm at Ayr Crematorium.