Referees from Premier League to parks football turned out in black to say their farewells as Jim Bryson took the final whistle.
It was standing room only in church as more than 250 celebrated the life of a man known throughout the game in Lancashire as “The Ref.”
Jim, referees’ secretary of the Lancashire Sunday League for more than 40 years, died after a long battle with illness at the age of 67.
And scores of football’s men in the middle were there to pay their respects at a service in the chapel at Fulwood Barracks where Jim had worked for most of his life.
Amongst them was the Premier League’s Neil Swarbrick from Lostock Hall who credited Jim with starting him out in the game.
Army Chaplain Rev Andrew Earl described Jim as “a colossus of a man” and said the huge turnout for his funeral proved he was “a man who made an impact on everyone he met.”
“He was such a great character,” he said. “Refereeing was one of his many passions.
“He was known as Mr Reliable, always available and he somehow managed to get to every fixture in time - using public transport.
“He had such a big heart had Jim, Big Jim, or simply The Ref.”
Major Ross Graham, who worked with Jim at the Barracks for 18 years, said: “He was far more than a colleague, he was a dear friend and confidante.
“He was always there when needed, a wise consellor and a man who was greatly liked by all those who came into contact with him.
“To say that Jim was well-known in Preston understates the case significantly. He was a good man, a decent man, a gentleman in every way. It was an honour to have known him.”
The service was followed by committal at Preston Crematorium.