26 Apr 2017
Ed Morrison, one of the great men of rugby's referee, is retiring at the end of the season from his position of looking after the Pro 12 referees.
By Paul Dobson, Moonsport
It's not his first retirement. In 2003, when he was England's first full-time referee, he retired from active refereeing and then helped the referees in his Bristol area. In 2008 he was appointed the manager of England's elite referees.
When there was a suggestion that non-referees run refereeing in England, he retired on principle. He did so the day before the season started.
It was obviously a decision that was sudden and unprovided for. PRO 12 then got him to run their referees and now, nearly 66 years of age, he is retiring from that post, intending to going back to helping referees in Bristol, the city of his birth.
Morrison is one of the gentlest of men - too much a gentleman, it would seem, for the hurly-burly rough and tumble of a game like rugby. But not only was he involved in rugby, he was involved in the highest performance level possible.
This smiling man with just one good eye, became the top-ranked referee in the world when in 1995 he refereed the Final of the World Cup, in many ways the greatest of the World Cups, and South Africa won it on a Joel Stransky dropped goal in extra time, and a nation rejoiced as it had never done before - or has done since.
That year, too, rugby went professional. In high places, people no longer played or served without cash payment. In 1996, Morrison was to go to Paris to referee a Five Nations match between France and Ireland. He was told that he would receive a payment of £400 for refereeing the match. He turned it down.
At the time he had been laid off as an aerospace worker in Bristol and had been unemployed for 13 months, which included his World Cup duties. He turned it down.
Within the game's mores at the time, he was entitled to his £400 and would probably have had good use for it. He turned it down because he refereed for fun, not for money. But then, in 1998, he did become England's first full-time, professional referee, a wise and prudent move.
In 2001, the International Rugby Board gave Morrison the referee award for distinguished service.
In 2003, he retired from refereeing on the field but stayed involved in refereeing - with the Bristol Referees' Society, then with the RFU, then with PRO 12 and, soon, back with Bristol.
He is a remarkable man - gentle, strong, highly able, generous and honest and he has a vast amount of knowledge, experience and common sense to offer for a number of years still. He has been so good for rugby and refereeing.
Edward Francis Morrison was born in Bristol on 6 September 1951.