A former international and English professional football referee has been recognised by the Association of Colleges (AoC) for the vital role that further education has played in his career.
Rotherham-born Howard Webb was presented with the prestigious award at a ceremony at Rotherham College.
The AoC Gold Award recognises and celebrates the achievements of successful and influential people who have attended further education and sixth form colleges.
Previous esteemed winners of the award include Artic Monkeys duo Alex Turner and Matt Helders, actor Sean Bean and comedian Russell Howard.
Webb, who has officiated 500 Premier League and Football League matches, the 2010 World Cup Final and Champions League Final, studied French at Rotherham College in 2005-2007 as an adult learner.
He said: “I’m absolutely thrilled and delighted to have won the AoC Gold Award; it’s not something I expected. It was a surprise when I was told I was nominated so to then be told I had won was something special.
“When I was appointed to the international FIFA list of referees, I decided to study French at the College to be able to converse with more international players.
“For me, just having a better chance of communicating with overseas players would give me an advantage in my career.”
Regarded as the best English referee of his generation, Howard brought an end to his 25-year refereeing career in 2014. He’s now the technical director of the official referees’ association and the ambassador for Sport FX South Yorkshire.
Upon receiving the award, Webb urged anyone wanting to learn a new skill or to enhance their career prospects to consider a course at Rotherham College.
“Anything that provides you with new skills can give you an edge in your career,” he said.
“If you have a passion for a subject or have career goals, perseverance and a lot of hard work will set you on the road to achieving outstanding success.
“I’m certain that the time I spent at Rotherham College studying French played a big part in my success as a football referee.”
Howard didn’t just relish learning new skills at the College; he recalls how he thoroughly enjoyed the social side of the course, more so the Crème de la Crème of French cuisine he tasted during his lessons.
“Not only did I spend two fantastic years at the College learning a new language and meeting great people… but I learnt a lot about French wine, cheese and Crème brûlée that we all learned about during our lessons,” he jokingly added.
Ken Barrass, Chair of the Corporation at Rotherham College, presented the award to Howard alongside Caroline Rowley from the AoC.
Ken said: “We’re very proud about our association with Howard Webb. He’s an inspiration to our students and a perfect example that with hard work, you can reach the very peak of your career.”
Caroline added: “It gives me great pleasure to present this award to one of our most globally recognised AoC Gold Award winners.