Northland Football Federation gave a long-serving member of the football community a life membership.

Stephen Fletcher has dedicated many years to football, including as a member and former chairman of the Northern Football Referee Advisory Group.

Fletcher's contribution was recognised with the Life Membership of Northern Football at the 2016 AGM.

He was presented with his award at a recent NFF Referee's Meeting.

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Since the establishment of the New Zealand Football Federations in 2000, Fletcher and fellow life member Rudi Hoffmann established the Northern Football Referee Group. Fletcher has gone on to not only refereed at least one match each week, but also provided coaching and assessment to other referees throughout the 16 seasons.

Fletcher was nominated by Kevin Turnock, representing the current Referee Advisory Group.

Turnock highlighted his dedication for the game and his willingness to officiate any match, any level, any time.

"Without exception, Stephen has had a positive impact on the development of every NFF referee over the last 16 years," he said. "He has always and still gives his time willingly to any referee wanting to improve their performance."

NFF president Alan Yates was on hand to present the award and said it's an honour and privilege to present Fletcher with the award.

"I have known him for many years both on and off the field, and the respect that Stephen has earned over his years in our community is fantastic," he said.

"Hopefully the referee community will aspire to achieve the success and recognition that Stephen has achieved."

After receiving a standing ovation from his peers, Fletcher gave an inspiring speech talking about the quality of the current referees and how each and every one of the referees he has worked with have inspired him.

"I have enjoyed being part of the NFF referee community immensely. Over the years we have tried a lot of things to be different, to do things better that before," he said.

"To see the new younger blood coming through learning from the experience of the older referees means we are providing a high quality service to the federation.

"For the young fellas, push on, there is plenty of opportunity. For the older fellas, you still play an important part in the game and in helping the new referee's learn."

He said referees often go unnoticed and unrecognised, but they are just as important to the game as the players and supporters.