Kiwi referee Peter O'Leary today announced his retirement from the professional game.

After nearly 21 years as a referee, O'Leary made the decision recently to be able to spend more time with his family.

"Having been a professional referee for the past 15 years, now seems to be the right time to check out of the game," he said. "I have taken my opportunities throughout my career and achieved everything that I have wanted to in the game."

O'Leary began his referee career in 1994 after switching from the playing ranks at the age of 21. He received his Fifa Referee badge in 2003 and was subsequently appointed to matches the Under-20 World Cup, the Club World Cup and, in 2010 and 2014, the holy grail of the World Cup.


His second appearance at that tournament ended in controversy, however, when a disallowed goal saw Bosnia-Herzegovina knocked out of the tournament by Nigeria.

O'Leary also had the honour of refereeing the first ever A-League match between the Newcastle Jets and Adelaide United in 2005, with Football Federation Australia director of referees Ben Wilson paying tribute to O'Leary for his contribution.

"I have known Peter as a friend and colleague for over 15 years," Wilson said. "He is the archetypal quiet achiever. A safe pair of hands with plenty of experience who was always willing and able to put his hand up when required."

O'Leary's 64th and final appointment in the A-League will be tomorrow night's fixture between the Wellington Phoenix and Central Coast Mariners at Westpac Stadium.