A Hertfordshire refereeing stalwart has been invited to the first ever game of football to be played in the grounds of Buckingham Palace.
Roger Bowden – originally from Hemel Hempstead – is one of 150 grassroots heroes invited to the palace by HRH The Duke of Cambridge, the President of the FA, for the match on Monday, October 7.
The fixture, between Civil Service FC and The Polytechnic FC – two of the country’s oldest amateur clubs – has been arranged as part of The FA’s 150th anniversary celebrations. The Duke will be presenting each of the guests with a medal to recognise their contribution to grassroots football.
As well as many years spent refereeing matches in Hertfordshire, Roger played a key role in the development of young referees and also ran academies at Watford FC and Arsenal FC before his retirement earlier this year.
Roger picked up two gongs at the 2013 Hertfordshire FA County Awards – The Oustanding Contribution to Community Football award and the Refereeing Achievement award.
He said: “It was a wonderful surprise and came totally out of the blue.
“I’ve been to the palace before, but only to look from the outside so it will be great to see what it’s like. It should be a great day.”
Roger and his wife Sandra recently moved to Devon, and he plans to get involved with refereeing on a local level in the south west.
Details of the officials for the match at the Palace have yet to be released, and Roger added: “I thought I might take my kit just in case I’m needed.”
Phil Sharp, Hertfordshire FA’s referee development officer, said: “Roger’s commitment to mentoring and developing young referees for the future was unrelenting for many years, and continued despite suffering from a serious illness.
“I am delighted to see him recognised for his years of hard work.”
HRH The Duke of Cambridge said: “In our 150th year, it is hugely important for The FA to honour the efforts of the many thousands of volunteers who week in, week out, help to provide the opportunity for millions more people to enjoy football at grassroots level.
“Inviting 150 of these volunteers to Buckingham Palace provides a fitting way for The FA to pay tribute and give thanks.”
FA chairman Greg Dyke added: “These volunteers are the heartbeat of football. Without them, the game simply wouldn’t function at a grassroots level and it is only right that The FA honours their tireless and selfless work.
“We are delighted that, in his role as President of The FA, HRH The Duke of Cambridge has given his support to this initiative – even going as far as arranging for the first ever game of football to be played at Buckingham Palace in honour of our grassroots heroes.”