Belfast Telegraph

Snooker legend Len Ganley dies aged 68

By John Mulgrew

One of Northern Ireland's most recognisable faces in snooker, legendary referee Len Ganley, has died at his home at the age of 68.

He was one of the game's best-known referees, with a professional career spanning three decades.

As one of the sport's top officials in the 1980s, he became known in homes throughout the UK during the snooker boom.

He was immortalised in the Half Man Half Biscuit song, The Len Ganley Stance, reflecting his popularity.

The snooker cult figure was suffering from diabetes and his health had deteriorated in recent weeks.

He leaves behind his wife Rosaline and their six children, including his son, World Snooker's tournament director Mike Ganley.

Born in Lurgan, Co Armagh, in 1943, the former chimney sweep began his professional refereeing career following some wise words from Welsh snooker player Ray Reardon. Along with the snooker stars at the time, such as Northern Ireland's Alex Higgins and Dennis Taylor, Ganley became a household name - spending as much time on the screen as the players themselves.

Despite retiring as a referee in 2002, he was heavily involved with running snooker academies and charity work - earning him an MBE in 1994 for his services.

He had worked tirelessly for charities to raise money for children with muscular dystrophy and spina bifida and also organised charity golf days - raising millions of pounds.

One of his best-remembered moments was a Carling Black Label beer advertisement when he turned a cue ball into sand with a squeeze of his glove. This earned him the nickname 'Ball Crusher'.

Among his many highlights during his time as a television referee, Ganley refereed the 1985 World Championship final between Coalisland's Dennis Taylor and Steve Davis.

Another of his career highlights was when Scotland's Stephen Hendry made a 147 clearance in 1995 on Ganley's 52nd birthday.

Six-time snooker World Champion, Steve Davis described him as a "great character".

"Len did a very good job of being a referee and a personality at the same time. He was a great character off the table, but in the arena he was an excellent referee.

"He knew the game as a player, having made century breaks himself, so when he was in charge of your match it was nice to know how well he understood the game."

His funeral will take place on Wednesday at 10am in St Paul's Chapel, Lurgan.

BACKGROUND

Len Ganley was born in Lurgan in 1943 and was one of 11 children. He moved to Burton, England, in 1971 where he worked as a milkman and bus driver.

Taking advice from snooker legend Ray Reardon during an exhibition event, he began his career as a referee.

He quickly rose through the ranks to become one of the sport's top officials and refereed the World Championship final on four occasions at the Crucible.

In 1994, Ganley was awarded the MBE for his charity work as well as services to snooker.

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