Referee collapses in rugby pitch drama

Robert Ellis, Chorley rugby referee
Robert Ellis, Chorley rugby referee

A Chorley rugby league referee was in the spotlight during one of his matches after collapsing with a heart attack.

Robert Ellis, of Woodlark Drive, was the man in the middle at the Askham Athletic and Adlington Rangers game in the North West Counties League on January 29.

Drama struck when the 55-year-old collapsed on the pitch when a blood clot brought on a heart attack.

Players and officials originally thought Mr Ellis had just fallen but the severity of what happened became clear.

Now, as he recovers at home, Mr Ellis is praising the quick-thinking actions of Askham RLFC officials who may have saved his life.

Mr Ellis relived the drama and said: “I didn’t have any shortness of breath and was not struggling to keep up with the game.

“I remember having a clash of heads with one of the Askam players but I didn’t think anything about it.

“Askham scored a try and I went to mark the point where the conversion kick should be taken when I felt dizzy.

“The next thing I knew I was on the ground and the crowd were cheering because they thought I’d tripped up.

“I tried to get up and I started walking in the opposite direction to where I needed to go.

“Luckily, there was a nurse from the Barrow-in-Furness Hospital at the game and she helped me.

“I was taken to the hospital in Barrow and when the doctors thinned my blood I had another heart attack.

“The doctors transferred me to the cardiac unit at Blackpool but I felt fine that night and asked if I could referee one match on the Sunday but they told me not to.”

The popular bus driver is awaiting news from Chorley and South Ribble District General Hospital about when he can return to the field and work. However, the former Huddersfield rugby league scrum-half says he will only change one thing in the lifestyle - stopping smoking.

He said: “It just goes to show that you don’t know what is around the corner.

“I could not understand what has happened as I am a fit guy by refereeing three matches a week and I never have had any shortness of breath because I am walking the dogs.

“I used to smoke but since I fell ill I have not touched a cigarette and won’t do.”